Monday, April 25, 2011

Copyrights--Can the Right Come to its Senses?

First let's clear something up. Copyright is NOT a natural right. It is a convention created by human law (or explicit social contract if you prefer). It is authorized in the US Constitution explicitly
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.

The first copyright laws in the US came about in 1790, and granted a 14 year copyright with a possible extension of a further 14 years if the author was still alive. Since then the length of copyright terms has only grown. This has created a number of problems---most notably the orphan works problem, but the problem as I see it is that this is a major revenue source for the enemies of reaction. I can understand why the Left would want to support the status quo, but why the Right is willing to put up with Disney owning US copyright law is beyond me. Is there any legitimate reason why copyrights should be longer than patents? Any reason why an author should never have to see what he sees as misuse of his invention whereas an engineer's inventions are fair game after a mere 20 years or so?

There's actually an opportunity for the Right to peel away some groups of support by supporting an initiative to shorten terms of copyright to a length of time approximating that of patents---perhaps just 30 years with no renewal whatsoever possible. One effect of this is it'll cut off revenue streams from your enemies. This, along with demographics, is the logistical phase of a war for hegemony. The second effect is that should the Left decide to give battle, it'll be really hard to paint it as anything other than the Right standing up for 'the little guy' and the consumer against big evil corporations. So frankly, you want them to fight about it. The final effect would be this:

Video editing software has gotten really damned good in recent years. Delisting pretty much everything from copyright protection before 1980 or so would open a massive amount of cultural output to reinterpretation and, as I'd put it, 'weaponization'. This would be a strong opportunity to apply the techniques I described in my recent cultural war post. You wouldn't have to do anything terribly noticeable at an overt level. Just apply the cultural markers you like to the alpha and high status characters and the reverse to low status characters. 95% of the population might not even notice the difference between the reinterpretation/remastering/reimagining and the original work.

1 comment:

coldequation said...

Agreed. Also, if it's not possible to change copyright law, a conservative administration should simply not enforce it, the way both liberals and so-called "conservative" presidents have failed to enforce immigration law.

The right doesn't seem to know who its friends and enemies are.