Thursday, February 24, 2011

What's Mine is Mine, and What's Yours is Mine

     First, I'd like to point out that the image I used is probably copyrighted to someone, somewhere. How does this make me feel? Absolutely indifferent. It was on the internet, the eighth image that showed up in an image search for "copyright". When I clicked on it there were no pop-ups asking me to pay to use this image, or write an email requesting permission. I just assumed that it was there for me to use.
     I have to admit though, that I do feel somewhat bad for the copyright owners in general, especially when it comes to music. With the internet, it's so easy to rip and torrent music now that I wonder how much they actually make from their songs and albums. I personally have not purchased any music since about 2004, when I got my iPod, yet my collection of music has grown from 70 CDs to over 4,500 songs (and I'm just getting started). I "borrow" from my friends - some who have actually purchased the music, some who have not - but the truth of the matter is that stuff is copyrighted, and it's not being acquired properly - it's stealing.
     I know that if I was the singer or songwriter and I looked at just how much of my hard work and creativity was stolen, I'd be furious. It's like when your younger sister copies your hairstyle or buys a matching shirt - you are so ticked off because she's copying you, and your unique idea is gone.
     Mark Helprin wrote an article called A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn't Its Copyright? in which he basically rants about the fact that his copyright expires 70 years after his death. In a way, I sympathize with him - sure, you created something, it should be yours forever. But 70 years after your death? When you're dead and gone, does it really matter that you make full price on something you wrote? To me, 70 years is reasonable because it's inherited by your family and should help provide money for your kids and grandkids. After that, it should be up to someone else to think of something "new" and be creative. Just think... if we all had one person in our family come up with the "next big thing", had it copyrighted and we lived off the royalties forever, there would be nothing new! Maybe that's a scretch, but it's definitely worth considering.
     I really can't form a definite opinion about whether the laws are fair or not, because I've never created anything of significance, and I don't necessarily plan to in the future. Maybe one day I'll write the next great American novel and then my opinion will change. For now, I just want to watch free music videos on YouTube and 'borrow' cute pictures of Wall-E to fulfill my blog assignment!


  1. You raised an important point! The primary drive for extending copyright laws is to financially secure descendants. And, you provided a good point...that they must start thinking of something new about the time it expires after 70 years.

    The main drive behind Helprin's argument is securing royalties for the family. However, by trying to secure the financial stability of descendants, Helprin is actually undermining the same argument of individuality in invention.

    I'm not sure if I made a clear statement. If you want clarification I can try. English isn't my first language lol

  2. The DCMA of 1998, as our readings noted, says that "the production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works" is expressly prohibited. As you mentioned, you "borrow" music from your friends, most likely through your computer (as do i) and I'm just wondering how you would interpret the use of the computer to get copyrighted music under the DCMA guideline I cited? Do you think the computer should be banned as a means of accessing copyrighted material? Here is an interesting link to a Supreme Court case that touched on this same issue:

  3. I agree that 70 years seems like such a long time to still collect royalties when you're dead. I wonder what happens with the royalties if you have no kids. I also get copyrighted material from my friends so I guess that makes twice the thievery. This is probably what makes it so difficult for people to get caught. As far as the point you make about thinking of something new to create, I really don't believe anything is really new. Things just repeat themselves that's why I also feel indifferent about copyright materials.

  4. I didn't find Helprin's argument totally convincing either. I do think creators should have protections which act to balance out the power of the publisher, but I can't really see extending this protection generation after generation.

    At some point treating intellectual property on the same level as real property seems to break down practically and logically. Should we be tracking down Aristotle's heirs to make sure they got their royalties off of the copy of Nicomachaen Ethics I bought for my philosophy class? I think not.