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Optimum Copyright Period Decided by Math

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the everybody-wins dept.

Math 442

An anonymous reader writes "So how long should a copyright be valid for? A Cambridge student has stepped into the discussion with a dispassionately calculated estimate of the optimal period a copyright should be granted. Ars' point of view: 'Neither the US nor the UK are in any danger of rethinking copyright law from scratch, but if they were looking for guidance in how to set up their systems, Pollock has it. He develops a set of equations focused specifically on the length of copyright and uses as much empirical data as possible to crunch the numbers. The result? An optimal copyright term of 14 years, which is designed to encourage the best balance of incentive to create new work and social welfare that comes from having work enter the public domain (where it often inspires new creative acts).' The original paper is available (pdf) online."

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442 comments

Proving once again... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19847915)

That the founders of the United States were geniuses... or lucky bastards.

Re:Proving once again... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848387)

It doesn't take a genius to realize that centralized power is the enemy of freedom, ergo strict limits on the size of government (measured both in revenue and power over the people) is an absolute prerequisite of freedom.

For most, it is much more difficult to accept this as reality, rather than simply to understand the concept.

None of you understand... (4, Funny)

frankie (91710) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848459)

Don't any of you get it? Infinite, retroactive copyright extension is the ONLY way to enrich our cultural heritage of creative works. If the rights-holding corporations like Disney ever lose control of their money-making "intellectual properties", then some day they are likely to go bankrupt (fiscally, that is). And when that happens in our bleak dystopian future, their angry stock-holders will seize a time machine, go back to the 1920s, and convince Walt to never create his characters in the first place, since it clearly won't be a worthwhile investment of his effort.

Sheesh, why do I have to spell this stuff out for you people? It's the only logical conclusion.

Re:Proving once again... (5, Informative)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848491)

The AC is referring to the fact that in the Copyright Act of 1790 (the US's first), the term of copyright was set at 14 years, and after expiration, could be renewed for another 14: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_Act_of_1790 [wikipedia.org]

Unfortunately, the interests that controlled the tiny minority of works that continued to be profitable after 28 years, then 56 years, lobbied for and got legislation that extended the term of all works.

In the United States... (5, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847917)

The optimum copyright period is decided by Disney.

Re:In the United States... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19847967)

Now on DVD: a rerelease of the Little Mermaid, beautifully restored by replacing the color orange with yellow!

Re:In the United States... (2, Funny)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848493)

Well, Stelios Haji-Ioannou owns the copyright on the colour orange.

So we need to plan for that. (5, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847985)

Since we know that Disney (and others) will lobby against anything other than their eternal copyrights, we need to plan for that.

If you have have property that you want protected, then you should PAY for that protection after the standard protection period has expired.

99%+ of book titles won't be sold 15 years after their release. So there's no financial incentive for their authors to protect them. But with Disney and others, their "property" is worth millions of dollars. So charge them 5% of the estimated value. Every year.

If you are an author and you want to keep protecting your book, are you willing to pay 5% a year of the sales from the last year? Or should it be 1%?

Otherwise it falls into the Public Domain.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (3, Insightful)

rthille (8526) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848115)

Interesting idea, but where would the money go? Wouldn't it just go to a bureaucracy to manage and ensure that the copyright holders are paying? If it did turn out to be feasible, I'd say the percentage should go up over time, so that eventually the percentage would rise to 100% and the copyright holder would have no incentive to keep the work from the public domain.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

Perl-Pusher (555592) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848243)

Interesting idea, but where would the money go?

Me! In the event that is unlikely, I would then suggest a charity. I'm thinking a lawsuit defense fund for people sued by the RIAA.

Where would the money go? (1)

ohearn (969704) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848357)

How about using the money for paying down the national debt. Oh wait that's about as much of a pipe dream in this country as actually getting copyright reform passed that isn't bought and paid for by large companies.

Interesting idea, but... (1)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848129)

Isn't keeping 95% of your sales better than not having any sales? I mean, even if you're only selling $5,000 worth of merchandise annually, it might be worth renewing through this scheme so that you can keeping get (most) of that $5k. I'd suggest modifying your scheme with a flat fee of a few thousand dollars plus 5% of revenue, or something like that.

Of course, all of this assumes that the copyright is mainly intended to protect sales, and although that's probably the case for most instances, it's not the case for all instances.

Re:Interesting idea, but... (5, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848285)

I'd have to agree with this. A straight percentage rate wouldn't work too well - 5% of 0 is still 0, easy to pay.

Now a Flat fee of $1k/year to keep a movie* copyright free. Studios such as MGM would have to pay millions a year to keep their products under copyright, eventually the accountants would point out that OldMovies 1-100 aren't making $1k, there's no guarantee that they'd make $1k if released on DVD, so they let the copyright expire.

I'd have the fee vary, and go up over time. For example - $10/year for a book, for the second 20 years of copyright(the first 20 are free).

Note: All numbers are approximate.

*original audiovisual production in excess of 60 minutes, (by original I mean not just a tweaked remix)

Re:So we need to plan for that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848139)

5% of $0 is $0. In essence: it wont matter, because anyone could retain their works, unless of course, that 5% is worth more in their pockets then in retaining the copyrights. Better use a flat rate, or at least something independent of the value of said works.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

kharchenko (303729) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848217)

better yet, simply tax the income from "post-deadline" copyrights works at some increased rate. And make the law simple enough so that they can't get out of it through some loophole.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

Dausha (546002) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848305)

Too bad that's not an original idea. I posted something similar to /. several years ago.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848461)

Too bad that's not an original idea. I posted something similar to /. several years ago.
You should have copyrighted it.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848363)

very interesting/insightful, though I would make sure there was a flat base cost as well, to make sure people don't persistantly do this, make sure if they do this, it's worth doing.

after the initial free protection for 15 years (make it a rounded number), every 5 years, there is an option to renew for $1000, which will extend the protection for 5 years. However, during the additional 5 years of protection there is a 5% tax on gross from the product as well. These taxes go to pay for the copyright agencies of the government.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848435)

Oh, and its $5000+15% if the copyright holder isn't the original creator, that should also make it a bit more fair.

Re:So we need to plan for that. (1)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848393)

Estimated sales are difficult to come up with; even actual sales can be obscured through various accounting mechanisms (e.g. movies never have profits so "percentage of the profits" is a loser's share). Perhaps a better approach would be a simple fee, say US$10, that increases by a set percentage, say 20%, each year after the 14 year standard period. By the 95th year after release, a corporation would be paying US$26 million per year to keep the property in action.

Money's got to go somewhere, though. Maybe set up a foundation (or fund an arm of the LOC) dedicated to archiving and making freely available the originals after the copyright expires.

Re:In the United States... (1, Interesting)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847997)

True.

As a peon freelance photographer, 14 years is plenty for me. I doubt it would diminish my for hire work or that of most of my peers.

I still don't see why the Slashdot crowd cares one way or the other about the length of copyright terms, apart from it providing an opportunity to post generic anti-copyright rambling without being moderated offtopic. No sensible balance between creators and consumers will have a measurable impact on the geek oriented practice of file sharing. Most of the popular content moving across the internet via torrents is nowhere near 14 years old, not even 14 months.

Re:In the United States... (3, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848137)

Because source code falls under copyright law, and they want things like the original windows code released to the public domain. If the source is never released it never falls into the public domain: you can copy the program forever, but you'll never really be able to look at it.

They're also into music and movies, and file trading, and all these things are impacted by long copyrights. Things like Google's "Scan every library in existence" scheme could be infinitely cooler if your search would bring you the full text of the actual book, and it could do that for a vast number of books if the copyrights were relaxed.

Re:In the United States... (1, Informative)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848317)

Because source code falls under copyright law, and they want things like the original windows code released to the public domain. If the source is never released it never falls into the public domain: you can copy the program forever, but you'll never really be able to look at it.

It doesn't work that way. Even if an early version of Windows went public domain, Microsoft still doesn't have to release the source code. You'd be able to copy the disks as much as you wanted, but the code would only be available if Microsoft released it.

Re:In the United States... (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848339)

Ok then. Maker sense.

I suppose I just expect every fron page story even peripherally related to copyright to devolve into some immature rant about the RIAA.

I can see the angle for books. Science journals as well, considering the cost to read anything other abstracts is too much to bear for an individual.

Re:In the United States... (4, Informative)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848141)

I still don't see why the Slashdot crowd cares one way or the other about the length of copyright terms

It's because the slashdot crowd is concerned about freedoms, and freedoms lost.
It's because many in the slashdot crowd believe in standing on the shoulder's of giants to make their own works. (which can't be done with the current copyright).

Photography is an excellent example (3, Insightful)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848157)

First of all, it points out that what is optimal for one medium (writing) might not be optimal for another (photography), even if in this case it might be. Secondly, if you have an old photograph of your parents, grandparents, etc., that you want to copy, you shouldn't have to worry about tracking down copyright permissions.

Re:Photography is an excellent example (2, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848401)

That brings in a whole new hairball, too, because if you legislate differences between media, it all gets shaken up when some new medium comes into play that's "a little bit of this and a little bit of that (oh... and on the Internet, patent)".

Re:In the United States... (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848177)

I still don't see why the Slashdot crowd cares one way or the other about the length of copyright terms, apart from it providing an opportunity to post generic anti-copyright rambling without being moderated offtopic.

That's because the Slashdot crowd has a lot of programmers in it, and the lines of code we write is also covered by copyright. The entire free-software movement greatly depends on copyright laws. In addition, copyright is one part of the mess of "IP" that has become a political issue, with "IP" based patents becoming a serious threat to our industry. As a photogapher, imagine if someone patented a particular arrangement in a photo - and then realise that's already happening with applications and even data-structures [stuff.co.nz] in the software industry.

Re:In the United States... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848039)

Which of course is long enough for the entire Disney back catalog to fit, but not so long that the family of the Grimm brothers could have any claim on cinderella etc.

No no no. (3, Funny)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848077)

The optimum copyright period is decided by Disney.



They're not deciding anything, they're just following the good old nuclear fusion approach:

It's just twenty years away ...

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

LordEd (840443) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848121)

In Soviet Russia, copyright optimizes you!

Re:In Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848291)

In Soviet Russia, copyright optimizes you!
I'm sorry, you have violated Yakov Smirnoff's Russian Reversal [wikipedia.org] joke format which he is the sole proprietary owner of.

Please remit 5 rubles via Paypal to yakovsmirnoff@hotmail.com or face his hilarious wrath!

Re:In the United States... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848155)

We need to find the family of Hans Christian Anderson, get them to lobby for the restoration of his copyrights and then sue Disney for everything they've got.

Oblig. "In Soviet Russia" reply (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848345)

In the US, the lifetime of copyright is decided by Disney.
In Soviet Russia, the lifetime of Disney is decided by copyright.

Strange... did our economy turn into communism? I kinda feel this might hold some water here, too...

Re:In the United States... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848483)

No, the optimum copyright period decides you!

Get it straight, geez...

B b b but... (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847931)

My daddy had a hit song on the radio, so I deserve to never work a day in my life!

Re:B b b but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19847959)

My daddy had a hit song on the radio, so I deserve to never work a day in my life!
Unfortunately, your daddy was a one hit wonder pop radio star who didn't have the staying power of bands that survived long stretches of time like Aerosmith, REM, Bad Religion, AC/DC, and I could go on and on.

Re:B b b but... (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847991)

I'm sorry, but the sentence you just used is copyrighted by Hank Williams, Jr.

Consider yourself sued, buddy!

Re:B b b but... (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848369)

Which explains why he's out of step with his friends:

All my rowdy friends have settled down and it seems to be more in the laid back songs./
Nobody wants to get drunk and get loud. Everybody just wants to go back home./
I myself have seen my wilder days and I have seen my name at the top of the page,/
but I need to find a friend just to run around.But no one wants to get high on the town/
and all my rowdy friends have settled down.


On the other hand, maybe he ought to start hanging out with the Bush twins.

Re:B b b but... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848133)

Huh? I think it's a tired argument that one shouldn't get recurring income from a work. No one gets enough money from one song, or one book or any single work to live off it for the rest of their lives. It shouldn't be that way anyway, but pretending such a situation exists right now is ludicrous. Usually, the up-front payment for a published work only makes for a barely higher than livable wage anyway, and in exchange, they get royalties for their work investment if it continues to sell.

I'm fine with a 14 year copyright, I think that sounds pretty fair. I think that's a lot fairer than no copyright and a lot fairer than indefinite copyright as well

Re:B b b but... (2, Insightful)

cerelib (903469) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848195)

You are thinking of the wrong people. Somebody makes money from the ridiculous ASCAP/BMI fees that are being extracted from American companies. The problem with the system is that there are too many middlemen riding the copyright profits wave.

Although they are no doubt the exception (2, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848203)

It shouldn't be that way anyway, but pretending such a situation exists right now is ludicrous. Usually, the up-front payment for a published work only makes for a barely higher than livable wage anyway, and in exchange, they get royalties for their work investment if it continues to sell.
There are many examples of children of authors who continue to fight to make money off their parent's work, whether their parents were authors, musicians, or whatever. I believe that's what the GP post was alluding to. The copyrights that no one cares about are the ones not making any money for anybody (and, yes, there are plenty as you allude to) so they get no attention.

Re:B b b but... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848373)

No one gets enough money from one song, or one book or any single work to live off it for the rest of their lives.

Care to tell that to the goons that dictate the current kind of music? I might be old, but to me all that crap sounds the same.

Good Stuff (5, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847937)

This Rufus Pollock has some good stuff [rufuspollock.org] on his site. I've only had about ten minutes to read over a few of these papers and I'm pretty impressed. Not only is it well written but it aligns heavily with the Slashdot community's interests. For example, the conclusion of his paper The Value of the Public Domain ends with these policy recommendations (the most interesting, in my opinion, is bolded):
  • * When formulating policy the key variable to consider should be social value, which is the sum of commercial value and user value, rather than commercial value alone (in economist's terminology: welfare rather than national income).
  • * When looking at the value of knowledge goods in general, and the public domain in particular, policy makers should take account of the value generated by complementary products and services.
  • * Historically, innovation policy, particularly in relation to intellectual property, is characterized by extensive rent-seeking activity and significant imbalances in power. It is important that this be taken into account in policy making, for example by the provision of a clear set of principles that could safeguard groups that are poorly represented (such as the general public). The public domain while very important to society tends to lack a concentrated set of stakeholders to defend it, compared, for example, to the copyright-based industries.
  • * For some of the categories of works currently covered by copyright, for example music, the introduction of open access along with some form of alternative compensation system promises to deliver significant gains both to creators and to consumers.
  • * Access and preservation of older copyrighted works is a significant problem and should be addressed. This could be done in several, potentially complementary ways, including: introduction of a registration requirement, orphan works provisions, and a reduction in copyright term.
  • * In areas such as open source software and technology standards the first principle should be "do no harm". In particular, it is imperative that policy makers maintain, and strengthen, the exclusion of software and business methods from patentability.
  • * Make public sector information open. This is one of the most direct, and straightforward actions governments can take in promoting the public domain, and it is one that the available evidence suggests will have large benefits both to industry and to the general public.
He also attempts to show through economic theory that "that a dominant firm may engage in considerable expenditure to maintain its position and the welfare consequences of so doing may be considerable.

Also interesting is that he conjectures that the burden of proof of ownership in intellectual property should be placed on those attempting to acquire the IP, not anyone else [rufuspollock.org].

He has a paper detailing a model where innovation occurs without intellectual property [rufuspollock.org] in an attempt to show that the assumption regarding IP's relationship to innovation is false.

Very interesting stuff, to say the least, most of it quite logical which means, of course, that it will be completely ignored by politicians and policy makers.

Missing Reference (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848009)

He also attempts to show through economic theory that "that a dominant firm may engage in considerable expenditure to maintain its position and the welfare consequences of so doing may be considerable."
I totally missed the reference for the paper on this [rufuspollock.org]. I quoted the conclusion where he analyzes Microsoft's role in standards (a very very good and applicable read).

It opens with:

We also survey the activity of Microsoft in order to put flesh on the bones of theory and to provide motivation for the model. The behaviour of Microsoft has now, in consequence of the antitrust suit, been the subject of voluminous comment1. There has been significant dispute among economists over the facts of the case, their economic interpretation, and most importantly of all, the ramifications for antitrust conduct and enforcement. An element central both to the Judge's analysis of the case and to subsequent discussions has been the, so-called, 'applications barrier to entry' (ABE) and strategic behaviour by Microsoft to maintain the barrier.
Sorry, I don't know how I missed putting that link in there.

Re:Good Stuff (2, Interesting)

DFDumont (19326) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848083)

I'd also like to note that not all creators are motivated economically. Nearly all of the open-source efforts run on achieving notoriety and this is basically impossible to quantify in economic terms.
Thus I would hate to build policy solely on economic constraints.

Dennis Dumont

Not completely ignored... (4, Interesting)

pieterh (196118) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848103)

Although the process is slow, policy makers do eventually catch up with new realities. Or rather, they retire and die and are replaced by younger minds that think differently.

What we're looking at, IMO, is the transition of social, economic, and finally, political power from the industrial revolution to the digital revolution. People like Rufus are today defining the theoretical basis for laws that will be enacted in twenty or fifty years' time.

What is happening, broadly is that a new society is forming around the digitalisation of culture. This society is vast and now includes perhaps half the world's population (3bn SIM cards are in use globally). The new society drives new businesses like Google and Ebay, and in a decade, this digital economy will have become more important than the industrial economy. And at some stage the digital economy will reach for political power.

This happened before, in the industrial revolution, and at that time the old upper class - landowners - tried to stop the growth of the new industrial middle class with laws like the Corn Laws. They ultimately failed, and the urban middle class finally got the vote.

My prediction is that the digital revolution will culminate in a transfer of power from the old political / industrial elite (who are the ones that made today's copyright and patent laws) to a new elite that will create new models of property that suit it much better.

It is feasible to already implement 14-year copyright today, by private contract. E.g. this could be implemented in a GPL-style license. It may be that private legal systems like the GPL become the laws of tomorrow.

Rufus has done a brilliant work in turning the "more is better" dogma of IP upside down and giving us a tool to quantify exactly what is needed.

Re:Not completely ignored... (4, Insightful)

Silver Sloth (770927) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848211)

The difference is that the rate of change is increasing beyond exponentially. It may be nice to be 'defining the theoretical basis for laws that will be enacted in twenty or fifty years' time. but the PC is barely 25 years old, mass internet usage is less than 10 years old and the ability to bulk copy and distribute media less than that. I'm not sure we have the time to wait 20 - 50 years to sort it out.

Re:Not completely ignored... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848453)

The difference is that the turnover of politicians is not in sync with the advent and decline of ideas and ideologies anymore. During the industrial revolution, you had a generation (of politicians and people) to react. It took a good 20-30 years to actually push through. Today, it's more like 2-3 years for a technology or a certain position to gain momentum or power.

Think of copyright. 10 years ago, it wasn't a big issue. Sure, a few complained, a few cared, but most people didn't even know what they may copy when or why? It simply was the way it was. Laws generally made sense and were actually often in favor of the consumer. Today, a completely different picture.

We will not get politicians who know about digital copying and digital copyprotection (and their implications) in office for at least another decade. Our current politicians grew up in the world of the 1950s-1980s. Back then, nothing of the current IP issues existed, simple due to a lack of portability. Hell, back then "copying" was at best something your could do with carbon paper! Xerox machines were new back then!

Re:Good Stuff (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848175)

For some of the categories of works currently covered by copyright, for example music, the introduction of open access along with some form of alternative compensation system promises to deliver significant gains both to creators and to consumers.
That all seems delightful, but I have yet to see a workable system that would bring this about. I'd like to think that after every The Black Keys show those guys go back to their hotel rooms and find a bag of money has mysteriously appeared on the nightstand, but I know that doesn't happen because I watch half the audience bail out as soon as the music stops, without buying a CD or a shirt and maybe they drank a couple beers that the Keys will get a half a cent out of.

How that is going to be any different when people get their music (legally) through some open distribution system I can't quite figure out. Hidden more or less anonymously out there in cyberwonderland the social obligation to pay anything at all, even a nickel per album, is going to have to be pretty strong.

His text is pretty broad, but unless by 'open' he means something like iTunes Plus, I don't see how that will work out.

Dispassionate (4, Insightful)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847943)

...a dispassionately calculated estimate
If only all important political discusions and decisions could use techniques like this. It's refreshing to see someone take some of the "but artists are starving and may soon be forced to eat babies" out of the debate.

Re:Dispassionate (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848105)

Dispassionate does not mean non-biased. There has to be certain assumptions made behind various calculations, and the author is likely biased in a particular way. He has already written various essays and papers promoting ip reform before undertaking this particular paper. This is not to say he is wrong, but "dispassionate" doesn't mean he is right. He is like an expert witness at a trial, he is trying to be technically correct as possible but he is still siding with a particular viewpoint.

Personally I think 14 years is a little short, but 14 + 14 renewal I think would work fairly well.

Re:Dispassionate (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848145)

On the other hand, from glancing over his calculations, the point seems to be that the welfare created is dependent on the total number of copies ('copies' + 'originals') of the works in existence, and some arguments that new works are less valuable as there already exist so many of them. Again, this was only a very quick browsing through the article, but what I would argue that the total welfare is also dependent on the total number of "valuable" works in existence. His argument seems to be that the greater distribution (in itself, not as a source of new creation) cancels out the decline in new production quite easily.

Of course it's good to use proper models so one doesn't reach a conclusion which contradicts the stated targets, but his statement of the target doesn't seem to value cultural diversity. The main issue is that the model for creating 'originals' still doesn't reflect his own observation, that digital technology makes any distribution after the first, "real" creation, relatively trivial.

Sorry Slashdot Aspies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848429)

But in the real world, pretty much all political questions (including this one) are about values and morals. There's no scientific answer to them.

prediction (5, Insightful)

witte (681163) | more than 6 years ago | (#19847989)

Somebody suggests something that's on middle ground and reasonable to both sides. Watch him catch flak from both sides for not seeing it Their Way and therefore Wrong.

Re:prediction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848047)

A copyright of 14 years, eh. Picture a situation where an artist's work is discovered by the public decades after its creation. Take the folk musician Vashti Bunyan for a concrete example.

Re:prediction (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848189)

A copyright of 14 years, eh. Picture a situation where an artist's work is discovered by the public decades after its creation. Take the folk musician Vashti Bunyan for a concrete example.

The public would've still discovered it decades ago and enjoyed it, but Vashti's compensation wouldn't be that big (yes, it won't be totally lost, but he'll be able to get less out of it).

For quite the edge case, I think it's pretty good. And don't forget: you don't build the laws to satisfy edge cases, but the majority of cases, otherwise laws get skewed and stop working completely (case in point: Disney).

who's to profit? (5, Interesting)

iplayfast (166447) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848043)

Most books (not talking about the superstars here) are out of print within 3 years. Most publishers, maintain the copyright on the book until it is no longer in print (or something like that). Then the copyright reverts back to the original author. However most publishers won't admit it is no long in print for years and years after it is long gone.

Most authors have no problem with making copyright much shorter. I've heard values as low as 3 years, with 5 to 10 being the usual suggestion. It's only the Disney's and other superstars of the publishing world that want copyright longer then the normal human lifespan.

Re:who's to profit? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848159)

Most authors have no problem with making copyright much shorter. I've heard values as low as 3 years, with 5 to 10 being the usual suggestion. It's only the Disney's and other superstars of the publishing world ... that want copyright longer then the normal human lifespan.
... and the Congresscritters who take their money.

Copyright durations will not be shortened until real, meaningful campaign finance reform gets passed by the Legislative branch. In other words, as long as Congresscritters are on the take, probably never.

Re:who's to profit? (1)

MontyApollo (849862) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848205)

Movies though are very expensive to make, and I could see where they would want longer time periods.

Another issue that could up though is big corporations using your work to make millions of dollars. If Star Wars copyright expired after 14 years, anybody in the world could left frames from the movie and do their own "promotions" whenever the next movie came out. Scenes from the original could be plastered on fast food soda cups all over the world just in time for the next movie release.

As I was reading this my hopes were soaring for... (2, Funny)

rhartness (993048) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848051)

42 years!

Re:As I was reading this my hopes were soaring for (1)

andr0meda (167375) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848191)


Forgive me for not having read the fine article, but I even think 14 years is a relatively long time. For software, 14 years is like eternity. It seems to me that you can't put one final period to all kinds of innovation. Pharmaceuticals, software or mechanical devices are all very different in terms of development, research, testing, productizing. Regulation bodies in certain domains are more rigorous than that they are in others. To me, any study that shouts "14 years" is just the same as it is saying "it's green"!

The only problem I see here... (1)

Grimbleton (1034446) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848059)

is he might be made to disappear/not exist like how they did to DeLorean when he left GM. (w00t, first car analogy :P )

Nirvana & Pearl Jam (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848071)

So their first couple of albums would be in the public domain? Hardly worth making a decent album if you can only make any money from it for 14 years.

Re:Nirvana & Pearl Jam (1)

siDDis (961791) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848235)

Hardly worth making OSS if I can never make any money from it. By following that example you wouldn't be able to post this on slashdot.

Re:Nirvana & Pearl Jam (1)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848253)

Well, gee what about Shakespear, Bethoven, and Mozart? They actually were brilliant, and their works have lived on for hundreds of years.

Those albums are great - but I doubt they'll be playing 200 years from now. I mean, how often to you hear "I've got a lovely bunch of Coconuts" on the radio?

Re:Nirvana & Pearl Jam (1)

The_reformant (777653) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848465)

People always assume that anything that lasted for that long must be genius but remember the barrier for entry for composing and writing was comparitively much higher during the period these artists worked. These artists from an objective point of view could have such longevity jsut because there are so few extant examples from their time period.

Re:Nirvana & Pearl Jam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848261)

Hardly worth making more music if you have a perpetual copyright on earlier works. Why take any risk?

Patent tag ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848075)

I find quite ironic that people capable of understanding a 30-pages plain-text article full of mathematical formulas still cannot understand the difference between copyright and patents. :)

Not mathematics, but economics (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848095)

The headline is misleading, there is no mathematics in the manuscript,only economics. If submitted to a mathematics journal in its current form the paper would be most likely rejected; however it is publishable in an economics journal. The style of the manuscript is not that of a mathematician but of an economist. The asumptions are not set in an axiomatic way and no theorems are formulasted or proven. He employs elementary mathematical techniques used by economists (optimizations, etc) which are closer to accounting than to real mathematics.

Re:Not mathematics, but economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848247)

shut up, you twit. guess what, lots of disciplines use mathematics, and most don't need to concoct new theorems in Diophantine analysis to do what they need to do. so stop being such a worthless whiner about it.

Re:Not mathematics, but economics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848419)

whoosh

Using math is not doing math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848425)

Using masth: almost everybody does this, physicists, engineers, economists, biologists, chemists, even laymen balancing their checks
Doing math: very few people do that, usually trained mathematicians

Slashdot editors are misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848337)

Lots of physicists, chemists, engineers, economists, biologists write down equations and solve them yet they do not do math but stuff in their own area of research. In general for them mathematics is not enough, it is just a tool among many others and many times not the most important tool.

Saying that a physicist or an economist using equations for studying their own problems do math is equally offending both for mathematicians and natural scientists; all areas of research are equally important and deserve equal credit.

I am a theoretical physicist doing research on genetics and I am surprised and shocked if laymen call me a mathematician (it happens now and then, for example while writing equations during a flight). It takes much more being a mathematician than writing long equations on a sheet of paper!

Re:Not mathematics, but economics (1)

Xeth (614132) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848479)

Wow, when did calculus stop being math?

Who ever said this was a mathematical paper? It's about using math to determine social policy, rather than lobbying. It would never be submitted to a mathematical journal; it's clearly a political science work. Is this some sort of bizarre mathematical pretension, that nobody is allowed to claim they use math unless everything they do is done in a strict way?

In short, you're vitriol about being rejected by a mathematical journal is uncalled for, and you're a jerk for being so pretentious.

Old news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848107)

Incidentally, 14 years is what the US law used to stipulate a long time ago! I guess people were using their brains a lot more back then.

Mathematical opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848149)

Not sure how someone can "calculate" an optimum when so many of the variables are not hard facts, but opinion.

For example, let's take "Spiderman." Spiderman has been around a lot longer than 14 years, and recently Sony has made a ton of money for Marvel and its own investors with three hit movies. If Spiderman had already fallen into the public domain, those films might not have been made, and therefore that wealth not generated. Increased wealth for moviemakers benefits the public because it enables moviemakers to create other films the public will enjoy, which increases public welfare (Pollock's "W" variable).

Re:Mathematical opinion (4, Interesting)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848223)

For example, let's take "Spiderman." Spiderman has been around a lot longer than 14 years, and recently Sony has made a ton of money for Marvel and its own investors with three hit movies. If Spiderman had already fallen into the public domain, those films might not have been made, and therefore that wealth not generated.

Wealth wasn't generated. It was redistributed.

Society would have been just fine without those movies.

Re:Mathematical opinion (1)

Sir_Kurt (92864) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848423)

And lets not forget that the argument that Sony would not have made the Spiderman movies if the copyright on the character had run out is completly absurd.Most likely there would be more movies, and they would be better because it is likely that more than one movie house would want to make a Spidy Show, and competition is a Good Thing. Right? The movie would still have its own copyright because it is a new work. The reason copyrights no longer work as the constitution provides, is because it now copyright law prevents derivetive works in any meaningful time frame

Public domain (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848395)

If Spiderman had already fallen into the public domain, those films might not have been made


Why not? Many films are made based on stories that are in the public domain.


The situation is exactly the opposite from what you mention. Being in the public domain makes it easier to create derived works, since no licensing is needed.

The incentive won't work for pop music. (0, Troll)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848161)

We see dozen of example every day. To have the most creativity from an pop music "artist", you need to have them produce everything they can within 2 years then trash them.
The reason is simple:
-before one year, they arent that cool anymore.
-after 2/3 years, megalomania and cocaine had destroyed most of their tallent and they apprear more often in the tabloid than in the charts.
after 5/10 years, the lucky/clever ones flip burgers in Alabama, the other ones now being homeless crack whores and even the worst tabloid won't make a line on any of them, except maybe if he dies in a very funny way.

MAFIAA producer already know these facts for decades, why couldn't higly educated /.ers understand something as simple as:
1- Buy copyrights from the artists for next to nothing
2- Make them work like slaves while they're cool then dump them
3- $$$$

Like trademarks (1)

Shados (741919) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848279)

I don't know, but I feel that as long as you use/enforce it semi-regularly, you should be able to keep it, but copyrighted material shouldn't be allowed to die in obscurity.

To make a parallel of the gaming world (which is relevent, copyright is copyright), it would be freakishly weird to see Sony and Microsoft be allowed to make Mario and Zelda games already, but at the same time, obscure games from 25 years ago that no one hears of anymore should be freely available as ROMs, its too late to just come back and say "oups, I want to sell that game again on the Wii's VC!".

So as long as you use it, its yours, and if you don't for X (short) amount of times, its everyone's. I'm sure there are flaws with this, but it would be a start, and make everyone happy, to some extent.

Regulations don't make things "optimal" (5, Insightful)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848321)

When it comes to "optimal," we have to consider more than just two parties, what the layman would call "the producer" and "the consumer." In an area as complex as content creation, copyright definitely harms more people than it helps. Many people will say that copyright helps "the producer," but in reality the monopoly of force that copyright provides helps the distributors more than the producer. It harms the consumer (prevents them from using their talents as they decide their time is worth), it harms other producers who also are restricted in how they can use their time most optimally as judged by themselves. It also hurts the original producer because many distribution markets are monopolized because of copyright.

Look at what Prince just did [google.com] -- he disturbed the distribution monopoly's hold on music sales, and they're PO'd about it. Instead of hoping for sales for an album he knows is already online and in the hands of fans, he used the music he created as a "loss leader" to drive sales to a market he can control -- his own time. Instead of hoping to make millions on an album (which anyone can copy, using their own time, their own equipment), he can now make millions selling something unique -- HIS time in front of his fans.

Albums are quickly becoming marketing structures to get people to attend your live performances. Many new bands give away their music via MySpace and PureVolume in hopes of getting people to come to their shows -- where they make the actual dollars doing actual labor on an ongoing basis.

I'm an artist, and I produce some musical acts myself. I've convinced most, if not all, to tell their crowds to go and copy the album they buy at the show for friends, so that the band has a bigger pull the next time they're in town. My own brother's band, Maps & Atlases, is now doing that to great acclaim (MTV2, college radio, and a large tour pending) with hopes of making their money on beer cuts, T-shirt sales, etc. Copyright is useless to them. They won't sign a contract to the various labels chasing them unless they are allowed to distribute their music in any way they want (including Torrent, free MP3 on their sites, etc).

What is optimal is a market that a producer and a consumer can both dictate what terms they want for a transaction. If an item has the chance to be infinitely available, the cost drops to zero. CDs can theoretically be nearly-infinitely available today. The cost should be close to zero. The time an artists can serve their fans is not infinitely zero (at least not in a live performance, face to face). This is where money can, and should, be made. That is optimal for all.

14 years is way too short (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19848331)

Imagine if copyright lasts only for 14 years, Microsoft could use all GPL'ed code written before 1993.

It's a model (3, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848361)

We shouldn't simply assume that just because the author used math, (and we like his conclusion, ) that his conclusions are accurate.

1. The author built a mathematical model of the world.
2. Then he performed (presumably) valid math within that model.
3. But generally, all models simplify, often over-simplify, the thing they describe.
4. So even if all his math is valid, his results may be inaccurate.

We also can't simply ignore the fact that the objective function he was trying to maximize embodies a particular notion of what "good" is. But we know that the idea of "good" varies from person to person, even amongst Slashdot'ers, in major ways. So just because we like the fact that he used math, and we like his advocacy of shorter copyright, we maybe should seriously disagree with his conclusion of "about 14 years" being optimal.

Other side of the coin (1)

debrain (29228) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848385)

Remember that with a 14 year copyright, copyleft licenses such as GNU GPL would cease to apply. As a result, this software would become public domain after 14 years.

I haven't thought it through, but this doesn't strike me as a bad thing.

method (1)

SolusSD (680489) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848431)

well at least there was some method for coming up with this number-- beats just pulling a number out of someones asshole.

Software Updates and Copyright (2, Interesting)

the.Ceph (863988) | more than 6 years ago | (#19848441)

Does modifying a work affect its copyright date? If I update a piece of software 7 years after I release it, would the copyright on the entire work be let up 7 years later? or would version 2 be considered a seperate work and be copyrighted for another 14 years with the first version falling out of protection halfway through that term? I worded that kind of crappily but you get the idea. Under this scheme would some of the older parts of Linux no longer be protected while the newer parts are protected?
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