Saturday, April 10, 2021

What We're Writing Week: Write. Copy. Copyright.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Today I'm going to talk not about what I'm writing, but about something that enables me to write: copyright. Many book lovers will go their whole lives without thinking much about copyright, other than flipping to the front matter and using it to make sure they're on the second, and not the third book of a series.

Then there are the folks out there who have Opinions on copyright. They never seem to spend much time thinking about copyright in the visual arts, for example, or architectural plans. No, they have Thoughts about books and creative works held by their arch-nemesis Disney (and Marvel and Star Wars.) The problem with these thoughts is threefold:

 

 

 

1) Most individual authors aren't in anywhere near the position of Disney. In fact, the biggest money-making writers you could think of - Nora Roberts, Steven King, Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, JK Rowling - are as but motes in the eye of the Mouse.

 

2) They treat the intellectual property known as "a book" as if it were some strange and exotic thing completely separate from types of property we call "a business" or "a house."

3) They don't make their living from writing books and they're about as familiar with the publishing business as I am with major league scouting.

About a month ago, blogger and journalist Matt Yglesias, posted the following on Twitter:


He didn't specify what form "copyright reform" might take, but cites a social entrepreneur and information economist that "a 15-38 year range would be optimal.

Now, we have to posit ALL this is totally theoretical. The USA, along with close to 180 other countries, is a signatory to the Berne Convention, a foundational treaty of the World Trade Organization. The Berne Convention sets a bottom limit - life of the author plus 50 years - below which the member countries can't go. They can chose to go up from there; the US is life + 75 years, and Mexico is life + 100. But unless you expect the WTO to fall apart, any discussion of "15-to-38 years after the creation of the work" is in the vein of "How do we terraform Mars" - interesting, but not really front-burner.

Which is not to say people don't get VERY interested in the concept. 

Tech policy reporter and computer science guy Timothy B. Lee (no relation to Tim Berners-Lee, although I bet he gets asked that a lot) decided to weigh in with a more direct approach:


I suspect it was calling royalties serving as an author's retirement plan "ridiculous" that did it, but Timothy B. Lee found himself getting dragged by every author on Twitter. And of course, loads of guys (they're almost always guys) had to weigh in with their opinions of why other people's creative work ought to be free right quick. Many mentioned the importance of using older books to create new work, although mostly they seemed concerned with being able to legally write Spiderman and Tolkien fanfic. Strangely, I never saw anyone mention A THOUSAND ACRES or WIDE SARGASSO SEA or MARCH. Others pointed out they didn't get to inherit their Dad's salary upon his death, so why should a novelist's kids inherit their royalties? Nobody read books more than 30 years old anyway, so why should we worry? Just invest in a 401(k) like the rest of the world does.

I encourage you to read the twitter thread, there were SO many bad takes - including the everpractical "information wants to be free" - it became a sort of art installation of dumbness.

Let me counter with a few facts of life from someone who buys groceries, maintains a car and keeps a roof over her head thanks to royalties:

1. Intellectual property is still property. I make stories, in the same way another person might make cosmetics and a third might make electric vehicles. It's a business, just as much as Glossier and Tesla. If Emily Weiss and Elon Musk can to pass the value of their businesses on to their kids, why can't I? I can assure you, mine will be satisfied with a lot less than little X AE A-XII.

2. I do invest toward my retirement. But it's 100% on me - I don't get a handy employer match. I'm counting on royalties from my back list to help support me in my old age, in part because I plan, like most authors I know, to still be writing into decreptitude. On paper, no one can hear you creak.

3. Oh, and that money I put into my SEP IRA? It goes AFTER I pay 12.5% toward Social Security and 7.9% to Medicare. That's more than twice what non-self-employed people contribute. I'll get it back (I hope, please God) but it's a chunk o' change that isn't available to put away for my rapidly approaching golden years.

4. Let's say we could wave the magic copyright reform wand and change copyright protection from its current term to 30 years after creation. I hate to disillusion anyone, but that won't lead to a Marxist utopia where The People get books for free. First off, The People almost always prefer well-typeset books bound in paper or available to download. Who's going to provide that? Publishing companies. Who will then make 100% of the profit. Yes, Project Guttenberg is out there, bless their hearts, but my kids still bought paperback copies of every classic novel they read in high school and college. 

4.a.) And I'll tell you how film rights would work under a 30 year copyright. No production company would even talk to an author. Why go through the expense and hassle of paying Deb Crombie and negotiating her terms when all ITV or Sky TV have to do is wait until 2023 - yep, that soon! - and they can start filming A SHARE IN DEATH for free! Once again, they make 100% of the profit while Debs, I don't know, has to be content with her contribution to human happiness, I guess.

 

I'll stop myself from going on and ON and on. The takeaway: copyright is there for a reason, and without a generous term, most of us couldn't afford to BE authors in the first place. Also: never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.






 

72 comments:

  1. At the risk of sounding a bit na├»ve [which, I realize, I do quite a bit], it simply amazes me that there are people who think they have the right to waltz in and take over some wonderful story or character or idea created by a hard-working author as if they were wandering through the woods out back picking the daisies growing along the path. To me, that feels quite a bit like a slap in the face to every author who’s ever put heart and soul into a story . . . .

    I believe that if I had my way, the copyright would never expire [and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the author’s family realizing some income from all the hard work that went into that creation in the first place] . . . .

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    1. Joan, there's an argument for allowing later writers to engage with an earlier work, like in the wonderful examples I linked to. Just, you know, give us a chance to earn what we can from our work and leave something to our kids. I actually think life + 50 would be the sweet spot - if my books are still valuable, my children get a boost, but I'm not necessarily giving a trust fund to my great-grandkids.

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  2. Well said, Julia. It's also worth noting that copyright infringement is not easy to enforce in this modern world. Sure, if Disney hijacks your work and makes a movie, you have a target, but if Joe the Pirate is giving your work away or selling it online - good luck finding him much less taking action in a non-US setting. Even if you managed to prosecute successfully, it would be like playing an international game of whack-a-mole and Joe the Pirate would show up online as Sam the Pirate.

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    1. A case in point- where Warner Bros is the pirate - see Tess Gerritsen's account of how she got cheated when the movie GRAVITY was made based on her idea. https://tessgerritsen.com/gravity-lawsuit-affects-every-writer-sells-hollywood/

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    2. Hallie, that was THE most blatant rip-off. And you're right, Kait. One of the reason patent copyright is so much shorter - 20 years - is because it includes strict liability. If you violate ANY part of a patented product, even unknowingly, you're on the hook for damages. Not so with auctoral copyright, which only protects that single expression of an idea.

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  3. Excellent rat, Julia - thank you! An "art installation of dumbness" - that could be said for a lot of threads out there, couldn't it?

    Also thank you for explaining the Berne Convention. Which, as an author, of course I should have known about (but didn't...).

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    1. rant, not rat. Sheesh- must proofread!

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    2. You posted early. Anyone commenting pre-coffee gets a pass!

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  4. JULIA: Author works should definitely be protected by copyright. I had no idea about the Berne Convention and that countries could vary its length, or that copyright reform was being discussed.

    I kept aware of the copyright issue for my climate change research publications during my career. Any Environment Canada publications are protected by the Canadian federal government joining several international IP treaties, including the Berne Convention. Other research that I published in books, journal articles, conference proceedings are covered by the copyright laws in their respective countries/associations. I am registered for Academia.edu and Researchgate and I still get weekly summaries of where/when any of my climate change publications are used by other academics. And they still have to contact me to ask for permission to download some publications.

    I'M CURIOUS: How do teachers used copyrighted material in the classroom in the US?
    When I studied in the 1980s, most of my professors used/gave out photocopies of book chapters as required reading. When I taught at the University of Toronto in the 2000s for 4 years. I gave out optional reading lists but did not leave photocopied chapters in the reading rooms for students to use.

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    1. Also, to be clear, as a Canadian federal government employee, I got no royalties for my publications/books etc. All my research is owned by the Crown (not Netflix, ha ha).

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    2. Grace, I just have to say, the fact your research is owned by "The Crown" just sounds so cool.

      There are carve-outs for copyright that allow for quoting by anyone (less than 250 words) critics (more, maybe?) teaching ( a generous amount) and satire or parody.

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    3. Oh, and the fact you know who is using your research and that users have to ask permission to download illustrates another aspect of copyright protection - control over where and how your work is used. You might REALLY not want to have your research quoted by the Flat Earth Society.

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    4. JULIA: Believe me, I doubt that any climate change deniers or someone from the Flat Earth Society will be quoting my research! I am just surprised that academics are still citing some of my climate change research from 25-30 years ago. There are some advantages/disadvantages of being amongst the pioneering group of cc researchers in Canada.

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  5. Interesting. I've never been sure how all this works although I did know literature entered the public domain eventually. For some reason I thought it was anything published before 1928, no idea where that came from.

    I'm also intrigued with theft/plagiarism. I read a book some years ago, maybe 15, that had an unusual and interesting plot. Fast forward to the last five years, and a very well known writer wrote a best seller, the same damn book. I wrote to the first writer, an unknown entity, and gave him a heads up. I didn't receive a response. And I'll never know the outcome, if any. But I hope it cost the well known a bundle.

    Usually when I read something that feels familiar, it's because I've read it before. Happens all the time. But this was very different, and I wish I could remember the name of the original writer. I'd buy more of his books.

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    1. ANN: I would think it is hard to prove copyright infringement/plagiarism. I have seen many cases thrown out by the judge/court since the plaintiff did not give enough proof of plagiarism. How identical are the two books? Same setting, plot, characters?

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    2. Ann, I cut and pasted rather than type the whole answer out myself:
      "All works published in the United States before 1924 are in the public domain. Works published after 1923, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years."

      So functionally speaking, every book published in 1926 goes into public domain this year. There are arguments for works that re-work the original or that have an ongoing character, but the ability of writers to use the characters that appear in a series once the first story is out of copyright was settled by Klinger v Conan Doyle Estate.

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  6. You Tube and Google are helping the pirating of movies and music. The Arts community is making a fuss, but the internet has made it very easy to send tunes and films without royalties being paid. Many young people have no idea that when they listen, they are part of this "grand theft artwork." Lawsuits abound against the main perpetrators but it does not put money in the artists' pockets. I pray that I never cross that line to get my entertainment! Thanks for bringing this topic forward, Julia.

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  7. Julia, I know authors receive royalties for e-books, including those sold to libraries. Do libraries have limitations on how many borrows are allowed on an e-book?

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    1. Yes, libraries are restricted on ebook access/use. It depends on the publisher.
      This article states the one example of a limit of 52 reads (or 2 years), another covers 26 checkouts.
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/11/26/e-books-libraries-are-huge-hit-leading-long-waits-reader-hacks-worried-publishers/

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    2. Grace is right, and that's actually something I disagree with. I understand why publishers, including my own, don't want to sell one book when in years past they would sell a replacement hardcover every few years, but it's not the libraries' fault the technology means paper and cardborad don't wear out anymore. I think a more equitable solution would be to sell the ebook outright, but make the "library copy" more expensive.

      This wouldn't be an issue, BTW, if we had a Public Lending Right act in the US, as they do in Great Britain. We could have a full payment go to the author for physical books, and split it between author and publisher for e-books.

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    3. Authors in the US don’t get a small fee every time a book is borrowed, but they do in many other countries including UK. My books are in libraries there but I don’t get the money because I don’t live there

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    4. CORRECT. I learned a few years ago from some Canadian author friends that they do get royalties every time a library book is checked out in Canada.

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  8. I USED to have a friend who boasted about how great it was that he could download any music he liked and not have to pay a dime. It's a mindset. And pity the poor painter who can sell each work only once.

    The Authors Guild has done great work protecting authors' copyright - there's a good explanation at https://www.authorsguild.org/where-we-stand/copyright/ -

    AND to all the writers out there, READ YOUR CONTRACT! Publishers, even reputable ones in my experience, will slip in a clause that gives THEM the copyright to your work. Just because they're publishing it doesn't give them the copyright. Even for short pieces you publish and might one day want to re-publish or transform into a longer work. You'll never be able to UN-negotiate it if you give it away.

    To learn more, see a copy of our friend Ellen Kozak's excellent: Every Writer's Guide to Copyright and Publishing Law (2nd edition)

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    1. Thanks, Hallie. Always read the contract.

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    2. I got Ellen's book when I was starting out in this business. It's a must-read for authors.

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    3. In my humble opinion you should always have a Intellectual Property Attorney at least review all your Publishing Contracts. I practice Intellectual Property Law and I charge a standard amount to review IP contracts. They are generally fairly uniform, and have less room for negotiation. Publishing houses don’t negotiate like most IP contractors. Of course the better your sales figures, the more they are willing to negotiate. This article is a great explanation IP copyrights.

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  9. Excellent point, which is why all the poems that I created are copyrighted.

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    1. It's your work! Technically speaking, all works attain copyright at birth - kind of like being covered by "natural law." However, just as with natural law, you need some formality and written laws to give your rights teeth.

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  10. Every morning when I come here I leave knowing something I didn't know before. Some days I am amused but today I have been educated. Thank you!

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  11. It wasn't until I was on the Sisters in Crime Board and attended some meetings via the Author's Coalition that included other groups of writers and image makers--the Sci Fi folks, children's books, music writers, healthcare journalists, photographers and on and on--that I understood the world is divided between the Kingdom of Google that believes everything should be free to everyone from the moment of creation and the Kingdom of Disney that believes everything should be protected for all eternity. The Kingdoms are in constant battle over things like the tilt of who gets the job of Librarian of Congress for example. Fascinating.
    Now that books are "in print" essentially "forever" electronically, I believe the author and publisher need to be compensated for a good healthy long time.

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    1. Interesting, Barb. I haven't heard you talk about that before. Thanks for sharing this tale of Kingdoms!

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    2. I love that framing, Barb!

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  12. "An art installation of dumbness", Julia, made my day.

    And thank you for putting "Debs' books on Sky in 2023" out in the universe. Maybe you will start something!:-) But, sigh, hard to believe it will be 30 years...

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    1. Gulp.

      You got an early start, Debs. That's it!

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    2. Oh, you KNOW Sky TV wants your series, Debs.

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  13. I recently read two books that were so similar that I ended up going to the Google to see if there had been an issue about it. There most certainly was, and is. The two books are The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson, and published less than two years later, JoJo Moyes' The Giver of Stars.

    Moyes is British, and this book is a huge departure from her usual fare. Richardson is American, and she says she researched the book for years before writing it. The whole affair is fishy, but since Moyes is a very well known writer with a big publishing house behind her, the far lesser known Richardson has struggled to get her case taken seriously.

    Another author, Pamela Dumond (who was instrumental in getting Erin Brockovitch's story to the big screen, so a serious writer), has spent more than a year preparing a case against another writer who apparently lifted entire scenes/plot devices/characters/names, with only slight cosmetic changes, in a "too similar" book to one of Dumond's lovely, funny romance novels. The judge threw it out, sadly.

    I've been married to a photographer for almost 40 years. Over the course of that time we've seen blatant lifts of his pretty obvious work by artists. Steve is usually okay with it, as long as the artist has permission--one of my best friends has used his photos as references several times. But without permission it's just theft, period. And yes, photos are protected by the same copyright laws, as are films. He's working on a documentary about his dad's role as a pioneer in nature photography and writing, and has had to negotiate copyright issues with the likes of Standard Oil, for whom Karl made several films. Karl, it should be noted, died in 2006 at the age of 93.

    Music, too. Our neighbor has written several pieces for the double bass, including an opera, that were based on the opera Carmen. He didn't violate copyright law because Bizet wrote it in 1875. But if someone were to rip off his original opera, Shadowboxer", based on the life of Joe Louis, or his children's opera "Casey at the Bat", that would most definitely violate copyright, as Frank is still very much alive, and still daily selling his original pieces to musicians all over the world.

    Great job, Julia, on simplifying the Berne Convention for all of us non-lawyer types. I've written a couple articles on copyright for the sewing industry, and this is the best, most succinct explanation I've ever seen.

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    1. Thank you, Karen! I hadn't heard about the Moyes/Richardson situation, but I found a good article on it here:
      https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tomiobaro/jojo-moyes-the-giver-of-stars-kim-richardson-bookwoman-of
      It shows both the great difficulties of protecting copyright if you're not already a wealthy person, and also the dangers of the continued shrinking of the publishing world - Richardson's publisher was 45% owned by Moyes' publisher, which means neither had any incentive to pursue the case. It also means an unscrupulous author can have access to manuscripts in early forms or in ARCs... which honestly, sounds like what happened here.

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    2. It's extremely suspicious, especially when you read the books. I read them within a month of one another and was shocked at the similarities.

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  14. I suppose I'm biased since as a corporate librarian in my former life, I was a staunch defender of adhering to copyright and taught classes on copyright. I will tell you it was a losing battle since the generation that has grown up with the internet doesn't believe anyone should have to pay for any information. I also believe this belief was exacerbated by information providers who gave students, both undergrad and graduate level, free access to their databases. I believe their thought was that the students would become so accustomed to using their tools, they'd be willing to pay for them once they entered the workforce. I can tell you that isn't true. Instead, the former students simply searched on the internet and used whatever information they found there, regardless of quality or source. It's another example of our society's belief that that what I want and believe is paramount regardless of how it affects anyone else.

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    1. I agree with your point, Amy, and I've seen this myself - students don't pay for access to databases, they just use what's free, even if it's inferior.

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  15. Copyright protects your work as an artist--any kind of artist. But since art can't possibly be 'real' work, what's the problem if I listen to your music, plagiarize your writing, or download your movie? That mindset makes me want to bang my head against the wall--I think I need to invest in a good helmet. I feel your pain, Julia.

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  16. Obviously I am by no means an expert on copyright law, so thanks to Julia for breaking some stuff down here.

    My question is why does copyright expire at all? Even after death plus 75 years, it isn't like the author still didn't create that work. Why shouldn't the estate continue to profit in perpetuity off something you created.

    I liked Barb Ross's comments about Google vs. Disney. Google's argument that everything should be free is so full of dog feces that anyone associated with that company should have deal with perpetual ridicule for that position. However similar to my idea about why does copyright ever end, Disney's argument that everything should be protected for eternity is beyond specious as well.

    They only think that for the stuff THEY own. And the hell with everyone else? Think I'm kidding? Look what they are doing to a number of authors they owe money to for book royalties. Most particular in this story is Star Wars prose novel author Alan Dean Foster. He wrote two books that are constantly reprinted. When Lucasfilm was a singular entity, he received his royalties like clockwork. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, they stopped paying him (and other authors too). They had the testicular fortitude and lack of shame to claim that they only bought the rights to use the Star Wars stuff, not the liabilities like abiding by existing contracts. They have said this in published articles if you can believe their unmitigated gall.

    At first they ignored Foster's repeated inquiries. He had to get the Science Fiction Writers group (or is it union) involved and take the story public before Disney would even acknowledge him.

    So Disney is as full of horse puckey as Google, just from the opposite side of the spectrum.

    I enjoy receiving a free book or album as much as the next person. But it is offered and sent to me by the publisher, the magazine or the author/musician. If not, if I want something I pay for it. Anyone who does anything different should be locked up for theft, period. Let's see how these everything should be free jagoffs like 3 hots and a cot with a prison jumpsuit for their crimes.

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    1. I refrained from talking about Alan Dean Foster's situation because I didn't want the post to go on for two days, but it's a truly TERRIBLE abuse of a popular author, and goes to show that old works do, in fact, still have quite a bit of value. SPLINTER IN THE MINDS EYE came out in 1978!

      Also, you're Disney for crying out loud. How cheap to you have to be to hold back an author's lousy 10 or 5%? The sum total of all the authors' royalties for works now owned by Disney wouldn't add up to a rounding error for a company that made 8.1 billion in 2020 - and that was a 45% drop from the previous year! They probably spend more on bulk-buy facial tissues for their offices.

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    2. Well said, Jay. I will pay. I want to acquire my tunes and my films and my books legally. Pay the artists who contribute so much to my quality of life.

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  17. "Also: never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line."
    Absolutely!
    Protect all the artists, be their medium the written word, a sculpture, a painting, or whatever.

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    1. There were a lot of authors with their stilettos out on that Twitter thread, Libby!

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  18. Julia,

    Thank you for sharing. I was reminded of something about Agatha Christie or Shakespeare. I think their works were copyrighted for some years?

    That is a lot of information about copyright and I will look for that thread on Twitter.

    Diana

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    1. There have been forms of copyright stretching as far back as Guttenberg, so yes. In Shakespeare's time (IIRC) it was a state licensing scheme; once you held a license, you were the only person who could print such-and-so. (It also helped the Crown control what was getting out there, which was it's primary purpose.)

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  19. Shalom Reds and fans.

    Because I’m not really yet a writer, I seldom pay attention to copyright My dad pursued and won a patent on an invention, which he never made any money from. However, for nostalgia’s sake, I did look up the patent after he died. I also have a good friend who obtained more than a few patents which were very lucrative for him, but did not last nearly as long as what is allowed for under copyright law.

    When I first again started to use a computer for personal use, (which was not that long ago), it was sort of like the wild , as regards intellectual property. I had just started taking piano lessons again, and was on the lookout for typeset pieces of classical music that I could learn. There was quite a bit of stuff that you could download for free, legally. Mutopia was a site which like Guttenberg, typeset and allowed anyone who wished, to download for personal use. I downloaded and stored large amouts of their stuff. It was like a digital public library of anything that was in the public domain.

    However, at some point, I found a website of a Spanish professional pianist, who had scanned all of his music and made it available to anyone with the url to his website. Without regard to copyright infringement. I gobbled it up . I downloaded and stored 80 to 85 percent of his stuff and simply ran out of time before his site was taken down for copyright infringement. If you produce sheetmusic of public domain music, you are entitled to protect your typesetting of the same.

    I stopped taking piano lessons, and so, I have played only the smallest fraction of the pieces that I have stored. For years before I started lessons, I had copies, legally purchased, of three of Beethoven’s most popular piano sonatas. I let my teacher know that I had them, and at some point he asked to borrow them for another of his students who was more advanced than me. I said, Sure, I’m never going to be able to play them. Well, after that, I purchased an actual 88 key electric piano from Yamaha, and within a year or two, I had mastered one of those sonatas, all three movements. Something like a bucket list thing that I actually achieved.

    As a Christian, I have attended churches which pay for music packages for their congregations to sing, which includes payment of royalties to whomever owns the copyright. Also, as a subscriber to Spotify, a portion of my monthly fee goes to compensate the copyright owners for their ownership in proportion to how often their music is played. But apparently, if a small band plays music in a Christian coffee house, let’s say Suzanne or Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen is not the richer.

    Years ago, it amused me, that Michael Jackson had purchased the rights to the entire Beatles catalog. I wonder, if his children or his lawyers have maintained that ownership or perhaps resold it.

    You know. When I buy a bound book, I am allowed to lend it to a friend or sell it to the highest bidder on eBay. But, if I buy the book electronically, and in a proprietary file format, that really is not possible. I know that Amazon, allows you to “lend” the book out, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.

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    1. David, that's a good overview of a lot of the possibilities of copyright. If an artist WANTS to give away their work openly, they can! And yes, if the coffee shop players learned Hallelujah by ear, they didn't have to pay anything. But if they bought sheet music to use, they did - and they would owe a licensing fee to Cohen's estate if they cut a record with the song as a track and sold it.

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  20. I've been trying to remember the name of the controversial music sharing site for hours, and it finally came to me. Remember Napster? I was horrified that my then-college aged kids were downloading music for free, and watching movies the same way.

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    1. It's interesting to me that the easy ability of anyone to stream music for free has led to tours and live appearances being the musicians' bread and butter instead of record sales. The music is a promo for the show, which is revered from my younger days, when the show was meant to goose you to go out and buy the album. (And it was an album back than!)

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    2. And yet when Metallica rightly sued the company, it was the band who took crap not the site or the illegal downloaders.

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  21. The People. Want books from publishers. Information wants to be free. (I've always LOVED that. "Information" doesn't "want" anything. YOU want free stuff. Own it, bub.) I am laughing SO HARD. People have so much time on their hands, and understand so little.

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  22. Lowering the copyright coverage to 30 years? What a lot of hogwash. Intellectual property is property, and I would argue the other end of the spectrum, well actually that there be no spectrum. I agree with Joan that it would be more reasonable for copyright to never expire on intellectual property and that the author's or other artist's family continue to profit from it. It's property, be it intellectual or material. Can you imagine someone telling the two 30-year advocates that they could own their house for thirty years, but after that it's open house for anyone wanting to use it. Not respecting or supporting an artist's ownership of the fruits of her/his labor is beyond insulting. It shows a devaluing of all artists' contributions.

    I had an experience when I was in school for my Masters in Library Science that was disturbing concerning the stealing of my work and ideas. For a final project in one of the classes we were to submit our papers to the professor online (it was all online at that point), and I can't remember exactly why, but the papers we submitted were able to be viewed by all the students in the class. Well, I submitted my lengthy paper, on which I'd spent many hours of work, a few days early. On the actual due date of the paper, I see that another student has submitted a paper that was word for word what I had written. Luckily, the papers were dated, so it was obvious that my paper arrived first. When I brought it to the professor's attention, I was less than pleased with his response, but at least he realized that my paper was the original. He suggested that because the student was from China that she maybe didn't realize she was plagiarizing. I don't care what country or culture you're from, if you are in graduate school, you should realize that copying another person's work in its entirety is not acceptable. The professor said he'd talk to her, but I'm not sure he did that. He was getting ready to retire, it was the end of the term, he didn't want to upset an international student, and he just didn't want to deal with it. I didn't want the student to be kicked out of the class or school. I just wanted her to be admonished for not doing her own work and made to do another paper on her own. Of course, the proper course was for her to receive a failing grade on the paper and in the course, at the very least. But, the feeling that someone stole the work that I had done all the research and writing on was really upsetting. So, I try to be quite mindful of giving credit to anyone whose work I insert into my own for quoting.

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    1. Wow, Kathy. That's just an amazing failure on the professor's part. That student should have flunked the course AND been reported to the school's honor code board.

      Culturally, the student may have different expectations about the acceptability of plagiarizing. That's why it's vital to explain it to students, give examples, and lay out the consequences at the start of a class. I let my students know if they copy an assignment, they fail the class. Period. TURNITIN.com has been a blessing to teachers everywhere!

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  23. Greed and/or apathy. How do you fight that? When someone creates something, that should belong to them forever until they choose otherwise.

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    1. There's a lot of high-level privilege baked in those assumptions as well.

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  24. This confirms my decision to get off Twitter. I can't even. Thank you for writing another brilliant and enlightening blog post, Julia.

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    1. I was thinking of you being off Twitter, Jenn! Or as I affectionately call it, "the hellsite."

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  25. I'm torn on this one. First, let me be clear. I support copywrite. And I support an author's right to get paid for their work.

    I'm a huge DisNerd, and the idea that people can start doing whatever they want with early Mickey cartoons and early Mickey images in another few years concerns me. I don't want that out there in the public sphere.

    But, I'm sorry, despite what you said here, Julia, the fact is that I don't get paid for work I did 5 years ago. Heck, the company I worked for 5 years ago no longer exists. If I stop working tomorrow (I wish), I get paid nothing.

    Of course, I do realize that it is different for authors because SOMEONE is making money on their books that were released five years ago if someone is buying them. And Authors should definitely get a piece of that.

    Unfortunately, I believe this is a case where everyone is right and everyone is wrong. (And I know I just made a whole lot of people angry with me for sharing that opinion.)

    Personally, I do think that author's lifetime plus a certain number of years is good. But I think 75 years is crazy long.

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    1. Mark, there are actually a lot of authors who think life plus 75 is over long. Personally, I would like the Berne standard of Life plus 50, or even life plus 30. Unless an author dies unusually young, that gives enough time to care for a surviving spouse, and to see any minor children to adulthood. The players that actually make the needle move in this debate, of course, aren't authors and readers. It's the large entertainment corporations. And they have no incentive to work to shorten the length of copyright.

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    2. And as I said, I don't want to see Disney lose Mickey Mouse, or even early Mickey Mouse, any time soon. Or Snow White. So I see that side of the debate as well.

      It's complicated. Fortunately, I don't have to make the decisions. :)

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  26. Sorry I am writing so later - life has been chaos - but wanted to applaud. I am an author who DOES know something about copyright. Husband is an intellectual property lawyer who worked in publishing for many years, plus I was a researcher in the business world for many years, with a specialty in the media/entertainment businesses. And I say, good work, Julia! well-said, well-explained, well-done.Thanks for laying it all out.

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