Five easy ways to reform copyright laws

Posted: March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

“Now that SOPA’s dead, five easy ways to reform copyright laws”

Link to article: here 

This is an article from another “topic” that i dissect. It deals with copyright laws, and how the United States can improve it’s laws in order to make the basis of copyright more fair for the end users.

In the United States, copyright laws are incredibly strict and unforgiving. They heavily favor major corporations, rather than the original creator themselves. An example would be the fact that corporations have control over an original creators copyright, long after he or she has passed away. Ridiculous laws such as these drive consumers to the ground and cause confusion and chaos within the online community.

In order to combat the madness, the Washington Post has posted five simple suggestions that can potentially eliminate the copyright law chaos that America is going through right now.

(following five rules are pasted directly from Washington Post)


1. Curbing abuses of copyright takedowns. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), if a copyright holder — say, a record company — comes across pirated material on a site like YouTube, it can fire off a takedown notice. YouTube then has to take down the material for at least 10 days while it evaluates the claim. The problem, Public Knowledge says, is that this law is prone to overreach. All content is “assumed guilty until proven innocent.” Perfectly legitimate material can get muscled offline until its owner files a counter-notice. (And companies have been known to abuse this right, as when Wal-Mart got a comparison-shopping Web site taken down by inaccurately claiming copyright infringement. See a list of examples here.)

In order to prevent such abuses, Public Knowledge suggests that innocent defendants can ask for damages, ranging from $200 to $2,500, if the takedown request turns out to be frivolous. Copyright holders would also have to make their takedown requests public and would face penalties for misrepresenting their cases.


2. Shortening copyright terms. Back in the early days of the republic, an author owned the copyright of his or her work for just 14 years (with an option to renew for another 14 years). But Congress has lengthened copyright protections over the years — often at the behest of companies like Disney, which isn’t keen on letting the copyright on Mickey Mouse to expire. Right now, a copyright lasts for the entire life span of a creator plus an additional 70 years. Public Knowledge argues that this has gone way too far and is stifling innovation. They suggest whittling the length of copyright ownership back to life of the creator plus 50 years. (Corporate copyrights over an employee’s creation would drop from 95 years to 50 years.)


3. Clear up “fair use” rules. “Fair use” is a rather murky doctrine in copyright law. In theory, you can use copyrighted material without permission for certain purposes — say, quoting the passage of a book in a review. The problem is, it’s not always clear what use counts as fair use (the artist Jeff Koons famously lost a case on this after parodying a banal photo of puppies). And if you’re wrong, you can be hit with a fine of up to $150,000 in statutory damages, regardless of how much actual harm was caused by the copying. Public Knowledge argues that this curbs innovation, and wants Congress to do away with the statutory fine. (A copyright holder could still sue for any actual damages he or she suffered.)

4. Protect against overbearing copyright claims. This one is a relatively modest proposal, but Public Knowledge wants companies to stop claiming copyright powers that they don’t actually hold. For instance, the NFL often states during telecasts of football games that “any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent, is prohibited.” The NFL doesn’t actually have the legal power to prohibit such things, and Public Knowledge wants to make it illegal to say so. Likewise, the group wants Congress to clarify that making “transient” copies of copyrighted objects (for instance, when a CD player buffers parts of an album to prevent skipping) is okay. While most of these things sound minor, the idea is to make absolutely clear what people are and aren’t liable for.
5. Allow the breaking of Digital Rights Management software for legal purposes. Many DVDs come with DRM protection that makes it harder to copy or excerpt the works. And fair enough. But this can lead to some odd consequences. It’s illegal to break these digital locks even if you’re using the material for perfectly legal purposes. As Public Knowledge puts it, “if you wanted to use a clip from a movie in order to criticize it, taking the clip itself is legal, but breaking the DRM on the DVD in order to do so is not.” (Currently, there are a few exceptions — university professors are allowed to break the locks to show film clips in classes — but these exceptions are murky and have to be relitigated every few years.) The group wants it to be legal to crack DRM technologies for legal purposes.
“We should make it easier to promote creative and innovative uses of copyrighted materials”.
They keyword in the quote is CREATIVE. In order for end users to perpetuate creation, they must use materials that are already in circulation to base their work upon. There must be a way for users to use copyrighted materials in order to give birth to creativity and innovation. It is the only way we can move forward. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that these suggestions will make it through congress, for lobbyists from major corporations have a much more influential voice than those who oppose the totalitarian-like policies that are being implemented. In order for copyright laws to truly transcend into fair ground, those who oppose (the majority) must reach out and take action.
  1. lockmantuj says:

    This is a very thoughtful and well expressed summary of some of the important issues related to current copyright law. Thanks for pulling all of this together in such a clear way.

  2. sinthia says:

    Original creative works are a gift of god hence the person through whom god passes on his creativity deserves to gain from it. hence it is the will of god.

    so the copyright duration of a literary should not be shortened at all.

    this is my view

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