Should copyright laws remain as they are or change? Consider the following:
There are a number of seemingly divergent issues in the realm of copyright law today. However, upon closer examination, one overriding issue links them all. That issue is the shift in the way copyright laws are used today as compared to their original intention.
The basic purpose of copyright law is to promote invention and creativity. In theory, copyright laws are formulated to do this by granting creators a limited monopoly upon the use of and profits from their creations.
When the time limit of the monopoly expires, the right to use the creation passes on to the general public. The creators have been rewarded for their labors and are prompted to create additional works.
Over the last century, U.S. copyright laws have gradually lost sight of this singular purpose. Our laws have shifted from awarding a short-lived monopoly as a reward for good work toward the creation of "property" that, like real estate or other tangible goods, lasts indefinitely and can be sold or leased to "investors" for a profit.
A balanced use of copyright law stimulates creativity. The timely entry of new material into the public domain also serves as a stimulus for additional invention and creative works. However, when copyright laws or their applications become unbalanced, as they are today, they begin to subvert the public interest and limit new creative works.
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This is, of course, a matter of opinion. My opinion is that copyright laws ought to be less stringent. In particular, they ought not to last as long as they do. In the United States, a copyright issued since 1978 is good for the life of the author plus another 70 years. This is a tremendously long time. This means that there will be no “timely entry of new material into the public domain.” Because the copyright extends for so long, creative use of the copyrighted material is stifled. This can be bad for innovation in the US.
One thing to consider is how long copyright protection lasts as compared to patent protections. Patents are only good for 20 years. After that, the innovations are in the public domain. This makes it much easier for innovations to occur using the patented ideas. It also provides inventors with more of an incentive to invent new things. There is no reason why the same should not be true of copyrights.
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