crypto and public policy

A little more bread to finish the cheese….

Filed under: Policy June 10, 2005 @ 12:58 pm

There is a classic French tale about a man eating his bread and cheese, and finding that he finishes the bread before the cheese. “Un peu de pain pour finir mon fromage,” he asks. And later, “un peu de fromage pour finir mon pain.” And later again “un peu de pain pour finir mon fromage….” I’m certain this story exists in just about every culture with the appropriately substituted food type.

In 1993, many nations standardized on the Berne Convention of a “life + 50 years” copyright. In 1996, the European Union lengthened its term of copyright for composers to “life + 70 years.” In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which retroactively extended the length of all copyright by 20 years. One of the stated reasons was to bring the US copyright duration in line with European copyright length for composers. And now, in order to help its poor starving performers, the EU wants to extend its copyright term to be more in line with the US. And by “more in line,” they mean “life + 100 years.”

On the assumption that (100-70) is indeed less than (70-50), sounds to me like someone’s asking for more cheese. It is ludicrous to discuss this issue as if these large media companies wanted anything less than “forever copyright.” Just because they’re asking for it in chunks doesn’t make their end goal any different. And so the question becomes: do we really want to live in a world where there is no public domain? Where ALL content is controlled by the media companies FOREVER? Because there is no doubt that that is what they’re looking for, and our governments are giving it to them.

“Unlimited copyright on the installment plan,” as Lessig puts it.

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Wharton:

    Just to correct a mistake, the proposal is to extend the term of copyright protection for sound recordings from 50 years to 100 years.

    Not “life + 100 years” just a simple 100 years from date of first being released, which to my mind is also too long a period of time.

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