Friday, September 11, 2009

Copyright Propaganda

Those advocating a "strong" copyright use half-truths so that the reader is left unaware of the real purpose of copyright and that the copyright of today is not the copyright of yesterday.

TechDirt writes: "A Look At The RIAA's Copyright Propaganda For Schools". In that story Mike looks at the RIAA's "curriculum" for teachers and the RIAA's Music Rules! webage. Of particular interest is the following RIAA quote:

"You might also inform them that our nation's Founders included copyright protection in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8), believing that it would encourage creativity by giving the creators of intellectual property an exclusive right to profit from their artistic talents."
So what is so onerous about the above quote? To begin, the Nation's Founders passed the "Copyright Act of 1790". The Wikipedia entry for the "Copyright Act of 1790" states:

"The Copyright Act of 1790 was the first federal copyright act to be instituted in the United States, though most of the states had passed various legislation securing copyrights in the years immediately following the Revolutionary War. The stated object of the act was the "encouragement of learning," and it achieved this by securing authors the "sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending" the copies of their "maps, charts, and books" for a term of 14 years, with the right to renew for one additional 14 year term should the copyright holder still be alive."
Then in 1998 the onerous "Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA)" was passed. The Wikipedia entry states:

"The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship. The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.[1] Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978 was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date."
Finally there is the US Constitution. While the RIAA cited the US Constitution, they never disclosed the text below and its implications:

"To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;"
As can be seen, the RIAA has not disclosed three critical points. First, the time period for copyright has significantly increased since the Nation's Founders established copyright in 1790. Second, the purpose of copyright is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts. Third, copyright was meant to be of limited duration.

In reading the RIAA statement, the reader would be left with the incorrect impression that the purpose of copyright is to provide a content creator with a revenue stream over an unspecified period to time. Clearly that is not the case.

Tom Bell writes:

"The term of copyright has steadily expanded under U.S. law. The first federal copyright legislation, the 1790 Copyright Act, set the maximum term at fourteen years plus a renewal term (subject to certain conditions) of fourteen years. The 1831 Copyright Act doubled the initial term and retained the conditional renewal term, allowing a total of up to forty-two years of protection. Lawmakers doubled the renewal term in 1909, letting copyrights run for up to fifty-six years. The 1976 Copyright Act changed the measure of the default copyright term to life of the author plus fifty years. Recent amendments to the Copyright Act expanded the term yet again, letting it run for the life of the author plus seventy years."
So when will those who advocate a "strong" copyright acknowledge that they have been getting what they have asked for at the expense of the public??? Probably never. The real theft is not the public "stealing" from the content creators, but the content creators "stealing" from the public.

The "Mockingbird's Imitations" website obtained a copy of Lord Kames's opinion in the case of Hinton v. Donaldson (1773). Note the date, 1773. Lord Kames writes:

"And when, upon expiration of the monopoly, the commerce of these books is laid open to all, their cheapness, from a concurrence of many editors, is singularly beneficial to the public. ... In a word, I have no difficulty to maintain that a perpetual monopoly of books would prove more destructive to learning, and even to authors, than a second irruption of Goths and Vandals."
So 300 years ago, the discussion concerning copyright already recognized that a "strong" copyright would be detrimental to society. In reading the RIAA propaganda you would never know that the purpose of copyright is to promote progress of science and the useful arts for the benefit of society; not to make the content creators rich through a State granted monopoly.

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