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Re: [dvd-discuss] Petition for rational copyright law

Wendy Seltzer wrote:
> At 20:38 -0400 6/3/03, Jim Bauer wrote:
> >I have trouble seeing how this will work.  Of course, I have
> >trouble seeing how the current system works too.
> So movement from very broken to slightly-less broken is progress.

This is more than slightly less broken IMHO.  Three problems (at least)
are actually solved by this proposal

* Copyright status determination
* Copyright hoarding
* Copyright abandonment.  

There are improvements I'd like to see

* Fees based on class of works:
* Earlier renewal times, progressive fees:
* Abandonment Registry and Rights Foreclosure for abandoned works:

but more on that below.

Problems the proposal solves:

Copyright Status Determination:

For works over 50 years old, these would have an easily definable
status.  No more wondering when the artist died (young like Glenn
Miller, or old like Benny Goodman).  If the work is older than 50 years,
just check the registry, period.  As for searchability, a copyright
registry number (like a patent number) would help greatly.  These (like
IP addresses) could even be assigned in blocks to large rights holders.

Copyright Hoarding:

Currently there is no motivation to release any work early to the public
domain -- even when the work is out of print (as it is not profitable
enough).  With even a nominal rate, hoarding becomes a
return-on-investment proposition.  I think $1 may be too low a fee but
it is a non-zero number.  Any non-zero cost, multiplied by the large
number of rights held by publishers, does result in the need to either
release works from copyright, or keep them in print to pay their own
freight.  So either we get more works in print, or more in the public
domain.  In either case, the result is less copyright hoarding.


Works are sometimes abandoned. No one has any commercial interest in
them.  However, with the current long terms, the work also unavailable
to the public until the end of the copyright term.  A renewal
requirement means that abandoned works lapse at the renewal requirement
date.  In the case of the current proposal that is roughly in half the
time of the current system.  That is a major improvement.  Shorter
"first renewal" time lines would be better, but half is a very good

Improvements to this idea I'd like to see:

Fees based on class of works:

I would like to see a different fees for different classes of works. 
The fee could be tied to the mandatory licensing terms -- if any. 
Clearly the renewal fee for an individual photograph or poem shouldn't
be the same as for a novel or feature-length film.  Somehow the renewal
fee needs to be proportional to the nominal value for an example of a
class of work.  Charging a photographer for 7 photographs the same
amount as a studio for "Land Before Time" I-VII seems to violate
fairness, and acts to support "major media" over individual artists.

Earlier renewal times, progressive fees:

Also, I think the starting term for registration and renewal should be
earlier (20-30 years), and progressive.  The earlier term might be
contingent on "in-print" vs. "out-of-print" or "abandonment" status. 
Annual increases in the registration fee would also be helpful.  This
causes the rights holder to constantly cull "less commercially viable"
works over the N->95 or Life+N term.

Abandonment Registry and Rights Foreclosure for abandoned works:

Finally, "abandonment" needs to accelerate the registration
requirement.  There should be a public registry of "abandonment" Public
Notices.  These should of of two types.  First there should be
"Declaration of abandonment" notices which would declare works to be in
the public domain.  Tax incentives for voluntary abandonment could be
provided (diminishing to zero as the renewal fee year approaches). 
Second, there should be "Notice of Rights Foreclosure" where individual
could file (under penalty for false filings of course) declarations that
a given work has been abandoned. (Is out of print for N years, no rights
holder or successor exists or can be determined... IANAL (L ==
legislator in this context).  After a "notice period" of 1 year the work
would be declared abandoned.

The "Notice" provision would create a whole new industry of abandoned
works finders (for commercial enterprises who want to exploit those
works) and right holder finders (who would search for the rights holder
of a "Notice" pending work and (for a modest fee) let them know they are
about to lose a work.