My thoughts on copyright

Read about my thoughts on emerging technology in the book publishing industry and what that might mean for content creators:

I am going to attempt to lay out what I currently know regarding U.S. Copyright law and how I think it should be changed to better “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”. 
U.S. Copyright law has its origins in the constitution. Here is a progression of excepts from relevant wiki’s regarding the length of copyright protection and its development over time.  

Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution

“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;”

Copyright Act of 1790

“The stated object of the act was the “encouragement of learning,” and it achieved this by securing authors the “sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending” the copies of their “maps, charts, and books” for a term of 14 years, with the right to renew for one additional 14 year term should the copyright holder still be alive.”

Copyright Act of 1909

“It allowed for works to be copyrighted for a period of 28 years from the date of publication, renewable once for a second 28-year term.”

Copyright Act of 1976

“Section 302 of the Act extended protection to “a term consisting of the life of the author and 50 years after the author’s death.” In addition, the Act created a static seventy-five-year term (dated from the date of publication) for anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works made for hire.”

Copyright Term Extension Act

The so called “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act” “The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.” “Under this Act, additional works made in 1923 or afterwards that were still protected by copyright in 1998 will not enter the public domain until 2019 or afterward (depending on the date of the product) unless the owner of the copyright releases them into the public domain prior to that or if the copyright gets extended again”

My take on copyright:  I think we need a complete gutting of the entire current system.  I feel that the current state of affairs in copyright law egregiously violates the intent and spirit of its foundation in the constitution.  I would propose a new system that very closely resembles the creative commons licensing that arose in 2001.  

If you are unfamiliar with CC licensing see: and for more information.

Essentially, CC licensing is a type of copyright license that producers can currently opt into. CC licensing currently has 6 types.

  1. Attribution – This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
  2. Attribution-ShareAlike – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
  3. Attribution-NoDerivs – This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
  4. Attribution-NonCommercial – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
  5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike – This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
  6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs – This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

I would propose something like the following for a change to copyright law:

  • All producers would be required to select from 7 types of licenses upon publication of each of their works.
  • Any work that is not specifically licensed at the time of publication defaults to the least restrictive of the possible licenses.
  • The 7 license types would be some variation of the 6 CC licenses + 1 more option that is essentially today’s style copyright. All 7 license types would have a term limit of 5 years.
  • After 5 years the license is shifted 1 towards the least restrictive license. This means that someone selecting the most restrictive license, mimicking today’s style, would be protected from others using their work commercially for 20 years with the possibility of extension, up to potentially the length of the authors life.
  • At each of the license levels that prohibit the commercial use of the work there will be a clause that if the producer can demonstrate that a particular work still accounts for X% of their yearly income then the license at that level will be extended another 5 years without downgrade.

Let me know what you think in the comments! And take a look at my thoughts on the publishing process here:

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