Dr. Seuss as a policy issue
To talk about the meta issue for a second—the reaction to Matt's shit-stirring—I've been really dismayed at how many people are *certain* that shortening copyright terms is heartless, doesn't want creatives to get paid, etc. I'm almost 40 and all throughout the early 2000s it was widely talked about how regressive long copyrights were, how they made it impossible for, say, documentary filmmakers who want to include music that was playing in the background when they shot their footage, etc. And yet not only was shortening copyright attacked by someone like N.K. Jemisin—who published her first book in 2010 so maybe just didn't have to give the subject much thought before then—but by David Simon, who was making books and TV shows well before the Mickey Mouse Act and whose works are all about how systems get manipulated by the rich and powerful at the expense of the little guy! Status quo bias is just such a bummer, because it drives home how hard it is to make change even among people who consider themselves progressive.
There was in fact a legal challenge by the Holmes estate over Enola Holmes. The earliest Holmes stories are in the public domain but not the latest ones. The estate said that since Enola Holmes portrayed Sherlock as empathetic, a trait Conan Doyle added later in the series, then any empathetic emotions by Sherlock in Enola Holmes was a copyright violation. It appears this was settled by Netflix out of court. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/dec/22/lawsuit-copyright-warmer-sherlock-holmes-dismissed-enola-holmes
As a fellow veteran of the 1998 copyright wars, I cannot express how goddamn dispiriting it is to see the entire debate replayed in The Discourse at twitter speed, and to watch otherwise intelligent young people to not only take what would have been, circa-1998, considered reducto-ad-absurdem bad faith caricatures of the copyright maximalist position, but to describe them not even as a _position_ (ie: one of multiple possible competing alternatives) but as some sort of statement of natural law.
The bad guys won the copyright argument, and now we live in a world where it seems to be absurd to even consider an alternative approach. And statistically every last one of these idiots stumping for eternal copyright protection will have spent $100 or more in the last year (well, maybe not 2020) on entertainments that exist because of corporations using copyright law to commit wholesale larceny against a small group of prewar Jewish comic book authors, or on a form of music (hip-hop) that would never have been allowed to _exist_ had our current copyright regime been in place in 1975.
Seeing so many (very successful) authors so blatantly trying to make The Progressive Take the one that exactly served their obvious self-interests to response to your tweet would have been hilarious if they weren't so successful in doing so. Progressivism means protecting the wealth-generation abilities of Walt Disney, famously-racist old dead guy, for the Walt Disney Company ($DIS)! Boggles the mind. Beyond that, the last time I remember seeing that crowd get mad was at the Internet Archive, possible the most selfless organization on the internet, for having the gall to freely loan scanned copies of old books during the early days of the pandemic. Heroic acts of punching down like that make me wish we had a proper Pirate Party like they do in the Europe.
I'm just glad to see that scandals now get the "-ghazi" treatment instead of the "-gate" attachment. Gate had become stale and predictable, stifling the creativity of the country. This is progress.
A decade ago on the internet, this would have been the majority take, completely uncontroversial. I’m shocked at how much that’s changed. I had a quasi-prominent author on Twitter accuse me of wanting writers to be unable to eat just because I suggested that maybe “Life + 70” was a little bit too long! It’s wild.
Copyright is a government-created, government-regulated monopoly. Government sets the cost (duration), and the public pays the price. As such, the cost should be as low as possible but just high enough to get the job done.
Its like when the government would offer a bounty for anyone to do a job. As long as someone does the job, there is no reason to set the bounty higher.
Mark Twain wrote most of his novels under a 42 year copyright. He made a lot of money with a 42 year term. And he is considered a great american author and his works are some of the greatest american novels. Clearly 42 year terms was enough to entice great authors to write great works.
A more in depth examination of the copyright as bounty here. Click on the html link to read for free.
As someone who remembers the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, when Congress ripped 20 years of public domain away at the behest of corporate lobbyist, I am left with a lifelong disgust for copyright maximalist and would be happy to revert it to 28 years with registration required.
No one has ever explained why granting 20 years of extended copyright retroactively promotes people to be creative. I'm no expert on entropy, but since we remember the past and not the future, it seems to me that extending copyright in 1998 to works written before 1998 does nothing but shaft the public.
I mean, from when I was 19 to 39 literally not a damn thing entered the public domain.
Side note: Mein Kampf indeed was under copyright (German law is death plus 70 years) until fairly recently, held by the Bavarian state which banned all publications - severely hampering the publication of new historic commentary on the complete work in Germany.
Sherlock Holmes is free and excellent, and people should know about Standard eBooks, who collectively provide many, high-quality, out-of-copyright books for free, including Holmes: https://standardebooks.org/ebooks/arthur-conan-doyle/the-adventures-of-sherlock-holmes
According to the founders, copyright law exists only as an incentive to get the work created. It was not created because the founders felt that authors have a natural right to be remunerated for the work out of some sense of fairness. So we're basically just talking about a utilitarian "trade" between creators and society. That's it. No duty to creators. No need for the system to be "fair" to creators.
So that brings us to the question of how much of an incentive is needed to get creators and inventors to do their thing. For this, we can draw from a tool from finance called Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analysis.
This tried and true financial tool is widely used by investors to decide whether it's wise to invest some amount of dollars today in return for some series of risky returns to be received in the future. The trick with DCF is that dollars received after 25 or 30 years have almost zero value today because they are so heavily discounted by uncertainty of time.
In other words, if you're thinking about writing a book and deciding whether it's worth it, you'll weigh the dollars you'd earn for the first 10-20 years very heavily in your decision, but will almost completely discount or ignore the possibility of earning dollars after 20 years. Potential earnings that are so far away and uncertain wouldn't factor at all into your decision to write a book or do something else with your time.
To me, this is the most compelling reason to limit copyright law to a timeframe in the 20-30 year range. This preserves 99% of the incentive to create great works while giving the public the benefit of any bonus residual value that remains after the term expires.
My kids will live off Full House
Imagine the uproar if Congress tried to retroactively extend patent protection for pharmaceuticals, like it did with copyright. I don't recall the details but there were some challenges to the constitutionality of retroactive extensions of IP, since heaping more rewards on an already-created work doesn't promote progress of science or arts.
I'm a classical musician, and in our world, it is still very much the common belief that copyright law is crazy and creativity-stifling, and everyone despises Disney and Sonny Bono.
Music publishers are absolutely horrible companies that only exist because of their monopoly interests. They charge outrageous fees for performances of works within copyright and this adds to the problem of our art form being viewed as stodgy, old, and white.
Let's say you're a start-up chamber orchestra and you want to program a piece by a living Latina composer, but her publisher is going to charge you $800 / performance. You might not expect to break even on that. If you could, instead, program a Mozart symphony which is FREE, it's easy to see why people default to the canon.
Why limit it to intellectual property? IIRC in Singapore almost all the real estate is owned by the government and citizens can purchase 99 year leases. In a sense real property is treated like intellectual property in that ownership of both has a finite life.
The most upsetting thing to me is, truly, the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch. Can we cancel that?