Copyright is Out of Control

May 23, 2011 Posted by zachary

Google CensoredThis is a letter I sent to my US Congressman Tom Cole and my US Senators Tom Coburn and James Inhofe. Interestingly enough, Senator Coburn was the only one who had “Intellectual Property” as one the possible issues. Representative Cole was the only one with an editable subject line.

I am writing to you today about the “PROTECT IP” act and ACTA that is currently circulating the capital these days.This bill would grant sweeping power to the government and private interests to suppress speech and destroy innovation in the information technology sector. To this I must ask the following:

What benefit does the average person get from expanding upon the already bloated Copyright laws in this nation? What benefit does a small time musician, writer, independent film producer or independent game developer get from these expanded “protections”?

As an independent game developer and an independent writer, I see no benefit to being granted sweeping authority to suppress speech, especially when I do not have the resources to exercise the authority granted to me. As an independent creator, I do not even have the resources available to exercise the authority granted to me under the DMCA. So again I ask, what benefit do I get out of these expanded “rights”?

In answer, I will tell you I get no benefits. The only “people” who get any benefit from these expanded powers are those who have the political capital (e.g. cash for campaign contributions and lobbying efforts) such as the RIAA, MPAA and the BSA. These organizations love the idea of being able to block merging technologies and free speech. This much is apparent from the DMCA, the 1970’s copyright extension and the coming PROTECT IP act. The “starving artist” these organizations claim to represent gain no benefit whatsoever.

To better illustrate this problem of expanding copyright, I will point you to the recent finding of Jazz recordings from the 30’s. The National Jazz Museum was able to obtain a massive collection of private recordings of Jazz musicians as the played in clubs and in recording studios. The museum would love to be able to make these recordings available to the public. Unfortunately, they ran into a problem. These recordings are covered under Copyright for the life of the artist plus 70 years. Considering many of the artists are unknown, many are dead and family is unknown, how is the museum supposed to find and secure the rights to let the public listen to these recordings? How is the expanded copyright terms beyond the original law of 14 years plus the ability to extend it for another 14 years, helping anyone in this situation? It is hurting everyone. It is hurting the jazz musicians because their legacy is rotting in obscurity. It is hurting the public because they are blocked access to a treasure trove of music. It is hurting the museum because they are having to extend limited resources to find and secure the rights to this music.

So please, I must ask you to vote down the PROTECT IP act and ACTA and focus on actually reforming our IP laws to better fit the Constitutional constraints of “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;”

Every time the US has expanded copyright, we have been hurt as a nation so that a few well connected companies and individuals can benefit. Sure big names like Disney, the Beetles, Elvis, JRR Tolkien benefit from having such obscene terms to their copyright. But what about everyone else? What about all those who don’t have the resources to hold their IP for ransom from the culture of this great nation? What will the people occupying the Senate and Congress do when Disney’s copyright on Steamboat Willie is about to expire again? Will they cave to lobbyist pressure like they did in the 70’s and grant Disney and every other helpless victim of extended copyrights a perpetual copyright?

Please vote against PROTECT IP, ACTA and any other bill that would expand upon our already bloated copyright law. Please work toward level headed and fair reforms of copyright law.

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