Considering the latest YouTube
copyright claim debacle, I think it would be a good idea to step back and re-evaluate what copyright should be about in the digital age, and how it should be limited.
As it is right now, copyright has gone too far. The lengths of copyright terms is beyond ridiculous, and very few works enter the public domain. Companies are obsessed with stamping out piracy when piracy is merely a symptom of greater problems. And, ultimately, copyright does more to limit creativity than foster it.
The thing is, the public domain is important to culture - copyright is a relatively recent invention. We've seen countless old tales told again and again in different ways - whether it be classical mythology, the legend of King Arthur, Robin Hood, Dracula, religious concepts, historical events, and countless other things. Some modern works would simply not exist without the public domain. And in the digital age, people are making 'derivative works' of works that are copyrighted, because those works captivated them in the same way that the works of the public domain did, and yet nobody can make money off these works no matter how inventive the expression.
It can also be argued that copyright in its current form does little to benefit to truly benefit public and "promote the progress of science and useful arts" (the purpose of copyright as stated in the United States constitution, contrary to popular belief, compensating the creator is not the constitutional purpose of copyright, but rather to benefit the public). In fact, some would argue that intellectual property is not actually property, but rather a "privilege" with a few property-like... Erm... Properties.
It can also be argued that copyright violates every tenant of free market capitalism, as it is, by its very nature, a government-provided monopoly.
That being said, partly the intent of copyright is to ensure that authors are able to have ownership of their works and have legal means of going after people who either don't pay for them or outright claim said works as their own, which is not cool. While the former is going to happen, copyright or not, there is merit in having legal protection against the latter, while preventing the stifling of creativity due to a limited amount of works/concepts entering the public domain.
So, I'm not gonna go into the overly complicated details of lawmaking, so I'm gonna keep this short and simple. I'm somewhat inspired by Derek Khanna's own paper on how copyright law can be scaled down and repaired to some extent.
- Copyright terms, at the minimum, are at roughly 10 years, with a maximum of roughly 40, with multiple extensions between them. The fee for renewal would be a percentage of revenue from the work, and that percentage increases with each additional renewal term. Under such a system, those who are still exploiting the copyright can continue to hold one, but for most, where there is greater benefit to have the work in the public domain, the work goes into the public domain.
- Concepts that are not the exact work itself (that being the exact expression/product), such as the setting, characters and terms, can be used in other works, but the original creator of those concepts must be attributed until the copyright term has expired. A remix/remake of a work must be sufficiently unique from the original (or the copyright owner's permission has been received) before it can be considered legal (such as a cover song, or a complete remake of a game, or if it's a port, the port must have enough new features to justify its existence).
- Such works featuring copyright material can be copyrighted, as long as everything is fully attributed. If there is missing attribution, the work's author can add the missing attribution after being alerted, as long as the attribution request is valid - accidents happen, and people make mistakes, sometimes it's best to er on the side of caution rather than go legal immediately.
- Copyright is automatic, but works can be registered just to be sure, for the sake of proof. Once again, full attribution is required.
- Certain things such as game mechanics, by their very nature, cannot be copyrighted (this is sorta already a thing, but for some strange reason a few game mechanics such as minigames during a loading screen (thanks, Namco) are under copyright).
- Works such as commentary/Let's Plays are also legal as long as proper attribution is provided, and commentary for non-interactive material is separated from the original work in audio form.
I imagine that there'd be a lot more detail required, but hey, it's a start. I think it's a reasonable balance - it provides authors with protection for their works while also providing a pseudo-public domain for other authors to utilize the concepts within those works provided that they give proper credit to the original author.
What's your thoughts?
edited 11th Dec '13 6:47:45 AM by Cronosonic