Friday, August 30, 2013

Copyright, Fandom, and Economics

I just finished watching Firefly (finally) which took all of about three days to see all the episodes. I wish that Joss Whedon had continued Firefly, and I hate FOX more than I can bear for cancelling the best American TV show in history. It makes me think of Copyright (one of my favorite subjects) because of how making new episodes of Firefly will be impeded by copyright for people writing and publishing derivatives on it. This has given me some ideas.

Copyright is not just a plain document of "you own this" but includes several facets, taken from Wikipedia:

The owner of the copyright has the following 6 rights for a period of between 95 and 120 years (it's complicated):
  • To reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To publicly perform the work, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works;
  • To publicly display the work, in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
  • To digitally transmit sound recordings by means of digital audio transmission;

The way Copyright law is currently written, the owner of the copyright has exclusive rights to these even if he/she never ever uses them. I personally think these rights makes sense when they are being used, but what will often happen is finding old pieces of music from the early 20th century can be made very difficult and sometimes are out of print because the copyright owner won't publish them. The way copyright law is written, this means nobody can get legal access to them digitally or through their original means without going to a thrift shop and get lucky. If the demand outstrips the supply and the work has been out of print for 90 years, the publisher can refuse to distribute the work which hurts culture and the economy. I think copyright should be changed, some are based off previous posts, but to keep it simple I will put everything here:
For purposes of this proposal, art is a broad term encompassing all performed arts, written arts, visual arts, auditory arts, or any other form.
Creator means the artist, writer, composer, and can be represented in an official manner for legal purposes by an attorney or anyone the creator appoints.
Medium means the format the artwork is used in, whether it is online or offline. (Media plural)
  1. The owner of copyright has the duration for the life of the writers in the forms of music, fine arts, plays, or literature.
  2. Television shows and movies will be under copyright for a period of 50 years.
  3. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to license publication, allow derivatives, allow public performances, or publicly display the artwork, in any medium, with the following exceptions in section 5:
  4. The following actions will void any copyright:
    1. If a copyright owner breaks one part of their agreement the copyright owner forfeits the entire copyright and the copyright goes to the creator(s) of the work who may reassign the copyright if they so choose. The copyright will go to the writer(s) of a TV Show or movie in this case.
    2. Any changes in the copyright agreement must be agreed upon by the copyright owner and the creator. The copyright owner will retain the copyright until the agreement is breached, the time limit is reached, or some other agreement is made transferring copyright or voiding the copyright if they have permission of the creator.
    3. If a copyright holder is deceased or fails as a business and the creator is still living the creator assumes copyright.
    4. The creator must approve of all changes with the copyright holder, but once the copyright has been signed neither party may violate the terms. The writer will have ultimate authority in this manner, or may appoint someone in his/her stead. The terms may be anything the parties agree to and are legally binding.
    5. In the case of visual arts involving multiple people, if the writer breaks the agreement with someone involved in writing the play the writer will have to make his agreement within 3 months or the work goes to the public domain.
    6. When a piece of art changes hands all people who worked on the artwork will retain their stake for payment in the proceeds of the art as agreed in the original copyright. (This is important for TV shows and movies because it means that they will get paid for their work even if the studio breaks their agreement, and won't be left hanging.)
    7. Upon the passing of an owner of copyright if their are other owners that person's share will be equally divided among the other owners. (I think this would be the most fair)
    8. If the creator of a piece of art breaks their part of the bargain without written agreement, the copyright owner will get full control over the artwork until the copyright expires.
  5. The following are the terms for which copyright is voided.
    1. If the work has not been published for 15 years the rights for reproduction and distribution are forfeited.
    2. If the work has had no sequels or arrangements (in the case of music) copyrighted for 15 years the right for derivatives is forfeited.
    3. If the piece of art has not been publicly performed for 10 years the right for performance is forfeited. For a movie or TV show this would be in the form of broadcasting.
    4. If the work has been undisplayed for 15 years the right for public display has been forfeited.
    5. All of the rights in section 5 are media neutral.
  6. Once the copyright of the work has been forfeited, it will be in the public domain forever. (Overturning Golan v. Holder)
Here are the reasons why this will be better for musicians and the economy:
First of all, this will encourage copyright holders to exercise their copyright and make works available to all, otherwise they will lose their copyright.

This will encourage pieces of lesser known art that are not well known to be able to be heard. If a piece is not being heard much by the general population, than releasing this copyright requirement will not harm the company that owns it since they would not have been making revenue from it anyways.

Arrangements of music in particular will be a boost to the economy, because pieces of lesser known music that aren't selling (which don't produce a lot of income for their owners) will be able to be released to all for arranging new forms of the piece of music. This will help composers create new works based on older pieces like countless early 20th century pieces and get paid for their work.

This will encourage copyright holders to have people create derivatives and then the copyright holder will receive a new copyrighted work and be encouraged to publish it, because if they always forbid the derivatives they will lose that right.

A system that allows copyright holders to restrict derivatives, performances and reproductions of their property that they are not even sharing does not benefit the company and does not benefit the economy. Releasing such lesser-known and not well advertised pieces of art to the general population when the publisher or movie studio won't license performances or derivatives will allow artists to go ahead and be creative, which is the opposite of what our current copyright system does which hurts the economy by decreasing the potential for artwork.

Section 3 here would have made it so that when FOX decided to cancel Firefly Joss Whedon et al could have searched for a different studio to make Season 2 assuming that Joss Whedon et al agreed that the sale of Firefly included making more than one season. This would have made it so that movie studios have to work with their clients. When studios can deny an artist from making or distributing his/her/their work the economy and culture is hurt. There needs to be a way out of this for people like Joss Whedon who have their works denied. I would feel awful if I worked extremely hard to get a piece of art done writing plots and then be denied to perform my work, not to mention it would hurt me financially. It is also very mean spirited to the fans. This shouldn't be possible and hurts the economy because all of the sales and advertising from season 2 was lost. That is deadweight from copyright.

I have the rights go to the writer automatically (unless if he/she defers the rights to someone else) because it is easier than giving the right to all of the people who act in the play and it means that decisions can be made faster. The writer will have a vested interest in the production and distribution of the artwork and were the ones to create it originally. The other artists (actors etc.) who created the artwork can have shares of the art as they determine when they work and the copyright is attained, and this is designed so that if copyright transfers they keep their interests intact. Their stake in the artwork is permanent and may not be traded or sold. I envision this as a way that actors and the tech crew of movies and TV shows can have stakes in the art they make after it is published so they can get paid for their work as determined by their original agreement however they choose. I'm trying to be as flexible for them as possible while still making certain copyright holders need to be accountable to their agreement and people like Joss Whedon cannot be jerked around. I'm also shortening the length of copyright because if you can't make a profit in something over 50 years than it's not very popular, and such a long copyright term prevents derivatives from being made which is damaging to the economy and our culture because we are losing productivity and creativity.

Long live Serenity!

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