Copyright (©) is a special permission by the government granting someone a special monopoly right in certain uses of a work of art. Now, some might disagree whether certain works have any value at all; but the law grants certain protections to any work someone creates, subject to certain restrictions, which is why lawyers who handle "intellectual property" tend to make a lot of money.
Copyright gives its owner the ability to restrict certain uses of a work of art (generally called just a "work" on this very wiki) for a certain period of time. Once that period of time expires, the work falls into the "Public Domain" and the ability to enforce restrictions ends. Note that this is the ability to enforce a restriction; the copyright owner can choose not to enforce some restrictions, which is why fanfics are able to exist. The Grateful Dead, for example, had a policy to let fans legitimately make recordings of their performances (which would have been bootlegs if the permission had not been granted), even letting them bring recording equipment near the stage to do so.
There are 10 different types of copyright-protected works in the United States:
- Literary works (which include, among others, computer programs);
- Musical works;
- Dramatic works;
- Pantomimes and choreographic works;
- Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works;
- Audio-visual works;
- Sound recordings;
- Derivative works;
- Compilations, and
- Architectural works.
The United Kingdom and almost all other common law countries (whose laws are based on those of the UK) divide the class of copyright-protected works into two types: "authorial" and "neighbouring" or "entrepreneurial". "Authorial" works are:
- Original literary works (which also include computer programs);
- Original dramatic works;
- Original musical works, and
- Original artistic works,
- Sound recordings;
- Broadcasts, and
- Typographical arrangements of published editions.
The copyright owner is granted the right to stop certain uses, not the requirement to do so. This is different from trademarks; if you don't "police" your mark (stop misuse of it), then if there is a lawsuit the court may declare your mark generic (allowing anyone to use it) because you didn't actively protect it, or abandoned (you stopped associating the mark with the good or service). This requirement is not applicable to copyright—the copyright owner is allowed to use that right selectively, so they can ignore 4,000 violations and then successfully drop a hammer on the 4,001st. The fact they didn't go after the several thousand other unauthorized uses is not an issue the court is going to notice or care about. For instance, it was okay for J. K. Rowling to approve the HP Lexicon when it was just a Web site, but she attempted to throw the book at its author when it was being made into a book. This is due to the fact that trademark is governed by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution rather than the Copyright/Patent clause. Trademarks only have value insofar as they represent something else. Copyrighted works are valuable as themselves.
This is also why Open Source/Free Software exists; the copyright holder chooses not to enforce the right to prohibit making copies, but still has the ability to go after someone who makes a new version of the work but does not release the source code of the new version. Or in the case of works licensed under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial license, they have no objections to making copies for others for free but you have to get permission to make copies to sell.
The right to stop some uses is not a natural right. Copyright as it exists now is a creation of government, and the rights the copyright owner does have can be and are restricted for some uses and not others. Basically it depends on who has better lobbyists to meet with members of Congress and get their side's interests put into law. The very first form of Copyright was The Statute of Anne which applied for 28 years. This law was so popular it was incorporated in The US Constitution and has been extended several times. The 1976 Act is a complex piece of legislation that made nobody happy because it was the result of a nearly two decade fight between copyright holders and librarians among others representing the public interest. Nowadays the trend in copyright law is to pass broad sweeping prohibitions (such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and have the Librarian of Congress review the law every three years to issue exceptions. The exceptions released in July 2010 have been seen as positive for the general public and believers in Fair Use.
Rights given by copyrightThere are six basic rights covered by copyright: reproduction (the ability to make copies), adaptation (translating to another medium, like turning a book into a movie or video game, or vice-versa), public distribution (issuing copies), public performance (performing a play), public display (showing a painting in a museum), and digital performance in sound recordings (like public performance but only for sound recordings). Not every type of copyright work is protected by all rights. For instance, there is no performance right for sculptures. Sound recordings do not have the public performance or display right, the results of a compromise the music industry deeply regrets (hence why the separate digital performance right). The copyright holder can license away any or all of these rights to different parties at different times. Further, it can subdivide the rights even further (one company can get the adaptation rights for film, another for television). Finding out who owns what rights and for how long can keep a copyright lawyer busy for a long time.
Also, some rights are lost once used, in particular, the "public distribution" right only applies to a work if it hasn't been sold. The copyright owner can set any terms or price for selling a copy, but once someone sells or voluntarily parts company with a copy of a work, they have no right to stop further redistribution or sale of that copy. That's why books, CDs and other items can be loaned or resold without having to get a license or pay royalties. This is also why software companies try to claim the software is licensed rather than sold; if it's licensed you don't own the copy and can't redistribute it; if you bought it, you own it and you can.
You can lend your copy of Inception to a friend and not violate the distribution right because it isn't sufficiently "public." What is considered public is defined by the common law (i.e., court cases). However, if your friend burns extra copies of Inception so you both can have one or uses the clips to make an Arthur/Ariadne tribute video, he has violated the reproduction (burning the copy) and adaptation (the music video) rights. Uploading the video onto YouTube might be considered violation of the public performance right. The question then become whether these uses can fall under Fair Use.
Certain rights, such as reproduction, do not require a public component—one unauthorized copy is enough to get you in trouble. Distribution though, requires a public component. What this means is that when a TV program uses a song in it, they do not have to get permission to reproduce the recording as part of the program, because that program is only broadcast, it is not distributed to the public. If and when they decide to sell copies of that program, then they do need permission to include the sound recording as part of the video, that's why some shows don't get released because of the additional clearances needed.
Any use of a song (music and lyrics) in a public performance generally requires a license. A broadcaster or a webcaster playing a song recording would be required to pay licensing fees for use of the underlying song (music and lyrics). Copyrights for sound recordings, due to a ridiculous tangle of state and federal laws, are notoriously hard to clear and it's best to assume that any original recordings are NOT in the public domain. However, this is different from copyrights in "musical works." The copyright law has a provision ("mechanical licenses") which requires that anyone who wants to create a cover of a song to be allowed to so long as they pay the statutory fees. The Harry Fox Agency is the place to go to find out information about fees in general. Owners of the musical work copyrights (who may be different from owners of the SOUND RECORDING copyrights) may choose to lower their fees. This commonly occurs when the producers of Glee wish to cover a song.
For years the music industry has been trying to change this and get license fees paid for the use of the recording, the way the use of the underlying song has to be licensed. Record labels couldn't get past the National Association of Broadcasters ("NAB"), the trade industry group and its chief lobbying entity in Congress, so radio and television stations can still play sound recordings without paying additional license fees for the recording itself. But they could get a royalty for the use of the recording imposed on webcasters, which, in fact, the NAB loved the idea, because if the royalty fee on webcasters' use of recordings (which broadcasters do not pay) was high enough, it would kill Internet Radio, which, of course, is a competitor to NAB members and their offerings. (The NAB, of course, really doesn't like SiriusXM Satellite Radio much, either.)
It's a necessary evil if you want to make money off inventions and entertainment. Stuff like copyright and patents are actually made to encourage people to actually sell their stuff, especially in a capitalistic society. No matter the society, musicians, inventors, researchers, authors, game publishers & developers, et cetera are people too. They have to have a place to sleep, a place to work, and to put food on the table just like you do. And it costs them money to make something for you, or for the greater good. There are exceptions such as people who distribute it for free or make it as a hobby, or opt to put it into the Public Domain rather than copyright it. The major tension in copyright comes from those who believe that copyright protection is a "reward" for creating a popular work or merely an "incentive" to get private individuals to create work for the greater benefit of the public.
One of the biggest exceptions to the exclusive right of the copyright owner is the concept of Fair Use, which allows some uses which the copyright holder would normally be able to stop. You can thank, of all things, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for this. This is yet another reason Canada's fair use provisions are much narrower than even the United States allows: Canada has much weaker free speech rules.
It should be noted that copyright holders often do their best to discourage the concept of fair use. They'd prefer either to get paid for uses which would be considered fair use or even to stop a use they don't like, even where fair use permits it. For that reason, Fair Use is one of the most amorphous areas of copyright law and it's easy to find a case to support just about any proposition.
Toymaker Mattel didn't like the song "Barbie Girl", which parodied the unrealistic lifestyle of its Barbie doll line, and sued the group that produced the song. Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit ruled that the song was a valid parody of the toymaker's product (and in a Funny Moment, Kozinski ended his opinion with the immortal line "The parties are advised to chill"). The Eveready battery company didn't like that the Adolph Coors brewery was doing a beer ad with an actor in a pink bunny suit parodying its "Bunny" ads (which were parodies of other ads), and in a case of "Can dish it out but can't take it," sued Coors over the ad. The court found this actor in a bunny suit a valid parody, saying "Mr. [Leslie] Nielsen is not a toy, and does not run on batteries." On the other hand, the courts have ruled that you do have to be making direct commentary on the work you're parodying - Geisel v. Penguin, a suit over a The Cat in the Hat parody mocking the OJ Simpson trial was found to be a violation of copyright, as the parody was using the Dr. Seuss work as just a vehicle for the message.
Copyright as we know it originally started when various governments wanted to stop some things from being written; they would grant some publishers licenses to operate printing presses, subject to having to clear what they published with the crown.
Eventually, it was realized that there was money to be made by the publisher; the idea of paying royalties to authors wasn't a given, so copyright turned into a right to exclusively publish a particular work for a short time. The original Statute of Anne of the United Kingdom back in the 17th century granted protection for about 14 years. A single renewal was possible.
In international lawCopyright originally required registration for every country you wanted it to apply to; if you didn't register overseas, your work wasn't protected there. Publishers in the United States and the United Kingdom routinely "pirated" works from the other country perfectly legally, to the annoyance of some authors.
The annoyance finally got to where it couldn't be ignored. During the 19th century, at the urging of playwright Victor Hugo, the first international treaty to give copyright in multiple countries was established: the "Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works." Most nations of the world, with the notable exception of the United States, joined the convention and became members of the "Berne Union" right away. The basic reason the United States could not agree to accede to the Berne Convention and become a member of the Union back then was that the treaty did not require copyright notices, which was a serious thing. If you have copyrights without copyright notices, then there is no way to be sure if a work has entered the public domain, and everything is copyrighted whether the author and publisher value it or not, up to and including grocery lists.
The United States often had special agreements with other countries that each would agree to give protection to works created in the other country subject to certain rules; these are called "Bilateral Arrangements". Near the beginning of the 20th century, the United States and many nations in Latin America developed a treaty called the "Buenos Aires Convention", in which a work first published in any country that is a party to the convention with a notice claiming a reservation of rights, would be granted protection in all countries that were parties to the treaty. This is where the term "All Rights Reserved" on copyright notices originated.
But at that, inertia often rules. In 2000, Nicaragua became the last country that was a member of the Buenos Aires Convention to also became a member of the Berne Convention. This means that since all of the countries of Buenos Aires are members of Berne, the use of the term All Rights Reserved is completely superfluous, since the Berne Convention doesn't require any form of copyright notice. So, even though the All Rights Reserved notice is absolutely unnecessary, and has been for more than twenty years, it still continues to be used. There have been cases of works published in Japan with the phrase "All Rights Reserved" as part of their copyright notice, which would never have had any meaning at all because Japan was never a member of the Buenos Aires Convention to begin with. Plus Japan was on the Berne Convention anyway and didn't even require copyright notices.
Well since the United States could not accept being part of a treaty which gave copyright without including a notice on the work, to give better worldwide copyright protection, in the 1950s another copyright treaty came along called the "Universal Copyright Convention" (or UCC), which provided copyright protection in all countries that were parties to the convention as long as a special symbol was included on the work, along with the year the work was published and the name of the copyright owner, in a conspicuous place. The special symbol was the letter C inside a circle, which is where the C-in-a-circle feature ("©") of copyright notices came from. This was sometimes hard to generate, and in fact, the copyright office would accept as valid the use of the letter C in parentheses "(C)" as being equivalent to "©". Since the UCC treaty used copyright notices, the U.S. could go along with it. In fact, the U.S. was the basic impetus for the creation of the UCC.
In 1996, the WIPO Copyright Treaty was adopted, which updated international copyright for the Internet.
Until 1978, the United States had strict rules on copyright notices; if even a single copy of a work had no notice or the notice was not precisely in compliance, the work lost its copyright. One of the precise rules was the notice had to contain the word "copyright", (or later the C-in-a-circle symbol "©") the name of the copyright owner, and the year published or any earlier year. It could have been (and was) worse, the original copyright notice was in the form of "Entered according to act of Congress in the year 1895 by The Ayers Publishing Company". Copyright was for 28 years from publication with one additional renewal of 28 years. The notice requirement was a strict rule, if you put a year earlier than it was published, it meant the maximum 56-year period started from that year instead, meaning a shorter period of protection, probably not a big deal. But woe to you if you put the year ahead: publishing a work in December 1930 but putting a copyright notice of 1931 would cause the copyright to be void. These rules were relaxed with the passage of the 1976 Act (which allowed copyright holders to "cure" the defect).
Over time, the United States expanded copyright. In 1912 movies were added. On February 15, 1972, it was sound recordings. Later, semiconductor mask works were added. By 1988 the United States decided to drop mandatory copyright notice requirements; in 1989, the United States became a party to the Berne Convention.
Because Berne gives automatic protection and does not require copyright notices, except for technical issues involving differences in time limits, the Buenos Aires and UCC conventions are dead letters and of no effect. There are extra protections under U.S. law for using a copyright notice — specifically, proof of who the work belongs to (it's easier to defend the copyright when you have hard evidence that it is yours) and one guaranteed extant copy of the work.
There is one place where copyright notices are still required. The Berne Convention does not cover sound recordings. A separate treaty called the Phonolog Convention covers recordings, and it requires a copyright notice similar to the UCC. However, the notice for sound recordings is not "©" (letter C in a circle), but "ⓟ" (the letter P in a circle).
Another special case required the use of the letter M (Ⓜ) in a circle for the masks used to create semiconductors, the chips used in electronic equipment, including computers.
Over time, the protection of copyright has been greatly expanded. A work is now protected, with limited exceptions, for the life of the creator plus 70 years after they die, or if it's a work of joint authorship, life + 70 years of the last surviving author. For anonymous/pseudonymous works or works made by a corporate entity, the term is 95 years from date of publication (which is what triggered copyright before the 1976 Act passed and has its own complicated set of rules) or 120 years from date of creation. But don't expect that figure to be set in stone; it used to be the life of the creator plus 50 years, or 75+publication/100+ creation for works that cannot be attributed to individual creators. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act added 20 years to all works still under protection, something that the Supreme Court found to be Constitutional because the term was still "limited." (Unlike what is often thought, this was not due to the lobby of Disney, but was instead because of the European Union having itself harmonized its term to life plus seventy and adopting the "rule of the shorter term", which would mean that American copyrights would still be life plus fifty in Europe; this would mean loss of royalties for copyright holders, and virtual extintion for some forms of American art such as jazz which are more popular outside the United States.) Note, however, that some countries have different copyright terms. The Berne Convention requires a minimum of "life plus 50", and a few countries, such as New Zealand, still use that term. A few other countries have longer terms than "life plus 70"; the longest is in Mexico, which uses "life plus 100".
Droit d'auteurOften, copyright - a common law concept - is conflated with the droit d'auteur (a.k.a. Urheberrecht or diritto d'autore; these all mean "authors' right" in French, German and Italian, respectively) of civil/Roman law systems. Although these serve the same broad purpose in their respective countries, they have different philosophical foundations - and, thus, significant differences in how the respective laws function, especially as regards the powers that given to the authors and other copyright holders. (Droit d'auteur protection tends to be bigger and stronger than copyright protection.)
PhilosophyAs said before, copyright is not a natural right. The foundation of copyright is that making works is a good thing for society, in as much as it advances literature, the arts and science, and, as such, there should be an incentive for those who make works, so that they can earn income on them and carry on making more. Thus, copyright only gives rights over works as is deemed strictly necessary for literature, the arts and science to flourish, as well as only covering those works which are deemed in need of protection for those three to flourish. (This is called the "utilitarian theory".) There are two forms of copyright: American-style copyright and British-style copyright (the latter being followed by almost all common law countries other than the United States), which are focused on how far away from the Berne Convention and droit d'auteur the respective laws are: Britain, due to being close to Continental Europe, had to adopt Berne early, so is more close to Europe than the United States which, although had to conform to Berne from the '80s onwards, is much, much less influenced by droit d'auteur (and more resistant to being so).
Droit d'auteur, however, is considered a natural right - this, BTW, is why it dropped the demand of formalities for copyright protection very early (and, where they exist, they are rare and merely delay rather than deny protection to the work). Originally this was because works were the product of one's work and people were thought to have a natural right over the products of their work. (This is called the "labour theory", and was first developed by English philosophers Adam Smith and John Locke, and later even more by - of all people - Karl Marx.) However, starting with the Romantic movement in literature - which considered works (especially literary ones) to be the product of the lone author - then going to criticisms by Continental European countries that the American cultural industries (especially Hollywood) were too commercial and favoured profits over art, the old justification for droit d'auteur was made secondary, and a new justification for the right was made popular: that a work was the product of and reflected an author's personality, and so the work and its author could never be fully separate - this is why Europe first developed "moral rights" (as explained below). (This is called the "personality theory", and was first developed by German philosopher Immanuel Kant and French jurist André Morillot.) Not, of course, that "making works being a good thing for society", "advancing literature, the arts and science" or "having an incentive for those who make works" are bad things; droit d'auteur advocates don't think so, but believe those things are achieved are achieved by the very fact of, and up to the point that, authors are satisfied; authors come first in droit d'auteur ideology.
There are two schools inside droit d'auteur: monistic or German (created by Kant), and dualistic or French (created by Morillot).note They are based on how linked the work should be to its author: the dualists believe that only moral rights cannot be separated from its author, so economic rights are considered property rights and can be bought and sold like any other piece of property (and copyright), while the monists believe that no part of the work can be separated from the author and do not recognise a work as property in any way, only conceding the cession of "use rights" which can be freely revoked at any time by the author (the author, however, has to compensate for any damages this act may cause). Currently, only Germany is monistic, while all other droit d'auteur countries are dualistic.
These philosophical differences mean that, while the copyright starts with, and satisfies first and foremost, the producers, editors and other divulgers (and, arguably, the public), the droit d'auteur starts with, and satisfies first and foremost, the author.
Copyright is criticized by droit d'auteur advocates for commercializing culture and devaluing creators, while droit d'auteur is criticized by copyright advocates of elitizing culture and pedestalizing the author.
Protected subject matterDroit d'auteur has a wider remit of protection than copyright, and protects all works that are also protected by copyright except artists' performances (where these are protected), broadcasts, sound recordings and typographical arrangements of published editions (for which see "related rights" below).
There are two ways of describing what is protected under droit d'auteur:
- the (relatively) narrower: any "intellectual creation of the literary, scientific and artistic domains", which is predicted in the Berne Convention and followed by many droit d'auteur countries;
- the broader: any "work of the mind" (uvre de l'esprit), which was pioneered by France and followed by other droit d'auteur countries.
Both countries usually have lists of examples of works which are protected, but many more will fit.
Economic rightsEconomic rights have to do with exploitation and profits from the work, and this is where copyright and droit d'auteur are roughly equal. The latter recognises all the rights inherent in the former, but also some more rights. (In some countries, like Portugal, there is technically only a "fruition and use" right, which include all forms of use of the work, known or to be discovered later, and are not limited to the ones specifically mentioned in the law.)
Droit d'auteur countries recognise the doctrine of first sale (called the "exhaustion of rights"), with one especially regulated exception in most countries: the "artist's resale right" (often called the droit de suite, which is French for "right to follow") by which the author of certain artistic works has the right to demand a certain percentage from each sale of a copy of his work. (The UK and Ireland also recognise it due to European Union directives.) This is to avert the Starving Artist trope.
Moral rightsThis is where copyright and droit d'auteur differ the most. Moral rights are "moral" because they are not economic/property in nature (this is a term of French vintage), and not for anything to do with "morality" in American social conservative sense. These are the rights which permanently connect the work with its author, and which allow for the work to always be in accordance with the author's wishes, so that it faithfully represents their personality.
They were the result of jurisprudence resulting from several court cases in 19th-century France, and were first codified in written law in Italy in 1925 - it was also Italy who first proposed (successfully) to recognise them in the Berne Convention in 1928. They only started being codified in most countries after World War II.
There are two main rights which are internationally recognised in the Berne Convention:
- Attribution (or paternity), which is basically the right for the author to receive credit for his work, or to publish/release the work pseudonymously or anonymously;
- Integrity, which is about the author preserving the work as he sees fit. In the Convention, it is the right "to object to any distortion, modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to the said work, which would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation". (In the movie world, this means directors have the Director's Cut by law, and this is usually the final cut. It also means that authors have a degree of protection against Executive Meddling. In general, it's a kind of legal Auteur License.)
There are two forms of the integrity right:
- The "strong" form, which prevents any distortion, mutilation or any other kind of alteration, independently of it affecting "the author's honor or reputation" or not, and separately any "derogatory action [...] which would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation";
- The "weak" form, which is limited to the right as written in the Berne Convention.
There are some more recognised moral rights in some countries:
- The right to prevent the destruction of the work, which is normally considered part of the integrity right where it is recognised (and most droit d'auteur countries don't);
- The disclosure right, which is about deciding if and when the work will be first published or otherwise released, or remaining unpublished/unreleased;
- The repenting, reconsideration or withdrawal right, which is about 1) stopping the circulation of the work, or 2) only allowing its circulation but in an altered form,note if the author has come to regret said work, with they having to pay some sort of compensation if there are damages. Some countries will allow a wider number of reasons, others a narrower one, but none allows the exercise of the right just because the author feels so. As would be expected, the most controversial and least exercised of the moral rights.
Dualistic countries tend to recognise moral rights as perpetual; monistic Germany limits them to the term of the economic rights. Moral rights are unwaivable and unassignable.
In moral rights countries, the rights of attribution and (to a lesser degree) integrity are frequently used as a remedy against Plagiarism.
In recent years, due to international harmonization reasons and lobbying by authors, many copyright countries have also recognised moral rights. These are normally limited to the Berne Convention rights, are limited to the main copyright term, are waivable (albeit still unassignable), and are subject to a number of exceptions which significantly weaken them. The main exception is the United States, which only recognises moral rights for certain artistic works via the Visual Artists' Rights Act (which recognises the Berne Convention rights plus the destruction prevention right).
Wherever moral rights are not recognised, other areas of the law will serve (albeit imperfectly) its functions. Such areas include, namely, copyright/economic rights themselves (namely doctrines contained in them like "substantial similarity"), contracts, trademark and unfair competition law, or defamation law. (An example of these alternative rights is the Alan Smithee trope, which is the result of a contract between labor unions and the studios, and which stands in for the violation of what would have been the integrity right had it been recognised in law.)
Related rightsRelated rights, also known as neighbouring rights, give protection similar to copyright to stuff that is not considered works under droit d'auteur.
The most recognised of these related rights are: for artists' performances, phonograms (sound recordings) and broadcasts. Other rights which may be recognised are videograms (visual or audiovisual recordings), sui generis database rights (for databases or parts of databases which are not recognised as works) and book editions (mainly in Mexico, and it is broader than the British typographical arrangements of published editions copyright). The European Union Article 11 "link tax" is also a related right, but for press publishers.
These are narrower than the droit d'auteur and, with the exception of artists' performances, normally do not carry moral rights.
They are separate from the main droit d'auteur and each other.
The most recognised of these were also created by Italy in the 1920s and implemented in the 1961 Rome Convention, which was result of Italian lobbying dating from the 1920s. Other international treaties dealing with these are the Geneva Phonograms Convention (1971), WIPO Phonograms and Performances Treaty (1996) and Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012).
In recent yearsCopyright in recent years is becoming an increasingly contentious subject, especially in the digital age, where some see it as becoming and increasingly irrelevant and outdated concept, especially when it comes to things such as derivative works and remixing, and extremely long copyright terms only benefit larger corporations in the long run, and severely limit the public domain. It can also be argued that copyright in its current form does little 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 property-like... erm... attributes.
Adding onto this debate is a policy brief document that was released by the Republican Study Committee that was widely praised across social media circles by both democrats and republicans alike, but was quickly pulled after entertainment lobbyists and the US Chamber of Commerce pressured them into pulling the document (the RSC claims it was not properly vetted, nobody believes them), and into firing the writer of the policy brief. The brief itself involved shooting down multiple "myths" surrounding copyright, suggesting that copyright violates nearly every tenet of laissez faire capitalism (which makes the page image of Digital Piracy Is Evil Hilarious in Hindsight), and makes several suggestions for copyright reform, including expanding fair use and dramatically limiting copyright terms to a maximum of 46 years, with copyright terms over 12 years being taxed. Basically, big media's worst nightmare, but fantastic for many people, especially on the internet, who see the RSC's backpedaling as a sign of cowardice and a step backwards for the Republicans trying to attract a new audience after losing the 2012 election. Although, this brief has been criticized, namely by pro-copyright law blog Copyhype.
With recent attempts at legislation such as SOPA, PIPA and the EUCD (most infamously article 11 and 13) still in memory, the debate is not going away anytime soon.