Copyright laws go to far


    I am astonished by the turn our society has taken with respects to intellectual property. Over the past twenty-five years, we the American public, have lost our rights to the hands of corporations. I’m talking about the public domain. A copyright is not an inalienable right.

    Here’s how copyrights work: the public grants artists the right to control the distribution of their own creative works for a limited period of time. This system works to reward the artists for their work. This reward system theoretically encourages more works to be produced. The system works, and everybody is happy.

    Key ideas have been lost in recent years. People seem to forget that the American Government grants copyrights to artists. Artists don’t have copyrights by default. Now, we’re lucky if something enters the public domain. Here’s what I mean: before 1978, copyrights expired after twenty-eight years. Sounds fair to me.

    Artists have enough time to make some solid cash on their creation. In recent years, with the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, new copyrights (those issued after 1978) last for 70 years after the death of the author. In the case of corporations, copyrights can last as long as 95 years. Even copyrights which haven’t yet expired, but were issued before 1978 can be renewed by their owners for another 67 years.

    The life of a copyright isn’t even the most important issue. The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), passed in 1998, reminds me of the Fourteenth Amendment: unnecessarily vague. You can be prosecuted for watching a DVD you legally purchased. Corporations (most notably the RIAA) are authorized to issue subpoenas against copyright violators.

    Don’t allow your rights to be violated. Write to your senators. Let them know that you feel disenfranchised.

    Ben Jensen

    New York, NY

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