Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Voluntarily Limiting Copyright Terms

By dachshund in Op-Ed
Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 02:05:55 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)

Given the number of stories published recently on k5 alone, it's hard to imagine that anyone here hasn't heard about the Supreme Court's decision in Eldred v. Ashcroft. In the aftermath of this case, we are left to deal with a new reality: the term of any work copyrighted in the modern era is now indefinite.

While there's no way for any of us to foresee the consequences of this decision, we can take some small personal steps to try and limit the damage. As one of these steps, I suggest we design and promote a new, voluntary license that would allow creators to place their own limits on the copyright term of a new work. In other words, let's give principled creators a way to do what their government is unwilling to do for them.

This license would not be a traditional copyleft license, like the GNU GPL or FDL. Unlike those licenses, it would not immediately grant recipients the right to redistribute, modify, or do anything that they couldn't do to a typical copyrighted work. These rights would remain the exclusive domain of the copyright holder for a defined number of years. At the end of that period, the license would become a full-fledged open license, granting recipients the right to duplicate, republish and modify the document with no restrictions at all. One could think of it as a "delayed-effect" BSD-style license.

How would creators benefit from this? It would give them nearly all of the profit-making incentives that copyright currently grants them, without all of the headaches that indefinite copyright brings with it. An author might choose to voluntarily limit their own copyright term for some of the following reasons:

  • It's a principled thing to do. Volunteering to limit the terms of your own work makes a strong statement for reasonable, limited copyright terms. Many coders, writers and artists do support limited copyright terms in principle; however, they also rely on copyright to make their living. Currently they have no option but to either give away that protection, or to "hold their nose" and trust the government's wisdom.

    Admittedly, these creators could release their work into the public domain at any time in the future. But that doesn't always work out. People forget about their works; they die and leave no heirs; principles sometimes fail in the face of specific economic pressures.

  • It protects your work... from possibly languishing in obscurity. Today there are countless books, recordings and films-- many dating from the first half of this century-- that simply rot in moldy cellars. Others have ceased to exist altogether. The worst aspect of modern copyright is the legal uncertainty that keeps many of these works from being discovered and republished. In many cases the authors probably wouldn't mind seeing the work republished, if only to have it live again. But many copyright holders just can't be found, or the cost of locating them exceeds the amount that any publisher could justify spending (particularly when the publisher is not looking to sell the work in question.)

  • It makes a political statement. As the battle for limited copyright terms leaves the Supreme Court and heads back to the political arena, public support is more necessary than ever. By clearly marking your copyrighted works as protected for a limited time, you send a message to Congress and the Court that you're willing to do what they won't, and you'll put your own money where your mouth is (so to speak.)

    In nearly all cases, self-limiting your copyright term to some reasonable limited term, say twenty-five years, won't have any real effect on a work's economic potential. In some industries, such as the software industry, works often lose most of their value after a fairly short span of years. I realize that this could produce an ugly reaction from potential publishers, but with enough popular support, maybe even those publishers can be brought to accept limited-term works without too much complaint.

    As I am not a lawyer, I don't feel qualified to talk about the specific language of such a license. Perhaps such a mechanism could be accomplished with a small note at the end of a work, stating the publication date and the date on which recipients would gain full, non-exclusive rights to redistribute, duplicate, modify and relicense. Or, more likely, it would be a full legal document along the lines of the GPL or BSD licenses.

    In the latter case, I imagine that there could be additional features of this license. It might, for instance, allow for a limited number of pre-specified copyright extensions-- provided the intent to extend is posted in an accessable place, along with the current contact information of the creator. This gives even cautious creators the flexibility to fully profit from their successes, without holding all of their other works hostage. (And no matter what the Supreme Court imagines in Eldred, this solution still provides a limited copyright term.)

    Pehaps such a license already exists. In that case, let's start using it! Promoting it! If even a few of the more visible writers in this area began to limit their own copyright terms, at very least it would put the issue into some heads, and maybe steal a tiny bit of thunder from the intellectual "property" crowd.

    I freely admit that this is not a solution to the bigger problem. Certainly, Hollywood and the commercial publishing industries are unlikely to ever voluntarily limit the copyright terms of their own material. But this effort isn't for them, it's for us: all of the people who privately write, code or create for a living, and at the same time believe in the essential bargain between creators and the public.

    This post, for what it's worth, is hereby released into public domain. No rights are reserved.

  • Sponsors

    Voxel dot net
    o Managed Hosting
    o VoxCAST Content Delivery
    o Raw Infrastructure


    Would you limit the copyright terms on your own works?
    o Yes, in all cases 52%
    o Occasionally, but not on commercial work 25%
    o Never, but only because I'd feel silly doing so 7%
    o Never, I would hope for the longest term possible 14%

    Votes: 70
    Results | Other Polls

    Related Links
    o stories
    o published
    o Eldred v. Ashcroft
    o Also by dachshund

    Display: Sort:
    Voluntarily Limiting Copyright Terms | 74 comments (61 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Question (4.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Anonymous 7324 on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 04:06:41 PM EST

    don't most writers sign over copyrights to their publishers to get stuff um, published? If so, isn't it more of a matter of encouraging them to put clauses in their contract about having a timely process of having copyright revert to them?

    (speaking of which, I thought such a process already exists, but if so, then any book that's out of print for N years automagically has copyright revert to the author, right?)

    A different approach (4.00 / 1) (#10)
    by dachshund on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 04:44:42 PM EST

    don't most writers sign over copyrights to their publishers to get stuff um, published? If so, isn't it more of a matter of encouraging them to put clauses in their contract about having a timely process of having copyright revert to them?

    That's certainly one way of doing this. The problem is that not everyone already has a contract with a newspaper. If I'm writing a blog or a book, for instance, I might want to commit myself to giving the book away after twenty-five years. This license accomplishes that. As long as there's a copy of the material somewhere out there with the "you can use this in twenty-five years" license on it, someone can republish it after that term has expired.

    The other problem with your suggestion is that even if the copyright reverts to me (or my heirs) after a certain period of time, there's no guarantee that we'll release the material for general use. This license is sort of like a promise you make when you first write the book, that prevents you or your grand-niece Suzie from becoming greedy later in life at the prospect of keeping your work under copyright forever. It's also a guarantee that your work will survive if it isn't successful; as long as copies exist and they contain this "after twenty-five years feel free" license, someone may restore or republish them.

    [ Parent ]

    standard book publishing terms (5.00 / 2) (#53)
    by Kellnerin on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 06:48:05 PM EST

    In most cases, the author doesn't actually hand over copyright to a publisher. If you open almost any book to the page after the title page, it will tell you that it's copyrighted in the name of the author, not Random House, Inc. or whoever (common exceptions are reference books, compilations, and other work-for-hire situations).

    What the author does give the publisher is the exclusive right to publish and distribute the work -- i.e. offer it in some saleable form and make money from it however they can. Usually this exclusive license lasts for the term of copyright, but with the addendum that if the publisher ever allows the book to fall out of print, demonstrating that it is no longer interested in publishing and making it available for sale, the author can request that all rights revert to him, and do whatever he wants -- either try to get someone else to publish it, or release it into the public domain, or simply make a little money in licensing fees whenever anyone wants to quote it, or use it in some way not covered by free use.

    So to answer your original question, copyrights generally are retained by the author, and there are standard procedures by which the publishing rights revert, too. The question is what happens after that -- sometimes the author never bothers to ask for their rights, and sometimes they're no more accomodating than the publisher would have been, as long as they can make a buck, or "protect their work", and so on.

    --I'm pregnant. I'm stealing your pickle. -iGrrrl --
    [ Parent ]

    The definitive solution to the copyright terms pro (3.66 / 3) (#9)
    by quartz on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 04:20:29 PM EST

    blem: just make copyright non-transferable.

    Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
    How would that change things? (4.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Ras Bomboclaat on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 05:03:22 PM EST

    In most EUian countries, it already is.
    [ Parent ]
    The way I figure, (3.00 / 2) (#14)
    by quartz on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 05:12:19 PM EST

    if it's no longer possible for authors to transfer ownership of their work to publishing companies, there would be no more lobbying for copyright extensions. Or at least corporate lobbying. Authors could still do it, but authors have far less lobbying power than corporations.

    Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke, and fuck 'em even if they can.
    [ Parent ]
    Authors would form organizations (3.00 / 2) (#15)
    by leviramsey on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 05:43:23 PM EST

    With the express purpose of lobbying.

    Hell, they've already got the organizational structure to do just that: the Writers Guild of America. It wouldn't be that big of a step for them to start lobbying for copyright extension if necessary. Plus, they have the added benefit of being (effectively) a trade union, which makes it next to impossible to be a professionally published writer without being a member.

    [ Parent ]
    Would they care? (none / 0) (#64)
    by squigly on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:09:11 AM EST

    This doesn't actually worry me so much.  There are no members that have been dead for a long time, so the writers guild members have copyrights to very few books that are likely to go out of copyright soon.  

    I guess there are some members who are still earning royalties from a succesful ancestorwho was also a writer, and a few who feel that their descendents should have the right, but most people aren't really too concerned with events half a century after their death.

    [ Parent ]

    Won't work (3.50 / 3) (#21)
    by dachshund on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 07:36:33 PM EST

    if it's no longer possible for authors to transfer ownership of their work to publishing companies, there would be no more lobbying for copyright extensions. Or at least corporate lobbying.

    In practice, there's little difference between transferring copyright and assigning an exclusive license to someone. I suppose such a license might eventually expire, but the author could always re-assign it.

    Any way you cut it, publishers are going to realize that they have more to gain from a situation in which they can keep content under license than from a situation where content falls into the public domain and thus is open to anyone-- including those pesky little companies who're trying to compete.

    [ Parent ]

    Archival rights (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by dachshund on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 05:07:42 PM EST

    One thing just ocurred to me after it was too late to edit the article:

    Any such license should also include explicit rights of archival, allowing a library or other such organization to make copies as necessary to preserve the content until its "term" expires-- just so long as those copies aren't released or published.

    I think this is currently allowed under Copyright Law, but Copyright Law and its interpretation is so muddy that there's no absolute guarantee that the law won't change.

    Not sure I'd want to decide now (4.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Delirium on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 05:50:30 PM EST

    I'm not sure I'd want to set such a time limit for myself at the time of authorship. If, for example, I want my work to expire after 20 years, I'd rather just wait 20 years and then explicitly release it into the public domain (if I still feel that way). That way I won't end up thinking "I shouldn't have done that."

    I do support significantly shorter copyright terms for everyone, because I think it'd have a net positive effect. But as for limiting my own terms personally when the world at large isn't; I'd rather keep my options open.

    Now you might say "what happens if you die before you get around to releasing the works into the public domain?" To solve that, I might consider putting something in my will to the effect of "all my copyrighted works are hereby placed in the public domain." That way I can release works into the public domain during my life as I see fit (without deciding at the time of publication), and they all get released when I die.

    Doesn't always work (4.50 / 2) (#17)
    by dachshund on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 06:18:02 PM EST

    To solve that, I might consider putting something in my will to the effect of "all my copyrighted works are hereby placed in the public domain." That way I can release works into the public domain during my life as I see fit (without deciding at the time of publication), and they all get released when I die.

    Sometimes it's very difficult to locate the copyright holder of a work, even if they are still alive. Simply releasing your works with a clause like you suggest won't undo the chilling effect that copyright law places on the republication of old works you may not even remember writing.

    It's particularly important with respect to anonymous and pseudonymous works, which also receive a full term of copyright protection. To really get people to consider republishing those works, you'd have to identify yourself beyond doubt as the real author. It's not completely unreasonable to want copyright protection without actually having to give your name, but it's pretty hard to undo that protection after you've gone and died.

    [ Parent ]

    hmm, makes sense (none / 0) (#37)
    by Delirium on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 01:18:04 AM EST

    Yeah, I had forgotten about the locating-the-author problem. To solve that the terms really do need to be included with the initial publishing, so I'd tend to agree then with this article's stance.

    [ Parent ]
    Works becoming public domain when author dies. (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by I am Jack's username on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 07:45:06 PM EST

    To solve that, I might consider putting something in my will to the effect of "all my copyrighted works are [...] placed in the public domain [when I die]"
    Bad idea: if a multi national wants to use your copyrighted work without paying for it they could then just kill you.
    Inoshiro for president!
    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
    [ Parent ]
    Legal repercussions against hitmen (none / 0) (#68)
    by pin0cchio on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 09:45:01 AM EST

    if a multi national wants to use your copyrighted work without paying for it they could then just kill you.

    And permanently lose the right to do business in that country if convicted. And possibly have the executives thrown in jail for 20 years to life.

    [ Parent ]
    Naive (2.66 / 3) (#18)
    by StephenThompson on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 06:32:13 PM EST

    Do you think Mickey Mouse would have become Disney's mascot if there had been strings attached to his copyright?  

    The whole issue is about corporations (specifically Disney) extending copyrights via act of Congress beyond the normal bounds.

    Inciting content creators to be "principled" and "make a political statement" is foolhardy.  Anyone who follows your rosey little path will never get picked up by a corporation who has the leverage to sway congress in the first place. They will be shunned and blacklisted and end up eating at the Missionary soup kitchen.

    Sure (none / 0) (#20)
    by dachshund on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 07:31:14 PM EST

    People do naive things every day. As I said above, I'm not counting on this changing the world. Rather, it's just something you could do on an individual basis when you publish online, or write a computer program that you intend to market. It's a way of putting a little reminder onto every single piece of creative work that you produce, and maybe raising awareness about the bizarre length of copyright terms.

    Still, I don't think it's totally hopeless as an idea, though. The content industries will oppose it on principle, but that doesn't mean they're making a wise financial decision in doing so. If a number of well-known and relatively powerful authors began to adopt this approach for their works, then the content industries might be forced to bend a little-- particularly those industries that don't place such a high value on old content.

    I see it as being a naive solution that's only slightly less naive than the "make everything free" solution that currently exists as the primary alternative to copyright.

    [ Parent ]

    Corporations are not Naive.. (3.00 / 2) (#25)
    by StephenThompson on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 09:04:01 PM EST

    Sure people do naive things all the time.  Corporations do not.  At least not the rich powerful ones like Disney; that is why they are rich and powerful.

    Artists cannot 'force' corporations to do anything.  This is a very naive concept.   And corporations will not "oppose it on principle"!  They simply will not put up with it because it would be bad business practice.

    Have you ever worked at a corporation or been involved in the entertainment industry?  To the corporate 'suits', talent is a commodity almost beneath contempt.  If the talent doesn't tow the company line, they get thrown back on the street and somebody else from the ocean that is the available talent pool is propped up in their place.

    [ Parent ]

    Corporations indeed naive. (none / 0) (#72)
    by cdyer on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:28:11 AM EST

    What do you mean corporations do not do naive things? Have you forgotten about Crystal Pepsi?


    [ Parent ]
    Is O'Reilly naive and foolhardy? (5.00 / 2) (#49)
    by ToastyKen on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 02:52:53 PM EST

    As a previous post mentioned, O'Reilly Associates is releasing a serious of books under a voluntarily short-term copyright.  And they're a major corporation, not a dinky little K5er.

    [ Parent ]
    It's a good idea imo (3.00 / 2) (#19)
    by omghax on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 07:23:02 PM EST

    and one that people and perhaps even corporations will, I think, put into practice.

    Liar. (2.00 / 3) (#23)
    by zealtrix on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 07:46:53 PM EST

    Do you think that corporations are even remotely interested in freedom? How can you depict them as anything other than organisations of pure evil, spawned out of the slave-labor days of yore?

    [ Parent ]
    TROLL *readies missles* (NT) (3.00 / 2) (#24)
    by omghax on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 08:24:29 PM EST

    [ Parent ]
    Interesting idea... (4.75 / 4) (#26)
    by gr3y on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 09:13:47 PM EST

    But ultimately doomed to be trivialized by a publishing industry that is very intent on maintaining its own profitability...

    Authors, for one, can't get wide distribution without signing various rights away to publishers. When they become well known, they have more negotiating room, but that doesn't happen to all authors, and it's never enough to seriously negotiate.

    I just spent a couple of hours in a local bookstore, and I noticed something. Unless I'm shopping for technical books, there just aren't that many books that I want to read anymore. I tend to stick to a few limited genres, and maybe that's part of my problem, but even in those genres authors are puking up whatever crap they can as fast as they can, to enjoy their moment in the sun and make as much money as possible before being relegated to obscurity.

    It seems that every book is a trilogy, or worse, because every author is telling an "epic" story; that every collection of short stories has one or two that have "never before been published", but the rest I already have multiple copies of, so they're not worth paying for; and that all the good ideas are just gone. I almost bought a copy of "The Truth Machine", but I dismissed it an attempt at prophecy, and the basic premise of the truth machine was so ludicrous that I just couldn't suspend disbelief long enough to get through a few pages: someone discovers an infallible lie detector.

    I could not find one book I was willing to pay for. Part of the problem is that book prices have never been higher. I spent $7.99 on "Bolos: Cold Steel" and felt like I'd been robbed. I buy those books because I prefer short stories for their varied viewpoints. "Cold Steel" had two stories in it, and neither was very good (it also has a picture of what looks like a dead Osama bin Laden on the cover, which is interesting).

    Ever seen this?

    We're only a short step away from books-on-demand, but publishers won't take that step. The current run of crap in the book store is there to fill the shelves. Like music publishing, content on demand is what people want, but it's not going to happen.

    You're probably asking what this has to do with copyright, and that's a good question. Why has Congress extended patent terms for older drugs that were about to expire, or why did Congress recently push the extension of copyright? Profitability. The industries involved have convinced our elected representatives that they cannot maintain profitability without special legislative protection. That's clearly ludicrous, yet it is.

    Why are there book trilogies (or worse)? Because it's easier to manage a single successful story from a single author than many stories, some of which will not be successful, from many authors. The good ones provide a means for bringing all the crap to market. Essentially, readers are paying for the latest installment in the serial. The stories never end, just look at the "Shannara" stories, or "The Wheel of Time". It's the holy grail of book publishing.

    How does your idea provide publishers with assurances of profitability? It doesn't. As I said, I think it's an interesting idea, but limited in its appeal to scholarly articles or documentation. I can't see it being applied to fiction or most non-fiction.

    No publisher would touch it over the long term because it limits their control of the work, and their profitability. And who has the money to publish their own book with wide enough dissemination to be profitable, as in, to be a career re: authors? Not many people.

    Still, it's interesting, so I voted +1 SP. Maybe someone who knows more than I do about book publishing will have something to say.

    I am a disruptive technology.

    it's about risk (5.00 / 1) (#54)
    by Kellnerin on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 07:06:11 PM EST

    The reason there is nothing published but mostly done-before waffle, and the reason publishers are so protective about copyrights, is because of risk. Publishing is basically a gamble, where you hope and pray that the books your staff thinks are good, will get noticed and become popular with readers as well. Most books don't earn out their author's advances, or sell out their initial print runs -- basically they don't live up to the publisher's hopes for them, and often the publisher loses money. For over 90% of books that get published, they'll be available for about a year and then the publisher will try to dump the inventory and move on to the next thing.

    But every so often a book hits it big. Really big. And that success can float the entire publishing house for a little while, and if it happens to be one of those books with a long life rather than a temporary fad -- steady revenue year after year -- then that's publishing gold, and those are the few books they'll never give up, because they literally carry the company. The trick is, you never really know what those books will be, until after you've put the book in the stores. You can better your odds by going with an established author, or a sequel to a successful book -- nothing sells a new book better than a proven track record, or so publishers and booksellers think, so they keep going round and round in circles, trying to stick with the sure bets that don't really exist.

    --I'm pregnant. I'm stealing your pickle. -iGrrrl --
    [ Parent ]

    Agreed. (none / 0) (#57)
    by gr3y on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 01:09:59 AM EST

    But I think book publishing in particular is ripe for a resurgence of creative talent. It just won't come from the major publishers.

    Here's my fantasy:

    1. Some small publisher purchases some perfectbook machines, and installs them in malls.
    2. The publisher performs the regular chores of editing, promoting, and indexing the works - online. Indexing is the most important for this idea to work.
    3. All books can be previewed on the publisher's website, indexed by author, genre, etc. Sample chapters are included - no more than 5 - 10 percent of the book.
    4. Any book buyer can send a book to a perfectbook machine near them. It's encrypted using public key encryption. They take their public key to the kiosk. The book is delivered as an encrypted file.
    5. The attendant at the kiosk decrypts the file using the kiosk's private key and the purchaser's public key and then prints the book selected from the publisher's website.
    I can finally find a copy of "Great Living in Grubby Times" or any number of lesser, limited run titles that are now out of print. Plus, the content is reasonably protected from piracy in transit.

    I agree with you - due to their extreme aversion to risk, no current major publisher will do it. It will have to be a small one. Got any contacts in the industry? We can probably make it happen.

    I am a disruptive technology.
    [ Parent ]

    I would love to see this happen (none / 0) (#69)
    by Kellnerin on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 10:34:10 AM EST

    Talk to Jason Epstein, who despite being a big Random House editor/publisher, believes print-on-demand is the future. Let's start with the annoying fact of the large bookstore chains, with their high-rent storefronts that drive high turnover, so that the second the newest book isn't the hottest thing on the shelf anymore, it gets shipped back to the publisher's warehouse. Good luck finding that book at a B&N that you read a review of last year that sounded interesting, but you didn't get around to buying at the time. Yeah, they can "special order" it, but don't wait too long, or the publisher will have remaindered it and you'll have to go prowling the used bookstores.

    At the very least print-on-demand will be able to make these books available without the burden of high inventory costs for publishers or booksellers, at least for relatively recent titles that exist in digital format. Much older ones we may be able to ressurect via Gutenberg and other efforts, while everything in between is locked up in the form of physical printer's plates, but it's something. An alternative to the flavor-of-the-month you're otherwise stuck with.

    But ok, let's talk new books. There are already some outfits that do print-on-demand, but they're mostly vanity publishers or something similar, where the author pays them a fee for their services, rather than having a standard publishing contract. And generally the problem there is the lack of distribution or promotional channels for the books they produce. If we make books come out of machines in every Kinko's or suburban mall (or Amazon's warehouse!), that's a start, but you also have to get the word out so readers know to look for the books you're publishing in the first place. The Catch-22 is that you have to be already established before anyone will pay any attention to you, for the most part.

    But yeah, this has been a dream of mine for a little while now and I'd love to make it reality. The guy I succeeded in my very first job founded his own publishing house, why can't I? Got any capital?

    --I'm pregnant. I'm stealing your pickle. -iGrrrl --
    [ Parent ]

    Half-price books (none / 0) (#58)
    by auraslip on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 02:11:51 AM EST

    Used books, at half the marked price. Nothing like pickig up the clasics (printed 20 years ago) for $1.50 a pop. Stick to the clasics, the truly good modern authors won't be recognized(and therefore heard of) as "clasics" for a long time. So stick to the classics.
    [ Parent ]
    Um, Public Domain? (3.75 / 4) (#28)
    by RyoCokey on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 09:19:32 PM EST

    I release everything Public Domain. I really dislike GPL and fail to see what everyone's fixation with making sure no one ever makes a profit off their work.

    Why not just release your work PD instead of making yet another confusing and useless license?

    "Like all important issues, gun control is an emotional issue that will be resolved by politics, belief, and conviction, not by a resort to "facts'." -
    hah (2.50 / 3) (#30)
    by j1mmy on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 10:14:00 PM EST

    I actually posted something similar on the other site once. Bruce Perens replied to inform me that releasing a work unconditionally is a terrible idea in many ways.

    Even at a bare minimum, you should distribute your work with a license that states you take no responsibility for what other parties do with your work. If you write a handbook on how to kill people but don't mention anywhere that you don't condone killing people, you could easily find yourself in legal hotwater if someone is killed by someone else who read your handbook.

    Adding clauses to your license describing acceptable use is also a good idea. Even if you don't want to be paid for your work, having it attributed to you is often nice. If you don't specify that, plagiarism could rear it's ugly head and you'd have no recourse.

    Consider this: you write a novel and release it for free on the web. A major publishing house picks it up and prints it. The book hits the NY Times bestseller list and sells millions of copies. You don't get squat. Is that fair? Shouldn't you be compensated for your work in some way? You expended some amount of mental and physical energy in creating it and sacrificed free time to do so. Even if you don't want compensation for your labors, why should anyone else profit from the energy you expended? That's unfair to you.

    As for confusing: if you actually take the time to read a license, they're not that confusing. They're pretty clear-cut and explain what's allowed and disallowed. That's the point. Confusing would be a short license that leaves room for ambiguity.

    [ Parent ]

    heh (4.00 / 5) (#36)
    by Work on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 12:40:18 AM EST

    "You don't get squat. Is that fair? Shouldn't you be compensated for your work in some way? You expended some amount of mental and physical energy in creating it and sacrificed free time to do so. Even if you don't want compensation for your labors, why should anyone else profit from the energy you expended? That's unfair to you."

    One would assume the author who consciously puts his work in the public domain knows this, and obviously, doesn't care. It seems rather materialistic to criticize someone on this. If you've got a great idea that you think everyone should use, and don't care about the money - why horde it, as a restrictive license like the GPL would do?

    I've got plenty of software i've written (including my newest game), that I wrote because I wanted to. I dont plan on receiving any money, and i'd be no better or worse off if i hadnt written it. I'm considering releasing into the public domain (or a very open license) simply because, id rather have people use it, than horde it with some kind of 'if i cant profit from it, then noone can!' kind of thing.

    [ Parent ]

    US!=World (3.66 / 4) (#42)
    by nusuth on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 06:18:57 AM EST

    Even at a bare minimum, you should distribute your work with a license that states you take no responsibility for what other parties do with your work. If you write a handbook on how to kill people but don't mention anywhere that you don't condone killing people, you could easily find yourself in legal hotwater if someone is killed by someone else who read your handbook.

    That is not true here and possibly not true in anywhere but USA. You can't sue random people for giving you ideas here. Only if the book tries to make you kill someone, instead of teaching you how to kill, you can sue the publisher. But we also have "less" free speech, so such a book ("go kill all the <ethnic>, they deserve to die and this is how to do it") wouldn't be published anyway.

    [ Parent ]

    Even in the USA... (4.00 / 3) (#45)
    by RyoCokey on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 11:38:40 AM EST

    Personally, I'd like to get the opinion of an Intellectual Property Lawyer, but am a little low on cash to blow on consultation fees. I'm pretty sure that PD releases you from liability though, short of malicious intent.

    "Like all important issues, gun control is an emotional issue that will be resolved by politics, belief, and conviction, not by a resort to "facts'." - [ Parent ]
    unlikely to happen here either. (3.00 / 2) (#46)
    by Work on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 01:51:06 PM EST

    for such a lawsuit to succeed, someone would have to sue, and prove that it was the book - and only the book - that drove them to kill, and unless the book declared 'kill this person', it won't happen.

    I mean, by this logic, every television show, book or movie that featured a detailed murder scene would be grounds for a lawsuit. It just doesn't happen.

    [ Parent ]

    Can you verify the info in the link? (none / 0) (#66)
    by nusuth on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:27:17 AM EST

    hitman online

    It is not the murderer suing the writer, but victims' families suing the publisher instead. If we can assume at least part of the responsibiity belongs to the content provider, it doesn't seem a big leap to assume murderer might also have sued the publisher because he, being sentenced to death, was actually more damaged than victims' families by the book.

    But I read it on teh internet, can you actually verify the information in the link?

    [ Parent ]

    I made plenty of money off of my GPL'd stuff (4.00 / 3) (#34)
    by Edgy Loner on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 11:57:08 PM EST

    and that was without really trying. If I worked it I could probably make enough to live (modestly) on. GPL doesn't keep you from making money, it just keeps folk from leeching.

    This is not my beautiful house.
    This is not my beautiful knife.
    [ Parent ]
    There's only one way to fix copyright. (4.75 / 8) (#29)
    by j1mmy on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 09:25:19 PM EST

    Make the copyright holder apply for extensions. Frankly, I don't care if Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck ever become public domain. They and their associated material don't interest me.

    What does interest me is the massive volume of literature, music and movies which still falls under copyright, but is no longer sold by anyone in any market. The volume of works that has fallen into obscurity due to publisher's unwillingness to keep them for sale in current catalogues is unreal.

    The worst part is that the U.S. copyright office doesn't require the author of a work to register the work with the office to receive copyright protection -- that's guaranteed as long as you stick "Copyright (some year)" on your work. This makes it increasingly hard to determine what's public domain and what isn't.

    If you want copyright to actually work, make all copyright holders and potential holders register their work with the copyright office. A person interested in the copyright status of a work can check it much more easily through the Copyright Office's database. A corporation interested in protecting it's copyrighted trademarks should be allowed to extend them however much it wants. This could tie into your idea of a "good samaritan" copyright holder: corps holding large bodies of copyrighted work that they no longer profit from could just release it into the public domain.

    So that's my idea: make copyright more like the patent system where you have to apply to ensure copyright. Allow extensions for those who want them. If a copyright isn't renewed when the time is up, it goes public domain.

    Fun stuff.

    isnt this elitist though? (5.00 / 1) (#35)
    by Work on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 12:35:58 AM EST

    This is just like the way the patent system works. In order for the small guy with a great invention to get any kind of protection for it, he must undergo the lengthy hire a patent attorney, pay thousands of dollars and what not, just to get it.

    The only people who can really do this are corporations, who would just as likely steal the work of smaller authors and copyright it themselves.

    [ Parent ]

    Copyright registration costs $30 (none / 0) (#67)
    by pin0cchio on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 09:35:42 AM EST

    hire a patent attorney, pay thousands of dollars and what not, just to get it.

    Copyright registration in the USA costs thirty dollars and does not require an attorney.

    [ Parent ]
    You're on the right track (4.50 / 2) (#41)
    by Talez on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 03:34:48 AM EST

    Lack of registration shouldn't penalise an author though otherwise it gets confusing on what the responsibilities of a copyright holder are.

    Unregistered items should be granted a reasonable copyright term (i.e. 12 years) and are protected from the date put onto that work. Anytime during that 12 years the author should be able to register the work with the copyright office. This office will then keep a massive online database of items copyrighted past the 12 years.

    The material then should be able to be extended in 5 year terms after the intial 12 year term indefinately so long as the copyright holder think they can keep making money out of it.

    The application fee for renewal should be something trivial or should come out of a "copyright maintenance tax" or something of the liking as everyone benefits from copyright whether they know about it or not.

    Anyway, thats my take on it.

    Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
    [ Parent ]

    Lessig has proposed this as the "Eldred Act&q (4.00 / 1) (#48)
    by ToastyKen on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 02:47:40 PM EST

    Lawrence Lessig, lawyer for Eldred, et al., has proposed just that.

    [ Parent ]
    Who has to pay the tax? (none / 0) (#62)
    by FlipFlop on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 03:50:57 AM EST

    When an author publishes their work, it is standard practice for the publisher to demand an exclusive license to the copyright. What happens under the proposed Eldred Act if an author refuses to pay the copyright tax despite the publisher's pleading to do so? Can the publisher pay the tax itself?

    AdTI - The think tank that didn't
    [ Parent ]

    Voiding copyright (none / 0) (#65)
    by Znork on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 05:13:38 AM EST

    Registration has its own problems; for one thing I dont like having to apply for copyright for each and every thing I write to avoid it being used and sold for profit by sneaky corporations. Copyright does still contain a certain protection element for the individual author, despite its problems and abuses.

    To deal with the obscurity problem I'd rather like to see a system where a copyright holder or publisher has to publish on request (at ordinary profit margins for a small series run, of course). If the publisher or copyright holder refuses to publish on request the copyright would be void and the work fall into public domain for any willing person or company to publish. The same would apply if it was impossible to locate a holder to the copyright.

    [ Parent ]

    Interesting but flawed. (none / 0) (#73)
    by cdyer on Tue Jan 21, 2003 at 08:46:46 AM EST

    I like the idea of holding the publishing companies responsible for keeping the work available, but there's a problem with voiding the copyright as punishment. If the publishing company refuses to publish, the copyright holder is punished by having their copyright revoked. If the copyright holder refuses to publish, he is punished. That is also unfair. It's his work. What if he decided it was awful, and doesn't want anyone ever reading it again? The copyright holder should have this right.

    There is already a clause in most publishing contracts saying that if the book goes out of print, the author can have the publishing rights returned to him upon request. This was mentioned earlier in the thread. It's a good way of keeping works potentially available. But I do not think the copyright itself should not be at stake in matters of publication.


    [ Parent ]
    He has no such right. (none / 0) (#74)
    by vectro on Thu Jan 30, 2003 at 01:33:15 PM EST

    Many people have come forward suggesting that an author has the right to control what others do with his or her work; that someone should be able to use copyright to prevent materials from becoming widespread.

    No such right exists. Nor, I argue, should any such right exist. Copyright is tolerable only because it serves to create a marketplace for works which otherwise would be without a business model, and thus unproduced. But to suggest that a work should be unarchived because the author changed his mind, or that certain papers distributed by a large international organization should be kept secret because that organization finds them embarrasing - these ideas are damaging. They limit social discourse, inhibit free speech, and (as you are doing) muddy the waters of discussion about real copyright reform.

    “The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
    [ Parent ]

    Founders' Copyright (5.00 / 6) (#31)
    by FlipFlop on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 10:29:30 PM EST

    Pehaps [sic] such a license already exists.

    Yes it does. It's called the Founders' Copyright. Apparently, O'Reilly Associates is planning to release some of their work under that license.

    AdTI - The think tank that didn't

    It's not for the public (yet?) though (none / 0) (#47)
    by ToastyKen on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 02:44:46 PM EST

    Unlike the other Creative Commons licenses, the Founder's Copyright seems to be something they're only doing with corporations on a case by case basis at the moment.  I'm hoping they'll get a version out for the general public at some point.

    [ Parent ]
    I said it before: (4.50 / 8) (#32)
    by h3lldr0p on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 11:25:42 PM EST

    If they insist upon pretending that ideas and concepts can be treated as a form of property, then by all means it should be taxed. And if you can't or don't want to pony up the copyright tax then your work is slapped into the public domain. Make it cheap even for the little guy, say coverage of ten or even twenty different claims copyrights for five dollars US. Make it last, say, 35 years at first. Have more claims in one year above that, then things become more expensive. Decide you want to extend them past the first 35 years? Sure, but it'll cost ya and the term won't be for nearly as long. Call it another 5 years. See if you can reach that break even point before having to refile for another 5 years.

    This plan covers all the Constitutional bases and it provides new income in our economic down time.

    Even in victory, there is no beauty
    And who calls it beautiful
    Is one who delights in slaughter

    So (3.50 / 3) (#50)
    by Wah on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 03:06:00 PM EST

    would I have to register each post on my site, or do it a page at a time?

    How about if I don't even hope to make any money on it for about 10 years?

    It looks like you are putting a tax on creating content, rather than providing an incentive for that creation.
    Fail to Obey?
    [ Parent ]

    I was thinking about this... (none / 0) (#51)
    by h3lldr0p on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 03:44:31 PM EST

    And it seems to me that if you want to attempt to profit from your work, then yes, you should be forced to register. If you wish to keep your work private, like a trade secret is supposed to be private, then you shouldn't have to. The condition being that should you change your mind in the future and attempt to profit from a previously private work then registration occurs and like patents, you only have however many years left from when it was first created.

    Likewise, I am also concerned about photographers and their works. I would have to say that it should be possible to register an entire set of photographs under one unit of the twenty that I mentioned before. Posts to K5 or other blogs done in a single year could also follow this same route and be considered a single unit of registration. The crux of the matter then is how to regulate music releases: Does a released single of a song count as one unit of copyright (under my proposal) or is a seperate one from the unit of copyright that comprises a CD/Album? Unreleased music easily falls into the private part as described above. Releasing multiple CDs/Albums in a single year are not to be counted as a single unit as each are comprised of many different songs and unless somebody wants to be very retentive about each song being counted as a single unit of copyright under my proposal...well you should get the idea there.

    But all said, you do bring up a very good point about this proposal: How do we keep the supposed incentive if we charge for copyright?

    Even in victory, there is no beauty
    And who calls it beautiful
    Is one who delights in slaughter
    [ Parent ]

    This whole system... (none / 0) (#52)
    by RadiantMatrix on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 06:34:44 PM EST

    ... seems like an administrative nightmare.

    I don't like Spam -- remove it from my address when mailing.
    [ Parent ]
    As is the current US Patent System (none / 0) (#55)
    by h3lldr0p on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 09:22:05 PM EST

    I never claimed that my idea would be an easy one to implement once handed over to a government. However I did have an eye towards a database like structure when thinking it over last. Which is why I was thinking about the last part about albums and singles - which would be the primary claim and which would be a sub-claim. If one goes with a primary claim for both, then it can get quite confusing without a sort of alphanumeric designation much like the ISBN numbers on books. But I thought at one time somebody told me that music is already assign such a number already, at which point it goes back to the question I posed before.

    Even in victory, there is no beauty
    And who calls it beautiful
    Is one who delights in slaughter
    [ Parent ]

    Tax the gross revenue (none / 0) (#56)
    by pin0cchio on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 10:38:08 PM EST

    Tax copyright owners for x percent of the gross revenue from each Distribution of a copyrighted work under 17 USC 106(3). That solves what counts as one work, but it doesn't solve perpetual copyright. On the other hand, minent domain (Congress's right to buy private property, implied by language in the Fifth Amendment) could solve that.
    [ Parent ]
    (-1) Licensing Bullshit (2.80 / 5) (#33)
    by jdrake on Sat Jan 18, 2003 at 11:43:21 PM EST

    Forgive me - does everything this day and age need to be licensed?

    If I buy a book, I am not fscking licensing it!

    - If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, is there any sound?
    - If the universe is created, and nobody is around, is there any bang?

    Bass ackwards (5.00 / 4) (#39)
    by dachshund on Sun Jan 19, 2003 at 02:06:49 AM EST

    If I buy a book, I am not fscking licensing it!

    No, you'll get it with all of the forceful limitations that standard copyright law already entails.

    This license is designed to give you some rights that you ordinarily wouldn't have-- not to take them away. Accept it or don't accept it at your pleasure.

    [ Parent ]

    Whats a copyright? (1.33 / 3) (#59)
    by auraslip on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 02:13:15 AM EST

    I didn't know someone could "own" information. You silly white people.
    "Ransom" License (5.00 / 2) (#60)
    by Baldwin atomic on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 02:51:06 AM EST

    There is a sort of similar type of licensing scheme called the Ransom License. It's designed for publishing software, and agreeing that it will be released under the GPL or similar after you get X dollars, or Y time passes, but its a similar principle to what you propose, and it allows you to retain your money-making rights until you've made 'enough'....

    Opinions not necessarily those of the author.
    Creative Commons, might be similar (5.00 / 2) (#61)
    by stormfront on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 03:18:57 AM EST

    Creative Commons might or might not be related.

    Couldn't this backfire? (none / 0) (#63)
    by Kwil on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 04:08:25 AM EST

    I mean, if we start making up copyright clauses like this, I could certainly see the MPAA or Disney or whoever using this against us, by suggesting it obviates the need for shorter copyright terms.

    "See, even with copyright set to 75 years, there's still stuff going into the public domain. So what'll it hurt if you make it 150 years?"

    That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze

    Copyright, unfortunately, is now automatic (none / 0) (#70)
    by IHCOYC on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 12:42:10 PM EST

    It used to be that whenever you published something, a ritual had to be followed to even claim a copyright in it: the (C) symbol, the year of publication, and so forth. Anything you allowed to be published without this was presumptively donated to the public domain. A famous case involving the sappy poem Desiderata is the best known statement of the old rule.

    Now, unfortunately, the creation of copyrights is automatic. Unless you add some gobbledygook that specifically addresses the issue, everything you write or say and disseminate to the world at large is automatically copyrighted, and presumably, copyrighted to the maximum extent allowed by law.

    Attaching release provisions written by amateur lawyers to all sorts of documents strikes me as the sort of legal silliness the U.S. system is already notorious for. It may be a nice gesture, but it strikes me as no substitute for the needful reforms of the law itself.

    Myself, I favour compulsory licenses of say a penny a copy, or some similar percentage, for any work that's allowed to go out of print. If it hasn't been offered for sale to the general public for three years, anyone can sell copies provided they hold back a penny a copy and pay that to a central depository. If it's being distributed for free, the license will be zero. If a copyright holder claims it, they get the pennies that were sent to the depository. If no one shows up to claim it within a year, it goes into the public domain, and the people who paid the penny get their money back. Paying the penny limits damages claimed to what was put into the depository.

    Grais ingenium, Grais dedit ore rotundo
    Musa loqui, præter laudem nullius auaris. . .

         --- Horace

    Another Public Domain Snafu (none / 0) (#71)
    by jonnyq on Mon Jan 20, 2003 at 10:48:04 PM EST

    Another famous work that is now in the public domain is the movie "The Night of the Living Dead." Apparently the advertising company forgot to put in the notice and the filmmakers made almost notheing on the movie.

    [ Parent ]
    Voluntarily Limiting Copyright Terms | 74 comments (61 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
    Display: Sort:


    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!