What’s your take on copyright law?
Last week, I began talking about copyright law, what it is, generally how it works, and compared the intellectual property to other types of property so it would be clear that we are, in fact, talking property.
Now, I would like to explain why certain people dislike the length of time the copyright lasts:
1) They hate big corps like Disney who use their copyright to force people not to use their characters, their movies, etc. Companies as big as Disney are happy to tackle anyone who breathes near their copyright (if you try to sell T-shirts with Jiminiy Cricket on them, for example).
2) Many people presume all authors are rich
3) Many people presume books/words only make money in the first few years of being sold/published.
4) Some people just want free shit. They hate paying for anything and think they’re entitled to anything anyone else works hard on (like the “this is mine” meme)
Let me address each of these in turn.
1) If you reduce copyright, this may hurt companies like Disney in the short term (very short term) by opening up their back-list to common consumption and use. Would you like to know what happens next? Disney would never (ever!) have to pay another author. Ever. They could just take anything that got spit into the public domain (as they already do!) and craft their own movies, allowing them to copyright their versions of those characters. They would make bank on this. They would remove the authors. Have more animators and actors.
Big companies, like Disney, are not authors.
2) Most authors are, unfortunately, not rich. Most authors, if living off only their writing income, are well below the poverty line. It takes many, many words to build up a back-list that continually pays so that you’re even in the black. Even authors who are moderately famous might be operating under the poverty line, especially if they received poor contracts or are working with publishing companies who are resistant to paying them.
3) Some books do make the most of their total income the first time they’re published. Some books take years to start selling. Some books make a comeback when an author’s later work suddenly does well. It varies widely and it’s dreadful to completely cripple one of these potential success stories by limiting how long they might be able to own their own work.
4) Fuck these people.
So to sum up:
Copyright, at the very least, should always belong to the author until their death because it is their property. They invested a huge amount of time in the creation of their stories, regardless of how well they do, regardless whether they ever sell.
And I, personally, think that if you can own land and buildings and cars and furniture and pass those down to your children and grandchildren, then I should be allowed to do the same with the millions and billions of words I write. For most of us, these words won’t be worth much, but just because something isn’t worth much doesn’t mean it should be taken away and given to the public.
Back-list is king to an author’s ability to build a career. Drop copyright down, then authors will never be able to build; a writing career will always be based on who got lucky (or who was given all the marketing dollars by a large publishing house.)
Places such as Disney will be a juggernaut regardless where you set the copyright law.
When thinking about laws, try to envision how they will affect the lowest person…not the highest.