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[dvd-discuss] El Dread

Mr. Greene,

Your recent article "Some Truth about Copyright" seemed a jolting deviation
from your usual insightful offerings. You make many assertions which just don't
square with the facts, especially in your attack on "El Dread"

You wrote: "But that hardly means that copyright is a good thing only for
special interests and a generally bad thing for the public, which seems to be
the assumption on which the Eldred crusade is based."

That is not at all what Eldred is based on. His argument is that "Limited
Times" means that there must be an end date. The public grants a monopoly,
which is not a normal thing for them to do. They do this with the expectation
that that monopoly must come to an end. As Justice Scalia put it "limited time
doesn't mean anything unless it means, once you have established the limit for
works that have been created under that limit, that's the end". 

If, before the limited time, the author can profit, great. If not, that's a
bummer for the author, but it is of no legal importance: the public grants
copyright FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT, NOT THE AUTHORS. The Supreme Court has
repeated this in nearly every copyright case for the last 100 years.

You wrote: [T]he chief assumption of the Eldred crusade is that by drawing
works back into the public domain sooner we will foster creative output.

Sooner? The issue is whether it will happen at all. Allowing the power to
repeatedly extend existing works allows the power to NEVER draw work into the
public domain. Eldred specifically disclaims to attack copyright durations for
future work and instead only questions whether any works will EVER enter the
public domain if retroactive extension is allowed.

You wrote: There are two basic mechanisms here. First, works in the public
domain can be used by others to create derivative works. Second, by giving an
author a long copyright from which to profit we take away his incentive to
write more.

The first reason is undeniable true. Disney's Cinderalla, Snow White, Pinochio,
etc... come to mind. The second argument was not made because it is nonsense.
You are very unlikely to be creating any works in the period 50 years after
your death and 70 years after your death. In fact the mere fact that you would
offer that explaination shows that you haven't really come to grips with the
reality of how long copyright really does last. 

You wrote: Were it [Graves' memoir] not still under copyright, it might not be
available except on the Net.

Huh? There are lots of public domain works that are available in book form. In
fact, it is more likely that it *would* be available in book form because there
would be no royalties and exclusivity, so any publisher who could do it
profitably would be able to. The exact opposite of what you assert is true:
many copyright works fall out of publication because the single source who has
the rights doesn't care. Many of the works Eldred might publish are currently
out of print.

You wrote: The problem is that Eldred simply doesn't understand how publishing

Eldred is a publisher. He understands how it does work and he understands how
it *should* work to maximize public benefit, which is not to have perpetual
monopolies on works.

You wrote: [H]e doesn't know, or care, that print-on-demand books earn nothing
for the author.

Again, the author is dead in the range between life+50 and life+70. There is no
author. This is about Disney getting a government granted monopoly on Mickey
Mouse. Will it last forever, or will it be for a "limited" time?

You wrote: Indeed, most authors earn precious little as it is.

The Consitution prioritizes for copyright are 1) Public 2) Authors in that
order. Yet the big publishers profit handsomely at the expense of 1 and 2. And
what is publishing in the technology age? Mostly waste. Eliminate the middle
man and the producer and consumer will both reap the reward.

You wrote: The publisher has done a bit of a cost analysis. He's going to print
30,000 copies of your magnum opus and he reckons he'll sell 20,000. [etc...]

The author's royalties are one of the costs your beloved publishers try to
minimize. But aside from that, you are stuck in the 1950's model. Batch runs
pushing product to point of sale along a complex distribution path is just so
out of synch with Just-In-Time delivery and Demand-Flow concepts of the modern
business. **Every** other industry has been forced by the market to throw those
ideas out. Mostly it happened in the 1980's, so its old news by now. Publishers
are granted a government monopoly, so they are much better at lobbying and
litigating than eliminating waste and innovating. In a waste free system, the
author would be the publisher.

You wrote: The fact that you made decent money the first time around didn't
tempt you to sit on your ass and suck your thumb as the Eldred crusaders
pretend, but in fact inspired you to spend more time producing good copy
because now you know there's money to be made.

How do you sit on your ass and suck your thumb when you've been dead for 50
years? You just don't get it.

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