The Death of the Public Domain

So there’s this other thing I found (how professional):

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/201332585324978567.html

I guess it’s an opinion piece, but still good.

Basically it talks about how copyright laws are becoming outdated and need some serious revision. Which is true, but they keep revising it so suit their own needs. The article also talks about the tragedy of the dwindling public domain, and even cites an article where the court can take stuff from the public domain and put it under protection again: http://web.law.duke.edu/cspd/publicdomainday/2013/shrinking. It then goes on to talk about gender issues in government or something, I kinda stopped reading it at that point.

This is scary. Things can be taken out of the public domain and placed under private ownership? Why? Why the hell would anyone want to do that? Seriously, if it wasn’t bad enough that things can’t go into the public domain for years, now things are being taken out? Pretty soon there won’t be anything left, and then where will we be? A pretty sad world.

This all comes back to the same thing I’ve been ranting about and abusing for the past three months: copyright was meant to protect artistic works. Then the industry happened, and they noticed the amount of money they could be making off of these works. It all boils down to the money. This is now clearer thane ever if they’re starting to take things out of the public domain. Really, 70 years after the death of the author is crazy, especially (as the author of the article points out) if that author has no heirs to inherit the rights. What’s the point in all of this?

Basically, I guess I’m just mourning what is left of the public domain. If this keeps up they’re won’t be anything left.

Are we just going to sit back and let it happen?

I Forgot to Give This a Title

So there’s this thing.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/supreme-court-rules-entertainment-industry-429695

I found this article about a case where the court ruled against the Entertainment industry in an interesting copyright battle.

There’s this law, called the first-sale doctrine. Well, maybe it’s not a law. It’s a….thing. Basically, is says that if you purchased a copyrighted book legally, you are allowed to sell it again to someone else without asking people for permission. So, in the spirit of the industry, when someone actually tried to do this, the industry freaked out a bit.

A man from Thailand decided to fight the $600,000 he was told he had to pay for getting his family and friends to send him cheaper, foreign-printed copies of textbooks, and then selling them in America. In this case, the court ruled in favour of him.

They talk about why this is good and bad in the article. If they had ruled for the publisher, they argue that this would have crazy repercussions on many industries. Museums, for example, may have to then start asking people if they can display their work, and often the people they ask are just those who hold the copyright–not the people who actually created the work themselves. Foreign cars might not be able to be sold in various places without asking everyone who holds patents and copyrights on all the parts in it. How silly.

There is of course the usual whining about not being able to find a market overseas now. They’ll get over it.

The point of this interesting article, I believe, is that the courts are finally realizing that intellectual property laws have the potential to restrict culture and whatnot. By seeing how, here, setting this kind of precedent could lead to crazy restrictive things, perhaps the courts are becoming aware of the threat some copyright poses to culture and its distribution. An important point to notice in this first-sale doctrine is how it specifies that the copyrighted work needs to be purchased legally. Then the owner can go ahead and sell it again. This is promoting the sharing of knowledge, and by getting upset because profits are not going back to the industry is a sign of exactly what is wrong with today’s copyright laws. That is, companies and such are so focused on making money that they forget the true meaning of Christmas copyright: to protect and encourage the expansion of culture.

What I’m hoping is that this article points to the courts who know the difference between true copyright infringement and the industry just whining about money.

I suppose you could argue that the line between these two is very thin and ambiguous. This is true, but my point is the courts will hopefully understand when to be restrictive of copyright and when to let culture sharing be free.

What if Money Was Removed from the Equation?

So let’s say we live in a perfect and beautiful world where money isn’t really all that important (or existent or what have you). Let’s just imagine that copyright, somehow, didn’t cost us any money. Just remove money from the picture altogether. Completely. Does this change our view of copyright?

I’ve been ranting talking about how copyright is just a way to control us and our money by the large and scary industries. So what if copyright didn’t exist for money? What if companies couldn’t make us pay them for breaking copyright laws; what if copyrighting something meant that you couldn’t make money off of it?

On the one hand, this would theoretically mean that everything that fell under copyright and intellectual property laws would be created simply for the benefit of society. If you invent something, the first thing you generally want to do is patent that sucker so no one can steal it. But if there was no money to be made, would you bother? Probably, since we’re still obsessed with getting the credit for it. Perhaps, in the case of inventions and patents, things wouldn’t really change–the battles over patents might be somewhat less intense, though, if it was just battling over bragging rights. But say, when an artist recorded something, and you downloaded it “illegally”, what if the music industry couldn’t sue the pants off of you for money? Would they stop, and leave us alone? Would we be able to get music and movies for free without being beaten to death by lawsuits and settlements?

On the other hand, if there is no money for an incentive to create things, would our culture stop completely? Sure, copyright as it is today is basically killing everything we love in our culture, but if people could access your content for free without penalty, then they would clearly do it, and you wouldn’t be making any money, so why bother?

The point of this confusing post is that, in a way, copyright lawsuits forcing us to pay people for their content might actually be necessary. Kind of a Devil’s Advocate kind of thing, but if there were no consequences to downloading or taking content, then no one would want to invest their time into creating content. The penalties for this shouldn’t necessarily be making you pay 50,000 dollars butttttt that’s another story.

But wait! I hear you cry. What about people on Youtube and the internet in general, who make music and videos and write stories just for the heck of it, without making any money off of it? Doesn’t this mean that money isn’t the only/most important incentive?

Well, random citizen, I see your point. However, we can argue that, of all the amateur content on the internet, not all of it is very good. In fact, only a small portion of this is really any kind of decent, and in order to create good quality content, you need to put time and effort into it. Even the popular Ray William Johnson started out in a shitty apartment making stupid videos with a terrible camera, and only made it something big and fancy after he made it his job. Though quite a lot of the “professionally made” culture, like movies and music, are also pretty terrible, without the incentive of money, our culture would grind to a halt. We would still have that amateur content, but really, is that all we want to be left with at the end of the day?

Intellectual Property

Let’s just look at it for a minute.

It’s property that you can’t lock up in a safe and hide from people. Well, you sort of can, but it’s a lot easier to steal–or to claim it was yours to begin with. How do we really determine who came up with an idea or an invention first? It’s almost impossible. So to deal with this we came up with copyright and intellectual property laws and just generally ways to make your life more difficult than it really needs to be.

Because seriously, allowing your school/institution to copyright your work is totally not exploitation or anything.

The point is, intellectual property is such a weird concept if you really think about it. We’re trying to put locks on things we can’t hold; to take a piece of our brain and shove it in a safe where no one else can access it. Why? Why are we such a paranoid people that our ideas are something that we feel need to be protected with the law equivalent of an iron wall. What happened to sharing our ideas for the overall betterment of society? 

I find this sad for a few reasons. First, that we believe that our ideas need to bring us money in order for us to be happy–we’re not content with our ideas improving the lives of others. Secondly, that we’re afraid of people stealing our ideas and claiming it as their own. Thirdly, that people justify this fear.

Why, I hear you ask, should we be afraid of people stealing our idea if we just want the betterment of society? On a totally different principle, even if we didn’t get money for really good ideas and inventions, it’s unfair for people to claim our ideas as their own. In the end, we want the money, but we also want the recognition–the glory.

At the end of the day, intellectual property and its laws shows us how we’re selfish, reward obsessed creatures who only create out of desire to advance our own lives. Have a nice day.