Copyright over the last couple centuries as we know it has drastically changed. In the opinion of many, these changes have probably been for the better, but I intend to show everyone exactly why the opposite is true.
IntroEditOver the last 50 years mostly, the situation of copyright, its definition, and its usage has grown majorly out of hand. Before we travel onward into the many problems copyright faces, let's take a moment to remember what exactly copyright is, and why it benefits some people.
According to the constitution, the idea behind copyright "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," as written in the constitution. Keep in mind that this is the only excerpt about copyright written in the constitution. Transitively, anything else defining copyright is declared by laws. The idea behind copyright is great, because it gives people the incentive to discover and create new things. According to economists, especially Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, who wrote the popular book, Freakonomics, all people work on incentives, whether that incentive be objectional, monetary, moral, or social. The insurance that authors, music writers, artists, and scientists will be able to profit from their discoveries gives them incentive to create the great works and inventions that they do. Without it, many of the authors, music writers, etc... might not have created the inventions in the last couple of centuries that they had. It certainly serves a purpose in society, at least as it's defined in the constitution. For further information about how copyright benefits artists and musicians, see the highlights of this interview of a musician and his marketer and his marketing agent.
However, in the last 50 years approximately, copyright has become something of a joke to consumers and an insanely powerful and unfair tool for the producers. Since 1790 onward, one of the key elements of copyright has been modified over and over. The time period during which a copyrighted object remains protected has been steadily increased over and over again until what is today, an extremely unnecessary amount. As of the last term changing act, copyright is protected for 70 years after the death of the original author. Why? Basically this law was lobbied so that record companies and other corporations that assisted in the distribution, production, or other means, because it's completely fair for a corporation to profit off of someone else's work, but not anyone else.
Another aspect of copyright law that has been changed over the years that is rather egrigious is the punishment, and the ways in which a person may violate a copyright law. Current punishments are described in most simplistic form by Purdue University as follows:
- Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits.
- The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed.
- Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs.
- The Court can issue an injunction to stop the infringing acts.
- The Court can impound the illegal works.
- The infringer can go to jail.
This would almost be reasonable, except for how often people are charged for "copyright infringement" on very vague terms. For specific cases on how miscommunications and mistakes related to copyright can completely ruin people's lives, and some insight on a pretty large court case from last year, you can skip to here.
One last aspect of copyright that is perhaps the most ridiculous is what exactly people and corporations can patent, copyright, and trademark nowadays. Corporations associated with technology basically abuse the current copyright laws by claiming everything associated with their product before their competitors can. In this way, they eliminate competition, the corner stone of progress in our capitalist society. Larger corporation with money can completely dominate their market by patenting as many things as they can. What's more ridiculous is the things that these corporations are patenting. You can see some of these ridiculous patents here.
Furthermore, with the cyber generation rising and piracy becoming an increasing problem, a specific line of work has risen to counter pirates, known infamously across the internet as copyright trolls. These people are lawyers who actively seek out individuals who have violated the copyrights of their clients. These individuals are then notified, and a lawsuit is filed against them. The problem that lies in this work is that a majority of these cases are settled outside of court, because obviously it would just be horrible to use the justice system provided for us, abiding by the very laws lobbied by these copyright holding companies, but these agreements are reached because they are beneficial to the lawyers, and because the lawyers are able to convince those they are suing that it benefits them, also. The lawyers benefit because they are able to make a profit, (the only reason they are suing in the first place), and because they know very well that the courts will most likely be in favor of the defendant. The accused benefits because he only has to pay a fraction of what he would be charged in court. However, the problem is that many accused are often scared into reaching a settlement instead of going to court because of the insane punishments prescribed to copyright infringers, even if the accused hasn't done anything wrong, because the only evidence the lawyers have is usually an IP address. For more information on copyright trolls, you can visit this website: fightcopyrighttrolls.com
Sources List can be found here.