Yet another copyright extension

Wikimedia Statement on Copyright Changes in the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Wikimedia says the latest TPP treaty extends copyright from life + 50 years to life + 70. Because people who have been dead 51 years are apparently very creative.

Although proponents of copyright term extension commonly argue that such restrictive monopoly rights provide an incentive for creators to generate material, economists and legal scholars have found that the benefits of such term extensions accrue overwhelmingly to copyright holding companies rather than to the artists themselves.

The law would also require ISPs to become copyright cops.

Arr, maties, “Pirate Cinema” is entertaining and thought-provoking near-future science fiction

Pirate Cinema cover

I just finished the audiobook of Cory Doctorow’s Pirate Cinema, a rollicking and enjoyable story set in the underground of near-future London.

Cory has a few superpowers as a novelist, but the rarest among them is that he makes political novels entertaining. He puts that power to work in Pirate Cinema.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been a fan of Cory’s for years. He’s done some writing for me when I’ve been an editor with a freelance budget. And we’ve had a few meals together. I think of him as a friend, while also admiring the hell out of him.)

Pirate Cinema tells the story of Trent McCauley, a teen-ager from the north of England obsessed with downloading pirate movie clips and mashing them together into satirical short videos. When the authorities shut down his family’s Internet access for his piracy, his father is unable to work, his mother can’t get medical treatments, and his sister finds homework overwhelming. Blaming himself, Trent runs away to London, where he falls in with a band of lovable rogues who are like digital updates of the characters of Oliver Twist (there is even one character nicknamed “Dodger.”)

Trent continues making pirate films and runs afoul of the law. Eventually, he and his pals resolve to take down the entire entertainment-industrial complex.

Cory has spoken out and written voluminously about abuse of copyright law. He puts his passion to good work here, weaving a story about underground, black-market art and the people who make it, as well as the business interests who fight against it and the laws they buy. However, some Amazon reviewers found the lecturing in the book heavy-handed.

But Pirate Cinema is primarily a coming-of-age novel. Trent learns to fend for himself, take responsibility for his own actions, experiences first love, and explores the wide world of London. Cory is an expatriate Canadian who’s lived in London for years, and he paints a vivid picture of the metropolis and the people who live between its cracks.

The voice acting of the audiobook, by Bruce Mann, is well done, bringing the characters to life. Mann appears to do all the various varieties of English accent authentically — although what do I know? I’m from New York and live in California.

A modest proposal for fixing copyright

First 12 years are free, followed by several elective renewal periods that require paying an increasing percentage of royalties. All copyright terminates after 46 years.

Now we have de facto perpetual copyright. Every time Mickey Mouse is near to entering the public domain, Disney lobbies Congress to extend copyright. Ironically, Disney itself is built on the public domain, including Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, the Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, the Swiss Family Robinson, Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland.

The author of the proposal is R Street Associate Fellow Derek Khanna, who was fired from his job as a Republican Congressional staffer after authoring a paper calling for copyright reform.

“We have clear evidence that, rather than serving as an incentive to create, excessively long copyright actually hinders creation,” said Khanna. “New artists, directors and writers are unable to create derivative works without paying fees that can be so high as to make the cost of derivative works prohibitive or even impossible.”

In addition to hindering new creation, perpetual copyrights lead to a host of other problems, including historical works being unavailable to future generations, the growing number of “orphan works,” limitations on digital archiving and derivative works, higher transaction costs and a limited volume of publicly available content.

“When historical clips are in the public domain, learning flourishes,” said Khanna. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is rarely shown on television because the speech is not in the public domain.”

R Street paper calls for shortened copyright terms and examination of international treaties

Via Cory Doctorow – thanks!