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Friday, 14 June 2013

Another example of that 95-year copyright term fostering cultural innovation

Want to include a rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" in your next film or documentary?  Well, it will cost you $1,500 to license the copyright in the music and lyrics; that is, unless a lawsuit claiming the song actually dates back to 1893 rather than 1924, as held by the current licensors, succeeds.

The case itself doesn't interest me, but it highlights the stupidity of the argument that copyright fosters innovation: when companies can exploit a single work for a lifetime and then some, where's the financial incentive to come up with something new?

If, as I've argued for, copyright terms were limited to 20 years - comparable to patent protection, then producers would be forced to find something new to keep the cash rolling in.

Furthermore, the courts would be freed up from ruling on this guff whilst media lawyers and indemnity insurers skimming from the kitty meant to remunerate original artists would have to find something more productive to do with their time.

One of the symptoms of long copyright terms is that rights owners continue to market their catalogue many years after its sell-by date.

Not only that, but holders of previously successful franchises have a great deal of cash to reinvest in future marketing, keeping the likes of Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, etc on our screens in perpetuity.

Is it any wonder that directors like Spielberg and Lucas are predicting a meltdown of the film industry - although perhaps not sharing my view that long copyright terms are to blame.

The market for creative ideas is skewed.  Owners of previously successful franchises have a loud voice, whilst contemporary innovators are often struggling for cash to support themselves, never mind push their ideas to directors and producers.

The result is the same shit, different decade; decade, after decade, after decade...

@JamesFirth

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