U.S. Copyright protections should be reduced.
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Second Round for Case
Third Round for Rebuttal
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I first provide, in the interests of clarity, the following definition--Protect: "To defend or guard from attack, invasion, loss, annoyance, insult, etc.; cover or shield from injury or danger." (Dictionary.com) A protection is that which protects.
Also I ask that you please bear in mind in all of my arguments that I am not attacking the right of the holder of the copyright to enjoy the fruits of their primary artistic work. I only take issue with the ridiculously widened scope of the protections they enjoy.
In all this I think it's especially important to remember that copyright protection is a created right and not an inherent right like those in the Bill of Rights. It was created only for the express purpose in the Constitution "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" (U.S. Constitution Art. I, Sec. 8), that is to serve the public goods of creativity, invention and expression. The true natural and inherent right in this matter is not that of the artist but that of the Public. The public has been the traditional owners of stories.
Individual ownership of copyright is a legal fiction created to serve the public good. The individual has become, in all the below listed respects and others, contradictory and harmful to the purposes of its own creation. And so it has become, not only an illusion that serves no purpose, but a dangerous and perverse illusion at that.
1. Copyright terms have become ridiculous in their length and so should be reduced.
When the United States was founded the term of copyright was 14 years. Even well into the 19th century common law copyright protections could extend only to the first printing of a book. Now, Copyright takes works out of the public domain for the life of the author plus seventy years. This bar includes any derivative works as well. Further, the term of protection of patents and copyright used to be comparable, as they are similar rights this stands to reason. The term of patent protection now stands at 20 years, just 20 years. A far cry from the life of the author plus and additional 70 years! This term of exclusion is patently ridiculous.
Take Disney's recent purchase of Marvel Comics for example. Stan Lee is one of the creators of many of Marvel Comics characters. Although he created the characters in the early 1960s he's still living at the age of 91. Were he, God Forbid, to die tomorrow Disney would own a monopoly in the use of those characters until 2084, approximately 120 years after their creation. No one is free to use them except the Disney Corporation. No one would be free to use them, as they otherwise might, to create new works of art for that entire time and the public is deprived of the enjoyment of an untold number of new stories. People would even lose their freedom over the simple use of a mere fictional character, created by the hand of someone long gone.
2. The restriction of derivative works creates a monopoly that stifles creativity, hinders the economy and results in the creation of a substandard product. This necessitates a reduction in the protections against derivative works.
Derivative works are works which, while newly created works of art, contain elements from other works which fall under copyright. Such elements go so far as to include such matters as character and plot.
Derivative works are culturally necessary and economically desirable. Relatively recent derivative works include "Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead", "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", The new Sherlock Holmes movies and TV series and so on. The culture and artists are deprived of the creative spark that working with such popular forms provides when they're excluded by copyright monopolies. Culture becomes increasingly static when popular works are held to a single hand, especially when that restriction lasts for a long period of time.
The losses to the economy from the denial of derivative works are equally signifigant. It is in the interest of holders of a monopoly (which a copyright is) to restrict and delay the dissemination of their good. This restriction increases the desire for the good and allows them to charge a higher price when they do, finally, allow the public to see a new movie with their characters. Examples of this include the "Disney Vault" and the signifigant delay in the newer Star Wars films. Otherwise, were this public good not stolen away from the hands of multiple artists, the number of works would be allowed to meet the public demand. This would both increase the number of people gainfully employed in the economy and increase the number of people who could enjoy the good.
Further, monopolies shield their holders from the troubles of competition. This often results in a substandard good when the good is finally meted out to the public. Take for example the "Phantom Menace" a film widely criticized for poor writing and direction or the recent Star Trek film"a film lampooned by a signifigant contingent of the Star Trek fandom. The competitive nature of the free market may well have resulted in either better derivative works or increased pressure on the primary right holders to produce a better product.
3. The civil and criminal protections which shield copyright from infringement are draconian and absurd. Thus simple
moral common sense requires a reduction in these protections.
Anyone, EVEN IF THEY DON"T PROFIT FROM THE USE OF THE MATERIAL, can be incarcerated for up to five years and fined in the amount of $250,000 for "infringing" copyright. This means the mere act of willfully VIEWING or HEARING something without permission constitutes a crime requiring 5 years imprisonment.
These criminal copyright protections are draconian and this is without yet mentioning the criminal restrictions of the "Digital Millennium Copyright Act". This Act criminalizes merely bypassing an access control regardless of whether such an act even infringed a copyright, regardless of whether the person who made the bypass, or the people who used it, also purchased the copyright.
Enforcement of the civil and criminal provisions of this act resulted in the bankruptcy of CleanFlicks. Cleanflicks bought DVDs directly from the copyright holders, edited the DVDs to provide clean versions of the film and rented them to their customers. The copyright holders sued CleanFlicks for bypassing video protections to produce the edited versions of the films. They won an injunction in court and forced CleanFlicks out of business.
The absurd thing about the entire matter is, not only that the copyright holders were in no way harmed by CleanFlick"s actions, but that the copyright holders actually PROFITED from CleanFlicks! To criminalize not only non-harm but outright assistance is an illogical and contradictory use of criminal punishment. Such absurdity definitely calls for the reduction of this criminal and civil protective measure of copyright.
For the above listed reasons the protections, those matters which shield copyright from "infringement", have increased beyond the scope of all sane and proper activity of government or society. Let us not forget that we are dealing with a creative legal fiction, such is copyright. This is not a right stemming from the existence of a human individual, this is a right created for a purpose. It is a tool and it has become a tool antithetical to the very purpose for which it was created"the service of the public good in creativity and invention. It has instead set itself, perversely and wickedly, against the public good not only by stifling creativity and the economy but by stealing away the very freedom of members of the public. It's protections must be reduced in scope. Pro calls for such reductions.
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