Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I shake my fists of rage in your direction, Sonny Bono

A few years ago at work our research group put together business cards. We went with a superhero theme, and the cards were really pretty cool.

We were told to pick, among other things, our superpower and our 'arch-nemesis', and this information was placed on our cards. The arch nemesis I chose was the 'Sony-Bono Copyright Term Extension Act'.

I got a lot of strange comments over this, but an article that hit Slashdot today brings sweet vindication. From the article:

"It's nearly the end of 2009. If the 1790 copyright maximum term of 28 years was still in effect, everything that had been published by 1981 would be now be in the public domain — so the original Ultima and God Emperor of Dune and would be available for remixing and mashing up. If the 1909 copyright maximum term of 56 years (if renewed) were still in force, everything published by 1953 would now be in the public domain, freeing The City and the Stars and Forbidden Planet. If the 1976 copyright act term of 75* years (* it's complicated) still applied, everything published by 1934 would now be in the public domain, including Murder on the Orient Express. But thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, nothing in the US will go free until 2018, when 1923 works expire."

How cool would it be to see Steven King do a mashup of Murder on the Orient Express? Many people have enjoyed Pride & Prejudice & Zombies; what if we had a wider variety of books available from which authors could do this kind of mashup?

The Sony-Bono copyright terms extension act (I use the acronym CRAP, even though the letters don't line up, or even relate), the CRAP Act was really put into place because Mickey Mouse was headed for the public domain. Disney lobbied, Sonny Bono delivered, and Mickey stays safely 'protected', as do hundreds of thousands of other works that can't be touched now, thank you very much. All of that creative potential, locked away until 2017.

If an opt-in scheme makes sense anywhere, it’s here. You want to protect Mickey until 3009? Fine, pay a $20 fee every 10 years and renew your copyright/trademark. Don't care if your work makes it into the public domain? Don't do anything.

The CRAP Act protects all of these works until 2017. All of those books, articles, and art locked away from mashups, remixing, and reuse.

I think the founding fathers had it right. They limited copyright to 28 yearsIf you take the total amount of money my publishers and I have made off my books, I’ll bet 75% of it was made in the first three months of the books' release. But if you liked my book, and liked my characters, and thought it would be fun to write some fan fiction, you’d technically be violating the copyright laws (owned by my publisher). If you wanted to do it legally, you’d have to wait until 70 years after I died. Which is too bad; because if you wrote it, I’d like to read it.


nessabatgirl said...

you wrote a book?

Matthew Buckley said...

Ha! I guess that isn't too clear, is it? I'm a bad self-promoter. But I just added my first book to the side bar, so...there you go. :)

M. Gray said...

Fan fiction, eh?

So this is what we need to do. First, we need to fake your death. Somehow tie the cause of death to your book--mauled by chickens or something to that effect.

Then you need to live 71 more years (giving chosen author 1 year to write your mashup). Unsure how to accomplish such a feat? I found the airtight method:

-Taken from the oh so credible wikipedia

"In Berlin germany the longest person to live was hakeil who lived to be 122 years old. The woman made it by eating 2 pounds of chocolate a week and she rode her bike till she was exactly 100."

Let me know if I can send some of my fudge!

Benefits of Mangosteen said...

Even the Old Masters of the painting world (Raphael, Da Vinci, etc.) considered copying another master's work an integral part of their training as painters. We can learn a lot from copying b/c it helps us understand the thought that goes into the creative process. I'm with you on this one...the title of this post cracked me up, by the way.

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