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Why Recordings From World War I Aren't Public Domain

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the that-old-timey-sound dept.

Government 329

An anonymous reader writes "While Disney and others have done a great job pushing the end date for works entering the public domain ever further forward, most people have assumed that anything from before 1923 is in the public domain. However, it turns out that this is not true for sound recordings, in part due to an accidental quirk in copyright law history — in that Congress, way back in 1909, believed that sound recordings could not be covered by copyright (they believed the Constitution did not allow recordings to be covered), and thus, some state laws stepped up to create special copyrights for sound recordings. A court ruling then said that these state rules were not overruled by federal copyright law. End result? ANY recorded work from before 1972 (no matter how early it was recorded) won't go into the public domain until 2049 at the earliest."

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That's a shame. (3, Interesting)

Kireas (1784888) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148538)

It looks like my epic youtube video made up entirely of WWI soundclips will have to be put on hold. And yes, a video made entirely of soundclips. What now, huh?

I'm interested however in the equivalent laws over here in the UK. Are we bound to the USA's system as part of some global copyright law thingy? I don't pretend to understand Public Domain, but I'd like to.

Re:That's a shame. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148558)

Hey, at least two of my youtube videos consist entirely of soundclips.

http://www.youtube.com/user/quantumg [youtube.com]

Re:That's a shame. (4, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148744)

Hey, at least two of my youtube videos consist entirely of soundclips.

Don't worry, I'll start a fund to pay your bail.

Re:That's a shame. (4, Informative)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148576)

UK I found this.

How long does copyright last for?
Copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the creator and then to the end of the 70th year afterwards. So for Elgar, say, who died in 1934, his original music came out of copyright in 2005. However copyright also exists in the editing, arrangement and reconstruction of previous music compositions and only expires 70 years after the death of the editor, etc. Copyright in recordings lasts for 50 years.

http://www.thefrms.co.uk/copyright.htm [thefrms.co.uk]

Re:That's a shame. (2, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148578)

I've been threatened over trademark because of international agreements (trademark of a descriptive phrase that I was using in a descriptive manner) so the WIPO treaties probably do allow international copyright claims as well. If nothing else, you won't be able to put it up on YouTube if any of the content is American because you're treading in their legal territory.

Re:That's a shame. (1)

AlecC (512609) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148712)

Trademark and copyright are completely separate systems. Arguments from one do not copy over to the other.

The seductive mirage of "intellectual property" (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148920)

Trademark and copyright are completely separate systems. Arguments from one do not copy over to the other.

But the publishers of mass-market works of authorship set in fictional universes, who license the trademarks and copyrights related to a fictional universe as a unit, want end users to forget how separate these systems of exclusive rights are. So they use phrases such as "intellectual property" that confuse the two [gnu.org] .

Re:The seductive mirage of "intellectual property" (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149230)

Since we're talking about things that are fictional, does this mean I can't put Christian and Muslim (two separate systems if there ever was) under the subject of... "religion", "beliefs", "faiths"...?

Re:The seductive mirage of "intellectual property" (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149350)

Islam and Christianity are mutually exclusive. Copyright and trademark are closer to orthogonal, which is why they are "license[d] ... as a unit" as I mentioned in the grandparent post.

Re:That's a shame. (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148928)

Trademark law can get pretty ridiculous
Example: some US company trademarked the term "sugercraft" somehow despite it being a commonly used term for an entire profession (imagine if some company trademarked "programming") and sends similar letters to companies which use the term.

I mean how do you manage to trademark the term for an industry? One which is already in the dictionary as a generic term?
http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50241744/50241744se219?single=1&query_type=word&queryword=sugarcraft&first=1&max_to_show=10&hilite=50241744se219 [oed.com]

Re:That's a shame. (3, Informative)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148644)

No, we're not bound by foreign laws when on UK ground. Look at Naxos, the record label which sells historical recordings, although some are considered piracy in the US. So Americans can't buy them, and are instead forced to resort to..uh..piracy if they want them. It's a funny old world, isn't it.

Re:That's a shame. (2, Interesting)

vipw (228) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148810)

Why can't American's buy them? I thought copyright controls copying, receiving a copy of something isn't copying. I think the real restriction is that Naxos can't sell them in America.

Re:That's a shame. (1)

Machtyn (759119) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148922)

Right, and English is a funny language. He probably could have been more explicit by stating "So Americans can't buy them in America". But, IANAL, I think goods that would normally be illegal to purchase in the USA also cannot be transported into the USA (despite all the fake Gucci, fOakleys, Cubans, etc that make it here from China).

17 USC 602: Importation (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148930)

receiving a copy of something isn't copying

The exhaustion of exclusive rights after the first sale of a phonorecord (17 USC 109) applies only after the first sale on United States soil (17 USC 602).

Re:That's a shame. (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148774)

There are international treaties regarding copyright that many countries, including the UK and the US, have signed. But that only means each country has to follow what the treaty says; it doesn't mean a law in one country automatically becomes law in the other.

Bloody yanks again (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148548)

Everything they stick theyre mitts on always gets shafted.

Re:Bloody yanks again (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148570)

sod off and eat a spotted dick

Clay media too? (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148568)

So does that mean that if we manage to record the words of Christ from a 2000 year old clay pot, the RIAA will come after us?

Re:Clay media too? (4, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148608)

So does that mean that if we manage to record the words of Christ from a 2000 year old clay pot, the RIAA will come after us?

No, the Pope will.

Re:Clay media too? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148898)

So... nothing to fear unless you're an underage boy?

Re:Clay media too? (2, Funny)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149056)

But remember, don't play it backwards!

What's the difference 'tween the Pope and the RIAA (3, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149160)

So does that mean that if we manage to record the words of Christ from a 2000 year old clay pot, the RIAA will come after us?

No, the Pope will.

What's the difference between the Pope and the RIAA?

The Pope hasn't had a crusade since 1272 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Clay media too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149346)

I call "shopped" (or equivalent audio manipulation). On a 2000 year old pot, he was gone by then.

Re:Clay media too? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149536)

He was just a bit older than 14 when he died, knobjob.

Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustice (1, Interesting)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148600)

So, hopefully, in these economically-difficult times, some rights-holder someplace gets a coupla thousand bucks from some hip-hop artist intent upon incorporating turn-of-the-century jazz recordings into his latest opus.

So, hopefully, in these creativity-starved times, some hip-hop artist forgoes mashing-up some other creator's work and goes the extra mile to invent something brand new.

So, hopefully, some student whose research involves early recordings can't find what he needs on the Internet and visits a library for only the second or third time in his life, and a hundred news worlds are opened to him.

I am hopeful that we will get through this...

Re:Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustic (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148836)

So, hopefully, in these economically-difficult times, some rights-holder someplace gets a coupla thousand bucks from some hip-hop artist intent upon incorporating turn-of-the-century jazz recordings into his latest opus.

Yes, I'm sure all those artists who died more than 70 years ago (remember, we're talking about recordings that would have been Public Domain under federal law) will be extremely pleased. Dead, but pleased.

Re:Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustic (2, Interesting)

metacell (523607) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148860)

The new findings are not a disaster, it's just yet another example of the ongoing insanity that copyright has become.

So, hopefully, in these creativity-starved times, some hip-hop artist forgoes mashing-up some other creator's work and goes the extra mile to invent something brand new.

There is nothing truly new. Even the most original composer is 90% influenced by the music he has already heard. Getting a jazz musician to play your newly composed jazz solo costs time and money. Sampling is a way for musicians without oodles of money (i.e 90% of them) to make decent music easier. It makes more people able to participate in the creation of our culture.

So, hopefully, some student whose research involves early recordings can't find what he needs on the Internet and visits a library for only the second or third time in his life, and a hundred news worlds are opened to him.

Why force people to use a less efficient tool (vinyl records and CDs at the library) when modern information technology is available in most homes?

Working hard is not an end in itself. If something can be done easier (and probably better), let people do it the easy way, and spend their efforts where they're needed.

Effort does not guarantee originality (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148978)

So, hopefully, in these creativity-starved times, some hip-hop artist forgoes mashing-up some other creator's work and goes the extra mile to invent something brand new.

Even people who try to create something that they think is original sometimes fail. It isn't directly applicable to the case of the article (reproduction of sound recordings), but George Harrison got sued and lost when it was discovered he had accidentally copied the ten-note hook (5~ 3~ 2~, 5 6 8 6 8 8) from "He's So Fine" into his song "My Sweet Lord".

Re:Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustic (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149302)

...something brand new.

No such thing. There are only unique combinations of what already exists. And more often than not, more than one person will independently come up with the same combination, which only further illustrates the absurdity of copyright, patent, and trademark law...

Re:Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustic (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149400)

The optimist is disappointed, the pessimest can be happily surprised. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

some rights-holder someplace gets a coupla thousand bucks from some hip-hop artist intent upon incorporating turn-of-the-century jazz recordings into his latest opus

Rather, some creative musical genius doesn't give his gifts to the world because it resembles a phrase from some 1920 jazz he's never heard, and is sued into bankrupcy and commits suicide, depriving the world of his gifts.

some hip-hop artist forgoes mashing-up some other creator's work and goes the extra mile to invent something brand new.

The mashup IS brand new; nothing is created from scratch. Art, like science and technology, is built on what has come before.

some student whose research involves early recordings can't find what he needs on the Internet and visits a library for only the second or third time in his life

Nobody who has only been in a library once in his life is likely to have much to give to the world. And besides, the internet is a library. Its only problem is too many writers and too few editors and proofreaders.

Re:Somehow Civilization Will Survive This Injustic (3, Insightful)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149544)

Your attempt at insight aside, the limited time span of Copyright is designed to increase the availability of the arts to everyone in the long run by creating a temporary monopoly on a work for profit to be gained so as to encourage the creation of works that will end up in the public domain eventually.

The goal is to have all of this creativity available to everyone for free, that's the destiny of the work. The temporary profiteering is allowed to encourage creativity from people who are monetarily driven.

Libraries bypass this system by actually purchasing works and then making them available free, entirely bypassing the intent of Copyright to our benefit.

Guiltless pirate. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148610)

Every time I start to feel a shred of guilt about my rampant piracy, I read something like this. Then the guilt goes away. Copyright is a corrupt system, which no longer serves it's original purpose of promoting production of useful art. Instead it is nothing but a mechanism to ensure maximum profits for those least deserving, and to make sure that the public domain remains small and legally dangerous enough to pose no serious competition. I pay copyright law no respect, and will not do so unless it it reformed to bring it back in line with sensible terms, make it less biased towards those who can afford millions of dollars in legal fees and eliminate the possibility of copyright being abused as a tool to censor criticism or prevent interoperability.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148634)

Agreed.

Re:Guiltless thief. (-1, Troll)

bkeahl (1688280) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148638)

News flash: Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation. It has not a damned thing to do with producing useful art. The production of useful art is a result of the desire to PROFIT.

That being said, the legal system is imperfect and this is just another example of attempts to "do the right thing" even when it appears to not be.

But hey, go ahead and use it as an excuse for theft. That's certainly the right thing to do. Yeah, just unilaterally decide something is unfair and then justify your own illegal actions with it.

Why not burgle your neighbor's house? After all, he's probably making more money than he deserves and that pesky little right to private property wasn't really intended for his undeserved income to allow him a flat-screen television that would serve you better in your living room.

Re:Guiltless thief. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148672)

Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation. It has not a damned thing to do with producing useful art.

Whoops, somebody forgot to read the Constitution.

Re:Guiltless thief. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148674)

Magnificent troll, sir! Well played. Nicely struck.

Re:Guiltless thief. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148690)

News flash: Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation

... for a limited time. Odds are that the "artist" doing the recordings during WW I isn't alive, and won't certainly be alive in 2049. I'm not advocating rampant piracy, but let's get real about the intended nature of copyright.

Copyright royalties as life insurance (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149028)

Odds are that the "artist" doing the recordings during WW I isn't alive

Using copyright royalties as a substitute for an annuity, in order to ensure that your great-grandchildren have a roof over their heads, is still profit. The Supreme Court has declined to second-guess the validity of Congress's attempts "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

Re:Copyright royalties as life insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149082)

And the ultimate seat of authority, we the people, have decided otherwise and will continue to break the law until the minority in power changes it to suit our purpose.

We the people elect copyright expansionist reps (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149472)

And the ultimate seat of authority, we the people, have decided otherwise

No we haven't. If we the people want copyright reform, we the people will elect representatives to enact it. But given the bipartisan support that things like the Copyright Term Extension Act and Digital Millennium Copyright Act have enjoyed, this has not yet happened. I'll believe you once we the people have elected enough members of the United States Pirate Party [wikipedia.org] to the Congress to make the Republican and Democratic caucuses consider a coalition.

Re:We the people elect copyright expansionist reps (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149558)

It doesn't work that way any more (if it ever even did). When I go to the voting booth, I get to choose between copyright extension supporter A and copyright extension supporter B. No thanks. I'll just copy freely and under the radar, like many, many more people do.

Re:Copyright royalties as life insurance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149106)

art was promoted ad advanced even in renaissance.

most painters of the time (michelangelo, raffaello, giotto) were living off donations and direct payment for their works.

it worked well for millenia producing most of the impressive and beautiful painting, statues and buildings ever, until somebody thought about profiting off copies too.
so you can't now reproduce art (like if a stamp of the giudizio universale is worth like the original)
can't reproduce building stiles (ah! imagine having the copyright of Gothic arcs, or domes)
can't reproduce anything.

all because art became industrialized too.

Re:Copyright royalties as life insurance (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149422)

can't reproduce building stiles (ah! imagine having the copyright of Gothic arcs, or domes)

I understand your point, but this wasn't the best example. Generic building styles would fall under the "scenes a faire" doctrine [wikipedia.org] , which exempts nonliteral copying of elements common in a genre.

Re:Guiltless thief. (4, Insightful)

houghi (78078) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148700)

Well, I indeed use it as an excuse for theft. I go into the store and steal the DVDc, CDs and books I want. I even steal the DVD players and TV sets to use them. That way when somebody raids my house and sees I have about 10.000 CDs and DVDs that where stolen, I will be paying much less then somebody who did some copyright infringement of 3 numbers on their mp3 player from an album they bought.

Re:Guiltless thief. (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149228)

Pay? In the UK you might even get a flat rent free:

Bradley Wernham, 19, responsible for a £1million crime spree, was spared a prison sentence last October after police told a judge he had turned his life around.
Wernham was given a community service order instead and relocated to another town where he was given a flat rent-free.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/08/05/one-man-crimewave-bradley-wernham-jailed-by-the-judge-who-let-him-off-115875-22465784/ [mirror.co.uk]
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7926040/Prolific-burglar-given-second-chance-offends-again-after-three-months.html [telegraph.co.uk]

Re:Guiltless thief. (2, Interesting)

vwjeff (709903) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148808)

I agree. The individual artist should be able to profit from their work for the rest of their life. The problem is that a copyright lasts long after the artist is gone. Why does an estate get to profit off the work of a dead individual? If the owner in question is a corporation then the copyright should be valid for a fixed period of time. I would be ok with using the figure of the life expectancy of a female child born in the year the work was created. A female child born in 2003 has a life expectancy of 80.1 years according to the US government. If the rights are sold the copyright expiration should remain the same. If the corporation goes out of business and no one buys the rights then the work should go into the public domain. Individuals and corporations should be allowed to place their works in the public domain at any time during the copyright lifetime with the understanding that the work can not be taken out of the public domain.

Re:Guiltless thief. (3, Insightful)

horza (87255) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149252)

The individual artist should be able to profit from their work for the rest of their life.

Why? I can invent something that saves people's lives and get protection for 20 years under patent law, but some crappy pop song should get protection for the rest of that person's life? Something is wrong there. Why not make it a fixed length of 20 years also?

When you say "should be able to profit" you mean of course be granted a legal monopoly. An artist can profit from their work without any legal protection.

Phillip.

Re:Guiltless thief. (4, Insightful)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149276)

The individual artist should be able to profit from their work for the rest of their life.

Why? The rest of us actually have to work - we don't get to show up for a few weeks and then say "You have to pay me for the rest of my life for that work". Giving them a few years of copyright to make money off of it, sure, I'm fine with that. However, it's BS for them to get paid to sit back and do nothing for 60+ years because once upon a time, they wrote a few songs.

Re:Guiltless thief. (2, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149384)

...should be able to profit from their work for the rest of their life.

Then I'm entitled to the same benefits. I want mileage royalties on every car I fixed back in 1973 for the rest of my life. A penny per mile will be sufficient...

Re:Guiltless thief. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148908)

It costs a company nothing for you to download their copyrighted media. You deprive them of absolutely no physical property. The only thing a "pirate" does is deprive them of "possibility of income", that being if you actually bought it from them. So I guess if you can physically steal things that have indeterminant probability then I guess you are right.

Re:Guiltless thief. (3, Insightful)

IgnoramusMaximus (692000) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149508)

Copyright existed, and should exist, to allow an individual to profit from their creation. It has not a damned thing to do with producing useful art

In reality of course the whole point of copyright was to promote works of art and scientific discoveries. In the US this purpose is even spelled outright in the Constitution where it reads: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.".

The Founding Fathers (Jefferson particularly [uchicago.edu] ) were very uneasy about granting effective monopoly to authors at the expense of the general public and so they sought to allow it only if the general public benefited from such an arrangement more then it had to invest (in terms of enforcing such a law).

Re:Guiltless pirate. (1)

Idbar (1034346) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148914)

Every time I remember the movie Demolition Man, I don't particularly remember the three shells, but their radio stations. Everything is driving our culture to start listening just advertisement:

1. Google's finding that advertisement pays a lot.
2. Copyright.
3. Constant repetition on stations, pushing crappy music to masses until the "like it".

The more I think about it, the more I'm concerned that's the future of that branch of the arts.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149010)

While I don't think it's a blanket justification for piracy (some people actually DESERVE copyright protections), I have to sympathize. I used to teach a class that dealt briefly with copyright. At one time, I thought all the "Author plus 70 years, different in x circumstances" formulas. But in the late 90's I just simplified it to "If it's not public domain right now, it never will be" and left it at that.

And call me mean, but I'm glad Sonny Bono hit that fucking tree. I just hope there is a special place in hell for Disney slaves [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Guiltless pirate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149070)

Yes. It's articles like this that convince me that trying to make the law approximate justice is a futile, doomed effort. In comparison, making the law irrelevant appears much more feasible.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (3, Insightful)

radish (98371) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149124)

You know what? If you said you disagreed with traditional copyright and so would only listen to copyleft/public domain music, and use open source software, etc, then I'd have a lot of respect for you. But saying you disagree with the mechanism by which a creator has chosen to be compensated and yet still choosing to benefit from their work, well that just makes you a freeloading cheapass.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149152)

There are a lot of us. I'm sure we are all going to have a good cry now because someone out there disapproves of our behavior. Sniff. :(

Re:Guiltless pirate. (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149140)

I was ambivalent on the copyright issue for a long time. Then I read about the economic theory behind copyright, and realised that it was actually harmful to society at large.

From an economic point of view, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a person, A, getting something for free (for example, by copying a computer program). It essentially means that a value has been created from nothing - that value has been added to the total value produced by society. Nobody would be better off if A was deprived that value. If the software A copies helps them in their work (for example, the program helps them produce better computer graphics), other people also get an added value from A's copying.

There is nothing inherently good or necessary about giving the producers income from every use of their work. It merely redistributes economic resources from the consumers to the producers, and doesn't affect the total amount of goods produced.

The only situation where copying might be bad, is when it reduces the profits of the producer so much, they stop producing the goods. As long as that doesn't happen, copying is only good.

Now, combine this understanding with the fact that most copyrighted products generate most of their income in the first few years after publication, or even less, and you realise that a copyright term of more than a few years has no benefits to society. It almost exclusively does harm, by preventing values to be produced for free.

So to sum it up: Getting things for free is good for you. It is good for society as a whole. By seeding a torrent, you are helping others to create values, increasing the total amount of goods produced by society. And if the contents of the torrent is a few years old, the economic loss for the creators is usually negligible.

There are strong indications that unauthorised copying does not affect the income of the (movie, music, software) industry as a whole, since those who pirate tend to use their money on another (movie, music, software) product instead, not save them up. If that is true, you don't even need to have a bad conscience for copying brand spanking new products, but the proof is not conclusive yet.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (3, Insightful)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149438)

Now, combine this understanding with the fact that most copyrighted products generate most of their income in the first few years after publication, or even less, and you realise that a copyright term of more than a few years has no benefits to society. It almost exclusively does harm, by preventing values to be produced for free.

I would have little problem with a 14 year copyright term. The worry with short copyright terms is that too many people may just wait until the term expired, so that they could get the work for free. Consider a shorter term of 7 years. It is feasible in some media, books especially, to wait 7 years to buy and read the book. Commercial exploitation of a franchise in a different media can often wait that long, such as a filmmaker waiting to adapt a book into a movie if it let them completely cut the book's authors out of the equation.

But 14 years is long enough that in the vast majority of media few people would find it worth waiting, if they could afford to buy it. Futhermore, by 14 years works in almost every medium have all but exhausted their profit making potential.

Music is actually the odd one out here, considering the money songs from the 80's or earlier can still bring in, be it by royalties by the "oldies" stations, and continual sales of albums. Granted though that even here, the overwhelming majority of the profit should have been made in the first year or so, when the song was popular, so cutting off the revenue at 14 years is still within reason.

It is interesting to think about what would be now be in the public domain for computers/tech with a 14 year copyright limit. The clasic NES-era video games would be in the public domain, as well as many of the 16-bit era classics. Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0 (but just barely, so Microsoft could withhold the patches later released for both OS's, if they wanted), and thus also MS-DOS and the older Windows. Pretty much all the software for older historic machines, be it the VAX, or the C64. All the classic UNIXs, .... The list is just astounding.

Re:Guiltless pirate. (4, Insightful)

operagost (62405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149478)

Now, combine this understanding with the fact that most copyrighted products generate most of their income in the first few years after publication, or even less, and you realise that a copyright term of more than a few years has no benefits to society. It almost exclusively does harm, by preventing values to be produced for free.

Can I summarize your entire post to, "We should return copyright protection in the USA to 14 years with a 14 year extension as in the 1790 Copyright Act"?

Re:Guiltless pirate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149172)

I'm just a thief plain and simple, I have motive, I have the oppertunity and I take it.

Wilhelm Scream (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148642)

So any movie using the Wilhelm Scream are also breaking copyrights? There go a *lot* of big Hollywood movies!

Re:Wilhelm Scream (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148738)

And games, too. The Wilhelm scream is used in the original Starcraft as one of the Wraith units sounds.

Re:Wilhelm Scream (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148804)

But the creator of the scream sound, along with his descendants, deserves to be compensated for his work created over half a century ago! Any talk of shared cultural significance is irrelevant nonsense; this man deserves to make money! You wouldn't break into his garage and steal his car, would you?

Re:Wilhelm Scream (2, Insightful)

JonnyCalcutta (524825) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149066)

You wouldn't break into his garage and steal his car, would you?

Yes

Re:Wilhelm Scream (2, Interesting)

BetterThanCaesar (625636) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149108)

Not if they're licensing it from Warner Bros.

Business as usual (4, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148656)

I'm going to continue doing what I normally do, and ignore copyright law. Absurdities like this just show how backwards and useless the system is. Scrap it, make everything public domain.

Re:Business as usual (1, Insightful)

ThePangolino (1756190) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148852)

The more you ignore it, the cooler you look!
Yep, somtimes it's true!

Re:Business as usual (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149340)

That's a bit too extreme. I for one would fix copyright terms at ten, maybe twenty years. Probably just a decade, though. That is ample time for the author to get all deserved profit, but short enough for the work to still be culturally relevant when it enters the public domain.

Re:Business as usual (3, Insightful)

blindbat (189141) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149416)

Uh huh. And then everything you make, whether software or a book you write, will be taken by some big corporation and sold by them.

Copyright needs to be in place in order to protect the newcomers and the original creator of a work so that they can make a living.

State laws and extradition (4, Interesting)

Bog Standard (743863) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148658)

Coming from the UK, I can understand how people can be extradited on US federal law charges. I'd be surprised if state laws apply too. For that matter how does this affect US citizens in say NY if the law is broken in CA?

Re:State laws and extradition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149370)

NY law does not cover a CA citizen. Federal law governs them both. If a work is covered by extra copyright due to a law in NY, and you illegally acquire it (according to NY law) but live in CA, it's an interstate, thus federal, issue. The feds will possibly listen to a complaint from someone in NY, possibly investigate you, decide that no federal law was broken, and ignore the complaint.

I wouldn't worry about it unless your state has these alternative copyright laws set up. I know my state doesn't have them, since the state legislature scrapped the entire state law code in 1945 and rewrote the state constitution. Many states have done something similar.

What does this mean? (4, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148692)

Did all States create those copyright laws? Or did just some of them do? And what about materials recorded abroad, or broadcast abroad? Enforcing copyright law on a State by State level would seem to me like a very difficult thing to do.

State laws apply in one state only (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148694)

A law passed in Ohio applies in Ohio, not in Iowa.

To be captured by an Ohio copyright, a recording would have to be made in Ohio and copied in Ohio. A recording made in Ohio and copied in Iowa wouldn't count.

I don't think this is much of a problem.

Re:State laws apply in one state only (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148882)

The Berne convention may complicate things. It means that works should be treated as if they were copyrighted locally, so a work from outside Ohio would be covered by copyright in Ohio. If you distribute it in Ohio, the owner would be able to get a judgement against you there and the fine would then become a debt, which could be collected locally wherever you happened to be in the USA. If you are outside the USA, you're probably safe though...

Re:State laws apply in one state only (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149246)

The Berne convention applies to its signatories, which are states. It basically extends any state-wide copyright to a copyright across all member states. But Ohio isn't a Berne signatory state, and an Ohio copyright isn't valid across the USA, so it appears the Ohio copyright doesn't extend to other Berne countries either.

Ohio nexus (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149062)

A law passed in Ohio applies in Ohio, not in Iowa.

When your packet travels over a router in Ohio, the copyright owner can take you to court and argue that you are doing business in Ohio.

Re:Ohio nexus (1)

operagost (62405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149504)

...and then the US District court can throw it out, because Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce. I believe the 1972 copyright act would then apply here.

State vs. Fed (1, Offtopic)

AnotherBrian (319405) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148714)

So a state law seems to override a federal law. I wonder what may have changed the courts mind after they decided that the feds can ignore California's medical marijuana laws. I suppose I don't need to ask that question if any of these sound recording belong to RIAA members.

It's on purpose: 17 USC 301(c) (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149080)

So a state law seems to override a federal law.

The federal law, 17 USC 301(c) [copyright.gov] , explicitly allows state laws to override it.

Re:It's on purpose: 17 USC 301(c) (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149368)

Does that apply to those laws on marijuana?

Re:State vs. Fed (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149212)

As I interpret it, the state law does not override the federal law, it merely amends it. The federal law says that the creator has an exclusive right for X years; the state law says that he has an exclusive right for Y years, where Y > X. Since having a right for X years does not contradict having it for X years plus some additional years, both laws can hold at the same time.

State vs Feds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148742)

Is it just me, or the press coverage or what? It seems to me like there are tons of issues nowadays where states are in strife with the feds. Same sex marriage, drug laws, immigration laws, copyright laws, etc. Maybe its time to redraw the line between the states and the fed. It sure seems like the states are pushing back, and I support a heterogeneous set of laws. Makes it easier to figure out what works and what doesn't.

Re:State vs Feds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148832)

It's just you

mike (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148750)

Well, actually this article is also helpful but I think author missed some details as well. You can take a look at this,

Read This Article [healthnlife.org]

Re:mike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148826)

Interesting spam. Too cogent for a goatse, too off-topic for a genuine response. I bet .47 internets that the link is malware.

Re:mike (1)

JackSpratts (660957) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148916)

it's why i use adblock and noscript while running.

A better Congress? (4, Insightful)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148780)

According to one commentator, Congress had two principal concerns about sound recordings, leading it to decline to protect them. First, Congress wondered about the constitutional validity of such protection. The Constitution allows Congress to protect "writings," and Congress was uncertain as to whether a sound recording could constitute a writing. Second, Congress worried that allowing producers to exclusively control both the musical notation and the sound recording could lead to the creation of a music monopoly.

Re:A better Congress? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148894)

More like a music industry that was starting from the ground up, and hadn't achieved the same lobbying clout as other industries at the time, such as railroads and finance. The railroads in particular were notorious for basically showing up in Washington DC with a few trunks full of cash and inviting each congressman in turn to take his share. That's why to "railroad" a bill through is to more-or-less force it without any consideration of the merits.

By comparison, the music industry at the time was basically a motley collection of small-time publishers, with massive competition. The closest thing there was to a significant recording industry at the time was player piano rolls.

Re:A better Congress? (3, Interesting)

unwastaken (1586569) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149488)

According to one commentator, Congress had two principal concerns about sound recordings, leading it to decline to protect them. First, Congress wondered about the constitutional validity of such protection. The Constitution allows Congress to protect "writings," and Congress was uncertain as to whether a sound recording could constitute a writing. Second, Congress worried that allowing producers to exclusively control both the musical notation and the sound recording could lead to the creation of a music monopoly.

I found this to be the more interesting and exciting part of that quote:

Congress wondered about the constitutional validity of such protection.

That was probably the last time the constitutionality of a law actually came up in Congress...

Any recorded work? or US only? (1)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148824)

"ANY recorded work from before 1972 (no matter how early it was recorded) won't go into the public domain until 2049 at the earliest."

- I think you mean any USA created work?

Re:Any recorded work? or US only? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149038)

Sounds like a work can go public domain wherever is was created and everywhere else in the world *except* the US, or in some collection of states thereof.

FTFA: "Note that state protection is afforded even to European recordings, most of which enter the public domain in their home country after 50 years."

Re:Any recorded work? or US only? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149398)

"I think you mean any USA created work?"

No, it would apply to works created in other countries, but only in the US. Outside the US, local copyright laws apply. This is oversimplifying it a little, but.... international copyright law doesn't care where the work was created; under both Berne and the UCC, all works get the same treatment in any given country, regardless of origin.

But according to this article, the scope is actually more specific than that. The argument is that individual state laws are providing this protection for sound recordings, not US federal law, so the expiration date could be different in every state (which pretty well cries out of the interstate-commerce authority of Congress to get involved).

So who owns it? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33148924)

Even if the recordings 'are' still copyrighted, doesn't the original rights holder or his agent need to file a DMCA takedown to do anything about it?

Come On! (1)

krzysz00 (1842280) | more than 4 years ago | (#33148990)

Does copyright seriously have to last that long. Death of author + 70 is way long enough. I think making copyright expire with the death of the author is a good idea on things on books, recordings, etc. because if the author's dead, he can't make any money off the work, right.

Copyright is STEALING! (4, Insightful)

linebackn (131821) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149040)

That's right, copyright is STEALING! It is stealing history and culture from future generations. It is stealing from the global knowledge of humanity. Not just infringed upon; information is locked up until it rots in to nothingness.

I have no specific desire to take control of mickey-frikkin-mouse away from the Walt Disney Corporation, or similar works from their holders. But I believe the original idea of copyright was to benefit humanity by encouraging people to create more works by granting an author the PRIVILEGE to control how their work was distributed for a limited time.

However, if a holder does not ultimately contribute something back to humanity in exchange for this privilege, then they are literally stealing from humanity.

The current system effectively prevents these works from continuing to benefit and enrich humanity after they are out of print by failing to permit works from entering the public domain in a timely manner if ever. This needs to be fixed.

For a person or entity to retain control over a work indefinitely, such as current laws essentially permit, is STEALING from humanity.

Re:Copyright is STEALING! (2, Interesting)

jonsmirl (114798) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149348)

The creation of orphan works is the greatest crime of all. And I have to wonder if the RIAA/etc are trying to use an orphan work strategy to suppress and destroy vast amounts of older works as a mechanism to encourage you to buy their new stuff.

There is a very simple way to fix the orphan work problem. First 10 years copyright is free. For each 10 years after that it has to be renewed with a payment of say $5,000. If your work isn't generating enough income to cover a $500/yr renewal fee it isn't economically viable. The artist can then choose to let the work go into the public domain or continue paying $5,000 renewals.

Artists will say, it's my work why do I have to pay the fee? Well it's not 100% your work, everything that is created is based on previous things that existed. Think of the $500/yr as a royalty payment to those previous artists via the government. We could even use those copyright extension payments to promote the creation of public art.

Now both sides are happy. If a work is economically viable keep paying the $500/yr indefinitely. If it isn't, let the work go into the public domain. An excellent side effect of this is the creation of a database of who is paying fees which will tell us exactly which works are still protected.

Re:Copyright is STEALING! (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149480)

So artists shouldn't have property rights? I've already been told by a lawyer that existing contracts I have over a recent work shouldn't have existed because generally artists in my business aren't allowed to retain rights to their work. Translation it's okay for companies to own and profit from those rights but not artists. Now I'm being told those rights shouldn't have existed in the first place? Now how exactly am I supposed to make a living if I don't have any rights to sell? We don't generally have patrons like in the old days and the other option of being born rich I seem to have missed out on. Back in the day mostly the rich wrote novels and most paintings were commissioned by the rich so they chose the content of the work. Is society better off if only the rich write books and commission great works of art? Aren't we better off with a system that rewards the creation of works that benefit all than a system that denies artists basic rights of property? The argument isn't as simple as getting free books, music and movies it's about whether the vast majority of the work is created or made public in the first place. I'm already so sickened by my recent legal battle I'm planning to retire soon and not release any future work to the public. Is society better off if most artists do the same?

US honors copyrights that original country doesn't (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33149214)

While I was writing my philosophy thesis, I discovered that many of G.K. Chesterton's works that he wrote in Britain between 1923 and 1936 when he died are public domain in Britain, where they were published.

But they are not public domain in the U.S.

One of my unfinished projects is to combine all his works that are public domain, and throw a full text index on it to make a little G.K. exclusive search engine -- but we're going to have to go with a non-U.S. ISP if I ever do get around to getting it off the ground.

Re:US honors copyrights that original country does (2, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149486)

It works the other way around as well. The US vs. pretty much the rest of the world use different milestones to calculate copyright expiration. In the US it's the date of creation, elsewhere it's date of the creator's death. So for a long-lived creator who got an early start on his career, copyright on his early works would expire sooner in the US than elsewhere*, but for a short-lived creator or one who created works shortly before his death, those works will generally expire sooner in the rest of the world. (The US has changed its standard to match the rest of the world for new copyrights, but it'll be a while before that's relevant.)

*Once upon a time it was possible for a creator's US copyrights to expire while he was still alive, which was obviously not possible elsewhere.

My solution... (2, Interesting)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 4 years ago | (#33149274)

If a recorded item, writing or whatnot is considered valuable, then the owner should have to buy a license to keep it out of the public domain after a reasonable and free period of time (like the original 7 years). after the free period is over the owner would have to make a determination if the item is valuable enough to pay for to keep it out of the public domain. This protects Mickey, but releases a whole slew of recordings and books that have no commercial viability.

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