My Thoughts on Modern Copyright Law

Work In Progress / 02 November 2020

Time for me to share some extreme opinions from a different perspective again. 

By that I mean that I believe that Copyright law in first world countries has become an unruly beast that needs to be killed for the good of the villagers. 

We've really all been duped that the changes that have been made to copyright law over the last 50-100 years is all good and strengthens protection for those who create original ideas. That is a complete scam. The groups lobbying for changes and extensions in copyright law are funded by huge corporations that want to keep a hold in their massive libraries of intellectual property which have been purchased, or stolen from the original creators. Disney for example. 

Copyright lobbyists are looking out for the interests of multinational companies that want to horde intellectual properties like a medieval dragon with gold, not the individual artist and creator. 

If you take a reasonably objective stance, it's fairly easy to see that the manipulation and gaming of the system has gotten out of hand and the changes and extensions being made do nothing, except let large companies keep some of the most classic properties legally tied up in disputes and out of the public domain. 

Currently, and consider this paraphrasing, Copyright protection covers the life of the artist plus 70 years. 

So, if you create a character, you can protect your copyright for your lifetime and your descendants/beneficiaries can continue to profit from your creation for 70 years after your death, after that property enters the public domain and essentially becomes a community property of society for anyone to use as they see fit. 

The complication comes in when large corporations steal, claim, purchase or employ for hire to acquire intellectual properties. Corporate law is an ugly fucking hideous beast, as discussed in my previous blog about corporate law. 

When a corporation is now considered a person with rights (look it up), then when is the person that is the corporation considered dead? Do they have to go bankrupt? Does that count? What if they restructure? What if they liquidate and sell property rights to another large corporation? Does the 70 year count start over again? And what if the company is stable and never goes out of business? If they are considered a person, then are their intellectual properties protected forever while other properties created by actual people are not?

Despite how you feel about it, the hypocrisy of entertainment giants such as Disney, who built an empire on public domain properties and refuse to let the few original properties created by their founder enter the public domain, is glaring. 

I'm all for protecting copyright for idea originators and creators who actually do the work, but it's become fairly blatant that the laws as they exist favor those gold hording dragons of the corporate world. 

The first thing that needs to change, in my opinion, is that a corporate business entity should not be able to hold intellectual property in perpetuity. Ideally, I'd love to see the Copyright law changed so that an original creator can not relinquish or sell away the full rights of any intellectual property they create. The only exception should be if they want to relinquish Copyright early and donate the property to the public domain. Now, you can currently donate any original creation to the public domain, but the best properties in the world are already being tied up and held hostage by large entertainment companies. What I'd like to see is a drastic change or abolishment of the work-for-hire agreement that requires artists and creators to relinquish ownership and copyrights to the client. I'd like to see some sort of reform where corporate business entities are not considered people or authors and that they always have to license properties from the original creator, with rights reversing back to the creator when the agreement expires.

A simple change like this would put power and prosperity back into the hands of artists and creators.

Corporations aren't hurting, and they are not being hard-done-by They are also playing a lot of games that are dishonest and keep ideas out of the public domain. One such trick is to register a Trademark on a character that should no longer be protected. DC Comics is a great example of this. The Captain Marvel/Shazam character, originally published by Fawcett Comics, should have been in the public domain and technically is, but thanks to corporate legal machinations, is next to impossible to use. As long as there is no direct conflict with a previous registered Trademark, anyone can register one. It takes someone with deep pockets that wants to challenge it to have the trademark declared invalid, and there aren't many people out there with the budget to fight Warner Bros. and AT&T, DC's parent company. So they might not technically have copyright, but thanks to trademarks on the name and logo of SHAZAM! and a legal agreement with Marvel Comics to share the Captain Marvel name, if you do get away with using the character in your own book, the name of the character cannot appear on the cover. Batman and Superman are not far off from being in the same situation. 

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that protection for life plus 70 years is excessive. Previously the limit was 50 years and I feel that is excessive too. I think anything longer than 30 years is unreasonable. The whole excuse for the formula is life + X years is based on the idea of providing benefit for your loved ones and descendants with your original idea. It's a great thought, but if you are going to build a fortune on your own ideas to secure the future of your loved ones, you should do it while you are alive and leave it in your will. It's great to set your kids up with something that helps them be financially secure, but they should also have to work too. This delusional idea that is promoted by fiction that someone should be able to create one character and that all their subsequent generations should then be able to live a life of idle luxury is ridiculous. 

To be honest, I'd be fine if there was no protection after death. If you have a kid that wants to live easy by profiting off of your reputation, they should do it by following in your footsteps and create their own professional quality work and capitalize on the family name to get a foot in the door, not just live off the fat of your creations.

Why is the protection term for life? Lobbyists will tell you that it is to protect the rights and profitability for individual creators, which is a load of crap. They are protecting the interests of Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, and so on. I'd be fine of the total protection lasted 30-50 years. To be quite honest, if you have a million dollar idea, you should be able to make whatever money you are going to make on it in that time period. If you don't, you didn't try hard enough or the idea wasn't worth a million bucks. 

If I create a property that has any potential and I haven't done anything with it in 30-50 years, I'm more than happy to release it to public domain and let other people try to make something with it. I'd love to see how other creators interpret my ideas, as long as they are public domain. In fact, I am more than happy to release some of my properties into public domain and intend to take part in public domain day, January 1st, every year by donating something to public domain. 

Let's be real. The establishment wants you to be afraid of someone else profiting from your idea, so they hype it up, hire copyright lobbyists to change laws and convince the public that it's good for them, and you feel nice and protected while you clutch your idea to your chest only to discover that you'd spent decades smothering them and they will never reach the heights they could have if you let them go. 

Honestly, if I create something and it doesn't seem to be profitable within a few years, why not release it to the public domain and see if someone else can build on it or do better. And if so, kudos to them! As long as I'm credited as the creator. that's really all I need or deserve. 

In fact, there is nothing stopping anyone from using an existing public domain character or creating a character, releasing it to public domain, and still creating the best work you can with the idea and profiting from it. 

Interestingly, there is a benchmark where a brand can become so well known and synonymous with a product that a Trademark can be declared void and the brand name considered part of the public lexicon. Example of those that have been or close to have been becoming public terms are thing like, Kleenex, Vaseline and Javex. I feel the same should be done for characters that have become part of human culture and lexicon such as Superman and Batman. 

I sincerely hope that this reaches enough like-minded people that we can all work together and push for change that protects people, not profits.

Also, here's some art I made!:


Thanks for reading,

Mike