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Author Topic: How long should copyright, etc. be?  (Read 942 times)

Zealot

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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« on: December 13, 2008, 10:15:56 pm »
The subject briefly came up in the downloading OOP titles thread.  IMO copyright is WAY too long.  I think it should be about 15 years from the date whatever it is first appeared last.  Since I know thats really badly phrased, let me use an example.  Lets say The Hobbit was first published in 1910 (just go with it).  If Tolkien didn't publish anything else featuring those characters/that world until 1926, then most of M.E. would have passed into the public domain, excluding the parts unique to his 1926 work.  Even if The Hobbit was reprinted in 1920 it wouldn't have made a difference because it was just a reprint, not a new work.  If the Fellowship of the Ring was written and published in 1920 though, both works wouldn't pass into public domain until 1935.  Probably put a cap on this at 75 years or so.

This would allow the public to enjoy creative works that have essentially been abandoned by their creators, while allowing people to maintain their creative work if they work at it.

What say you?

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Daztur

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« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2008, 10:58:45 pm »
Until the author is dead and not one day more.

But with our current system at the very least people should have to periodically register any copyrights that they hold since right now people who want to make anthologies of the works of old obscure writers often have to go and dig through family records (which is especially hard if the author used pen names) to figure out who the hell should now be the legal holder of copyright and then go off an deal with someone who doesn't know the first thing about what Great Uncle Bob wrote in the 1920's. Often because of all of the practical and legal hassles of doing all of this, a lot of the works or cool obscure old authors stay out of print.
 

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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2008, 11:18:42 pm »
15 years should be enough, it's considered enough for patents and yet look how many wonderful inventions we've had over the past century or so.

It's enough time to allow the creator to make a fair profit, while not being so long that it encourages them to just sit on one creation and then create nothing else for decades. Like if JD Salinger weren't the only one who could publish Catcher in the Rye maybe he would have published one of the novels he's written since 1965.
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« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2008, 12:09:40 am »
Personally, I am in favor of the author's life time. If I make something it is mine until I sell it or give it away.

Let's take your example Zealot. Say Tolkein takes 20 years to get his magnus opus out. But the Hobbit was wildly popular and a slew of derivative works cropped up in the 5 year lapse. Perhaps the LoTR would just be anothe rHobbit book amongst a sea of other Hobbit books. In five years, perhaps a popular base has arisen around Tommy Finn's Lord of the Elves. Now, LotE is a strong brand and LotR has little space next to all of Finns volumes I-XXX. The brand, because the author took too long, is taken from him.

Now, yeah, that might be the extreme case but I favor people being able to own their work until such time as they choose to give it/sell it away. More to the point, the ending of the copyright period as you describe it would mean more a case of I, HinterWelt, could go out and print my own copies of LoTR for sale. To me, that just does not seem right. Sure, derivative works are a lot more hazy an area but selling actual copy? Just does not wash with me.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2008, 12:44:36 am by HinterWelt »
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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2008, 12:26:14 am »
Why should copyright last longer than patents? If I invent a new kind of petrol engine, I have exclusive right to its copying for 15 years; if I write a book describing that engine, I have exclusive right to its copying for my lifetime - or longer.

Why the difference?

Further, if it's "life of authour", what about immortal authours - corporations? Should it be for their lifetime, too? Since they're immortal that'd be a rather long time. Why would authours not then register all their works under a corporation, like some CEO does with his BMW to avoid tax?
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« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2008, 12:43:53 am »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273474
Why should copyright last longer than patents? If I invent a new kind of petrol engine, I have exclusive right to its copying for 15 years; if I write a book describing that engine, I have exclusive right to its copying for my lifetime - or longer.

Why the difference?

I assume you were asking me?

Because it is much easier to make a derivative work of a fictional work. Making a derivative work of a functional concept (an engine design for instance) usually requires a direct copy of the design or it does not work. Derivative designs are very easy to track back. Copyright means I have the right to distribute my work as I see fit. It literally is my livelihood, the copying of the book. With an engine, I can sell that engine for 15 years without anyone copying (yeah, right) the design and at the end, I will have an established good market. People will think Bill House of Engines when they think this design, they will be in my customer base, I will have an advantage over anyone coming into the field. Seldom is this the case with book trade. Often you are not even handling the printing and many times do not even have a contact at the distributor much less any hooks into the actual retail market. It makes it much easier for someone to come in and using their own network, cut you out of any profit from your own work. With a patented system, you often have an advantage of actually manufacturing a superior product or having a brand that portrays you as having the superior product. In the book world, not so. The guy printing your book may even use the same printer but have better terms and thus be able to offer the book slightly cheaper. So, to my mind, there is a lot of difference but I am not an IP lawyer, just a lowly engineer. ;)
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273474

Further, if it's "life of authour", what about immortal authours - corporations? Should it be for their lifetime, too? Since they're immortal that'd be a rather long time. Why would authours not then register all their works under a corporation, like some CEO does with his BMW to avoid tax?


I don't even know if you are being serious. Someone wrote the book. When those people die, it goes to public domain.
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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2008, 01:01:24 am »
Okay, so things with copyright are easier to produce derivative works of than things with patents. That's fair enough.

But speaking commercially, things produced so easily usually won't be very good, and so won't be significant competition.

For example, once at a Geektogether someone told me something truly frightening. "I'm working on a sequel to Lord of the Rings." The thing is, even if the original were public domain today, still nobody is going to want to read J Random Dweeb's Lord of the Rings II. So the guy is not going to be a commercial threat to the JRR Tolkien Estate or whoever owns the rights these days.

The sort of work which would be a threat is only the work of a truly professional and competent person. That person would probably rather be original anyway, but let's suppose they'd rather not, and do something derivative. That's hard work. And so in this way, the ease of producing a worthwhile derivative work of something copyrighted turns out to be closer to the ease of producing a worthwhile copy of something patented.

I'm entirely serious about immortal corporations. We're talking about copyright, which is not just for books as you know. Books are rarely produced by corporations, but magazines, roleplaying games and film often are. At present, while copyright on works by individuals is "life of authour plus 75 years", copyright on works by corporations is "75 years from date of publication." So if you're proposing to knock the 75 years off the works by the individual, what happens to work produced by corporations? How long should they last?
« Last Edit: December 14, 2008, 01:03:37 am by Kyle Aaron »
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« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2008, 01:45:38 am »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273477
Okay, so things with copyright are easier to produce derivative works of than things with patents. That's fair enough.

But speaking commercially, things produced so easily usually won't be very good, and so won't be significant competition.

I don;t agree with you here mainly because, in the case of books and CD and DVDs they could very well be precisely the same. The exact same work, from the same producer (printer for books) but for someone who has better terms. Thus, in 15 years, you could have your song catalog being reproduced by someone who owes you absolutely noting. That would cost groups like the Eagles and Beatles plenty.
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273477

For example, once at a Geektogether someone told me something truly frightening. "I'm working on a sequel to Lord of the Rings." The thing is, even if the original were public domain today, still nobody is going to want to read J Random Dweeb's Lord of the Rings II. So the guy is not going to be a commercial threat to the JRR Tolkien Estate or whoever owns the rights these days.

Yeah, but he could probably do this anyway. The guys that they would have to watch out for are the ones who print the LoTR from a scan of the original. Possibly cheaper than they do.
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273477

The sort of work which would be a threat is only the work of a truly professional and competent person. That person would probably rather be original anyway, but let's suppose they'd rather not, and do something derivative. That's hard work. And so in this way, the ease of producing a worthwhile derivative work of something copyrighted turns out to be closer to the ease of producing a worthwhile copy of something patented.

Really, derivative works are a very grey and difficult area. Sticking to strictly copyright would be much less difficult to discuss. That said, not really. A competent writer, armed with a decent publishing house, could knock off a LotR derivative with no more difficulty than listing any trademarks and avoiding them. Making an ICE work differently is a bit more tricky but even this is done.  
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273477

I'm entirely serious about immortal corporations. We're talking about copyright, which is not just for books as you know. Books are rarely produced by corporations, but magazines, roleplaying games and film often are. At present, while copyright on works by individuals is "life of authour plus 75 years", copyright on works by corporations is "75 years from date of publication." So if you're proposing to knock the 75 years off the works by the individual, what happens to work produced by corporations? How long should they last?

Well, if I had to just pick a range I would go with 75 years since it mirrors a lifetime. I would not buck some smaller amount like 50 to represent someone writing the work in their 20s. Again, the corporation put effort and money into developing that work and the value is the work, not the product. I do not think I am explaining this well. It is a huge investment (usually) to ramp up production of a system (ICE, circuit board, or such) specifically designed for a specialized system. With a work like a book, recording or the like, it is a case of reproducing it, sometimes inferior, sometimes better, than the holder of the copyright. Copyright is much more about how you distribute your work;i.e. who copies it and compensation for that copying. Patents are much more about production rights;i.e. who gets to produce and profit from the design. So, a big factor is the ease of reproduction of patented systems vs copyrighted works. In the former, it is easier to do and this steal. In the later, it is difficult to do and thus requires less protections. I would also argue that an unused patent is still a long way from production. If it lapses, someone will still need to develop production methods. With copyright, someone need only scan your book at the end of the 15 year period and send it to the printers/CD press/DVD press. Star Wars would be a great one. They held out on DVD for a long time. Then I heard no end to the complaints about slow releases. Ep III would have been up for reproduction in 1992. I am sure that would have cost Lucas films some money.

Now, this is just my understanding of it. IANAL and all that jazz.
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GameDaddy

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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2008, 02:36:08 am »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273477

For example, once at a Geektogether someone told me something truly frightening. "I'm working on a sequel to Lord of the Rings." The thing is, even if the original were public domain today, still nobody is going to want to read J Random Dweeb's Lord of the Rings II. So the guy is not going to be a commercial threat to the JRR Tolkien Estate or whoever owns the rights these days.

Your concept is skewed. You are presuming that the dweeb will write a competent derivative work that will not be accepted by the public on account it is a knockoff of a popular work, and everyone should be morally obliged to not support such an endeavor. While that may be true of me or you, that doesn't hold water with the general public. Also, what if the new work is simply bad? That taints the reputation of the existing IP holder and can adversely affect sales of the old IP. Successful or not, the derivative is a commercial threat in that it can oversaturate the market with not dissimilar offerings that drive down demand. Kind of like hearing a song, or a type of song once too many times, you know?

Quote
I'm entirely serious about immortal corporations. We're talking about copyright, which is not just for books as you know. Books are rarely produced by corporations, but magazines, roleplaying games and film often are. At present, while copyright on works by individuals is "life of authour plus 75 years", copyright on works by corporations is "75 years from date of publication." So if you're proposing to knock the 75 years off the works by the individual, what happens to work produced by corporations? How long should they last?

Here in the U.S. 75 years from the date of publication simply means that the corporation (if it still exists) must republish the work in a new edition to gain a new 75 year copyright. If the original corporation does not exist, than this responsibility to maintain copyright goes to the heirs and assigns (which may be another corporation), If the copyright is not maintained, then the book becomes public property or public domain.

This actually drives down the value of the original IP as the re-publication serves to place into public circulation the original IP, and of course once again, saturates the market concerning the original IP. This also has the added effect of crowding out new ideas and stories by forcing them to compete with older often outdated ideas and stories.

Perhaps the question not should be how long should the copyright last, rather, what constitutes best use of the copyright that provides the most benefit for the author and/or heirs/assigns.

One of the problems that copyright was designed to address was a poor author with limited resources having his work copied and then republished on a massive scale which dwarfed the authors publishing and distribution capacity.

The copier by virtue of having more resources was better compensated than the original author, for the work of the author. In what way can this be fair to the author and or 3rd parties that the author champions/supports by virtue of a will or sales contract?

Also, in what way does giving the copyright to the general public (Which includes those folks with more resources by the way) after a shortened period of time, say 5,10, or 15 years not devalue the IP for the original creator?

Give me one good reason why he/she or his children should be entitled to less for his/her work?

Finally, in the U.S. games are not protected by copyright in the same manner as books and artworks are. You can't copyright a game here. You can copyright a book published about a game, but the mechanics are pretty much public domain. There's been a ruling or two on this that has set a precedent that makes some of the game companies protect the other elements a lot more like trade dress for example (The layout of a game), and uh... unique names provided by specific authors... The setting especially if it is fiction is almost always protected by copyright.
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jhkim

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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2008, 02:37:50 am »
Quote from: HinterWelt;273478
I don;t agree with you here mainly because, in the case of books and CD and DVDs they could very well be precisely the same. The exact same work, from the same producer (printer for books) but for someone who has better terms. Thus, in 15 years, you could have your song catalog being reproduced by someone who owes you absolutely noting. That would cost groups like the Eagles and Beatles plenty.

Well, just because there is still some money made doesn't mean that copyright should last that long.  There are plenty of works that are still being produced even centuries after they were first created.  The argument "It would cost Shakespeare's estate" doesn't mean that Shakespeare's plays shouldn't be in the public domain.  That said, I also think that 15 years is rather short.  I'd tend to say more in the 25 to 50 years, and possibly life of the author.  

However, I'm also concerned over how copyright is expressed.  I am more satisfied with how copyright works for songwriters than for prose writers.  With songs, any artist can perform a song -- but they will owe money from their proceeds back to the songwriter.  

Apropos of the original problem of out-of-print games, I feel that if I can't get something in stores, then I am justified in making a copy -- even if it has only been, say, 12 years since the game was written.  There should be some limits on this -- i.e. if something is just in between print runs, then it shouldn't be released for mass download.  However, there should be more transmission possible.

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« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2008, 02:56:40 am »
Quote from: jhkim;273482
Apropos of the original problem of out-of-print games, I feel that if I can't get something in stores, then I am justified in making a copy -- even if it has only been, say, 12 years since the game was written.  There should be some limits on this -- i.e. if something is just in between print runs, then it shouldn't be released for mass download.  However, there should be more transmission possible.


If you purchased or received the game in the first place, I would agree here.
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« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2008, 03:18:54 am »
Statute of Anne 1709/10 got it right - registerable copyright for 14 years, renewable for another 14 years through re-registration.
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« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2008, 07:39:18 am »
Quote from: HinterWelt;273478
I don;t agree with you here mainly because, in the case of books and CD and DVDs they could very well be precisely the same.[...] That would cost groups like the Eagles and Beatles plenty.
Well, to a certain extent we face this already. It's quite legal to do cover versions of songs. Here Down Under we have a band called Björn Again which makes its living doing ABBA covers - so successful is it that there are franchised versions overseas. This is done entirely without the permission of ABBA.

And yet ABBA albums are still bought, and the original band members quite wealthy from the original work. As much as people love the ripoff, they love the original more. There's room for both.

Would that be the case for every band, or for authours? Probably not. But it does show that things aren't black and white.

Quote from: HinterWelt
The guys that they would have to watch out for are the ones who print the LoTR from a scan of the original. Possibly cheaper than they do.
Well, that was why in the 1960s onwards book companies were freaking out about photocopiers. Turns out, people prefer the original, professionally-printed work.

Which really was my point about the dweeb writing Lord of the Rings II. People want competently and professionally-done work. And most ripoffs aren't.

Quote from: HinterWelt
With copyright, someone need only scan your book at the end of the 15 year period and send it to the printers/CD press/DVD press. Star Wars would be a great one. They held out on DVD for a long time. Then I heard no end to the complaints about slow releases. Ep III would have been up for reproduction in 1992. I am sure that would have cost Lucas films some money.
Alternately, it would have encouraged them to put them out much more quickly.

Certainly it would mean less investment per movie. People would be more reluctant to spend $200 million making a movie if the copyright were going to expire some time before the heat death of the universe. But hey, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. As we've discussed here before, the big expensive movies are becoming a bit too homogenous, nobody will take risks with that much money (unless they're in banking or government). So 20x $10 million films would probably be more interesting than 1x $200 million film.
Quote from: GameDaddy
Your concept is skewed. You are presuming that the dweeb will write a competent derivative work that will not be accepted by the public on account it is a knockoff of a popular work, and everyone should be morally obliged to not support such an endeavor.
No, I am presuming that the dweeb will produce utter shite, and that people will in general avoid utter shite if they have something better on offer.

Alternately, the dweeb is not a dweeb and is actually competent. In which case they will probably prefer to be original anyway.
Quote from: GameDaddy
Also, what if the new work is simply bad? That taints the reputation of the existing IP holder
Does it? Is this shown? I mean, did people not read the last Harry Potter book because of all the horrific 'ship fiction out there?
Quote from: GameDaddy
Successful or not, the derivative is a commercial threat in that it can oversaturate the market with not dissimilar offerings that drive down demand.
To compete with ripoffs, the creative person can make stuff of obviously better quality, or alternately make more new and different stuff. So what you're saying is that limiting copyright would force creative people to come up with more new and original stuff? I don't really see this as a bad thing.
Quote from: GameDaddy
One of the problems that copyright was designed to address was a poor author with limited resources having his work copied and then republished on a massive scale which dwarfed the authors publishing and distribution capacity.

The copier by virtue of having more resources was better compensated than the original author, for the work of the author.
Ah, I see. So what you're saying is that with copyright being "life of authour plus 75 years" we no longer have people failing to get proper credit and remuneration for their work?

I wonder what that writer's strike was about, then... Hmmm.
Quote from: GameDaddy
Give me one good reason why he/she or his children should be entitled to less for his/her work?
In general, I am in favour of people earning the wealth they have, rather than getting income from interest or inheritance. It is not clear to me that anyone has a right to wealth without work.
Quote from: GameDaddy
Finally, in the U.S. games are not protected by copyright in the same manner as books and artworks are. You can't copyright a game here. You can copyright a book published about a game, but the mechanics are pretty much public domain. There's been a ruling or two on this that has set a precedent that makes some of the game companies protect the other elements a lot more like trade dress for example
To be clear:

  • copyright is of words, images and sounds
  • patents are of methods of doing things
  • trademarks are the things which let you recognise that X is the work of Y - like the coca-cola white swirl on red
The text of the game is copyrighted. The methods in the game, like rolling d20, may be patented. The general appearance of the book, its name and so on may be trademarked.

In general people don't patent game mechanics because of a thing called "doctrine of merger"; if there are only so many ways of expressing something, or if the thing has been around for a long time, then you can't lock it up for yourself. So you couldn't copyright a regular deck of 52 cards of spades and clubs and so on. You couldn't patent, "and then play proceeds around the table."

Plus the stakes are low so nobody bothers, it's much harder to patent things than copyright them.
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« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2008, 11:32:50 am »
Quote from: jhkim;273482
Well, just because there is still some money made doesn't mean that copyright should last that long.  There are plenty of works that are still being produced even centuries after they were first created.  The argument "It would cost Shakespeare's estate" doesn't mean that Shakespeare's plays shouldn't be in the public domain.  That said, I also think that 15 years is rather short.  I'd tend to say more in the 25 to 50 years, and possibly life of the author.  

Good thing you agree with me? Seriously John, I think you misunderstand my point. I do not want "for as long as you can make money at it" but I do want the author to continue to reap the benefits of his effort for as long as he wishes;i.e. for his lifetime. One never knows what the future will bring.
Quote from: jhkim;273482

However, I'm also concerned over how copyright is expressed.  I am more satisfied with how copyright works for songwriters than for prose writers.  With songs, any artist can perform a song -- but they will owe money from their proceeds back to the songwriter.  

Really, this is similar to books. For some reason people often confuse copyright with some sort of lock on the idea kind of thing. It safeguards the expression of the idea, not the idea. I could make 4e supplements if I wanted (XRP, Adament and GG are doing so) without any licensing.

Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273488
Well, to a certain extent we face this already. It's quite legal to do cover versions of songs. Here Down Under we have a band called Björn Again which makes its living doing ABBA covers - so successful is it that there are franchised versions overseas. This is done entirely without the permission of ABBA.

No, we do not. These people are not taking the White Album and making their own copies and distributing them. Copyright protects the expression, not the idea. Perhaps I have been unclear. I have not been talking about some sort of idea guard which is not copyright. I have been talking about copying and distributing copies of the original work. As I said above, I could make supplements for 4e under current copyright law. I would need to be careful about trademarks and that would mean I could not make a book titled "Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master Guide" or whatever it is called but I could make "Bill's Guide to Dungeons" with a note that says it is compatible with 4e D&D.
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273488

And yet ABBA albums are still bought, and the original band members quite wealthy from the original work. As much as people love the ripoff, they love the original more. There's room for both.

Sure, but that is not what we are talking about...or is it what you are talking about? Cause if it is then we need to look more at trade mark law...
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273488

[/I]Would that be the case for every band, or for authours? Probably not. But it does show that things aren't black and white.

Sorry Kyle, it shows you are not talking about copyright. I am not sure what you are talking about. Maybe some sort of IP law I am not aware of.
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273488


Well, that was why in the 1960s onwards book companies were freaking out about photocopiers. Turns out, people prefer the original, professionally-printed work.

Which really was my point about the dweeb writing Lord of the Rings II. People want competently and professionally-done work. And most ripoffs aren't.

And my point was copyright does not protect against "ripoffs". It protects against "copying" the original work. Are we still talking about copyright?
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273488


Alternately, it would have encouraged them to put them out much more quickly.

Certainly it would mean less investment per movie. People would be more reluctant to spend $200 million making a movie if the copyright were going to expire some time before the heat death of the universe. But hey, that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. As we've discussed here before, the big expensive movies are becoming a bit too homogenous, nobody will take risks with that much money (unless they're in banking or government). So 20x $10 million films would probably be more interesting than 1x $200 million film.

I disagree. I would say you would have people questioning producing movies of any quality. At least that is one scenario. Why put a lot of effort into a movie, one that would be pulling in money 15 years later, when you could just dump something out that recycles scripts from last year? Sure, you would still have an "artiste" film makers but what about something like Close Encounters or Star Wars where you have high special effects budgets. You might hate them but they are quite popular and still viable 31 years later as a marketable product. So, to me, quality is a weak argument for allowing anyone to take a copy of your work and reproduce it. Chances are, they aren't going to make a better DVD, they are just going to profit from it.
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How long should copyright, etc. be?
« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2008, 11:46:57 am »
Quote from: Kyle Aaron;273469
15 years should be enough, it's considered enough for patents and yet look how many wonderful inventions we've had over the past century or so.

It's enough time to allow the creator to make a fair profit, while not being so long that it encourages them to just sit on one creation and then create nothing else for decades. Like if JD Salinger weren't the only one who could publish Catcher in the Rye maybe he would have published one of the novels he's written since 1965.

Pretty much yeah. It might not totally stifle creativity, but knowing that at some point you can't subsist off of work you did decades ago could certainly insure that you keep working at you art or craft.

I'll also say that anything beyond the life of the artist is definitely messed up. In a way, IP is about giving credit to someone's effort. When that someone is dead, no one else deserves to get the credit.
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