Monday, November 20, 2006


Making a profit off an idea indefinitely was not among those certain unalienable rights mention in the Declaration of Independence. And corporations such as record companies and movie studios were never granted such rights anyway.

The copyright system, as I understand it, was originally developed to encourage creativity. If a person created a work, the government granted them the exclusive rights to make copies of that work. They got recognition for their effort, and a chance to make some money off of it before it fell into public domain. I think the thought process here was that once a person was compensated and recognized for their work, they would continue to enrich society with more of their particular talent. And furthermore, once in public domain, their work would act as a springboard, inspiring other potential creators.

When it was first enacted two centuries ago, a creator was granted a forteen year duration on his/her copyright. If the creator was still alive at the end of that time, he/she could apply for another forteen year extension. Fast forward to the present, when a copyrights are bought and sold like stocks and extend for seventy years after the death of the creator.

How is that encouraging creativity? I realize that times have changed in the past two hundred years. Copyright law has had to change in order to accomodate new media (i.e. sound recordings and now digital content). But how is it beneficial to a creator or the rest of society when a person (or more likely, a corporation) holds the copyright to a piece of work that they had no part in creating. By extending a copyright and keeping a work out of public domain, it is limiting public access to a work, and also expansion upon the work.

Limiting people's creativity and withholding genius from society just so someone or something can make a buck off of someone else's effort does not seem what copyright laws were originally intended for.

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