Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 10th Apr 2010 21:19 UTC
Legal Happy birthday to you... Happy birthday to you... Happy birthday dear copyright law... Yeah, it's April 10, the birthday of copyright (thanks, Arnoud). In 1710, 300 years ago, England enacted the very first copyright law, cutely named the Statute of Anne, after then-reigning Queen Anne. When reading about those early days of copyright, one can't help but hope we will return to those days - the Statute of Anne has little to nothing to do with modern copyright.
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Great article, but...
by Moochman on Sat 10th Apr 2010 22:44 UTC
Moochman
Member since:
2005-07-06

The Statute of Anne encompassed that idea, but added something unique, something which is by far no longer a primary goal of modern copyright law: public access to books and works. "The Encouragement of Learning" isn't part of the law's title for nothing; under the Statute of Anne, books and works did not only have to be entered into the Stationer's Company's registry, but copies also had to be deposited at the King's Library, and the libraries of Oxford and Cambridge.


That's exactly what the Library of Congress continues to do today, amazingly enough. Every copyrighted (under U.S. law) work ever written resides there. (Or at least as near as they can get; obviously they can't be sure of getting every web page ever written despite the implicit copyright that U.S. law ascribes to it.)

Overall though great article, I couldn't agree with you more that copyright law has become a distorted mutant of its former self. When oh when will the reform finally come? I would have hoped that Obama would do something, but judging by the ACTA fiasco I'm no longer getting my hopes up....

Edited 2010-04-10 22:44 UTC

Reply Score: 7

RE: Great article, but...
by Almafeta on Sun 11th Apr 2010 02:03 UTC in reply to "Great article, but..."
Almafeta Member since:
2007-02-22

That's exactly what the Library of Congress continues to do today, amazingly enough. Every copyrighted (under U.S. law) work ever written resides there.


That's in error. From the LoC website, http://www.loc.gov/about/faqs.html :

"Does the Library have a copy of every book published in the United States? No, but it does have more than 33 million books and printed materials, as well as more than 111 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, and other special collections."

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Great article, but...
by Moochman on Sun 11th Apr 2010 14:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Great article, but..."
Moochman Member since:
2005-07-06

"Does the Library have a copy of every book published in the United States? No, but it does have more than 33 million books and printed materials, as well as more than 111 million maps, manuscripts, photographs, films, audio and video recordings, prints and drawings, and other special collections."


Hmm, interesting. I just got my facts from what a tourguide at the LoC told me; I guess he was exaggerating and/or I misinterpreted. Needless to say, they've got pretty good coverage. AFAIR every book I've ever bought (published in America) has had an LoC number listed on the copyright page.

Edited 2010-04-11 14:08 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Great article, but...
by holmja on Sun 11th Apr 2010 15:24 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Great article, but..."
holmja Member since:
2009-06-09

The LoC creates the cataloging in publication record for books published in the US, that doesn't necessarily mean they add those books to their collection.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Great article, but...
by Timmmm on Mon 12th Apr 2010 13:42 UTC in reply to "Great article, but..."
Timmmm Member since:
2006-07-25

That's exactly what the Library of Congress continues to do today, amazingly enough.


Oxford and Cambridge libraries do too. But they aren't open to the public - I don't think their purpose is quite what Thom was implying.

Reply Score: 2

High hopes
by Punktyras on Sat 10th Apr 2010 22:50 UTC
Punktyras
Member since:
2006-01-07

The terms of the Statue of Anne were relatively reasonable.
Statue -> Statute

Spreading of printing was the reason to invent copyright. I do hope invention of internet will serve eventualy as the reason of its demise. At least in so badly (de-)formed shape we see today.

Reply Score: 4

Ah, yes.
by Almafeta on Sun 11th Apr 2010 02:01 UTC
Almafeta
Member since:
2007-02-22

1610, when copyright was not defended as an innate human right but was only available to the rich, required a bureaucracy to obtain, empowered large IP monopolies, and mandated you relinquish all rights to your work in the time it took the average author to be discovered (even less, since in those days and social networks were smaller - an equivalent to 14 years in modern time would be about two weeks).

The Statue of Anne was a very reasonable law, indeed. Truly, those were more enlightened times.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Ah, yes.
by orestes on Sun 11th Apr 2010 06:03 UTC in reply to "Ah, yes."
orestes Member since:
2005-07-06

Sort of fitting, since the ability to read in and of itself was only available to the rich and the clergy for the most part

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Ah, yes.
by unclefester on Tue 13th Apr 2010 03:42 UTC in reply to "RE: Ah, yes."
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

By 1710 basic literacy was very widespread in Britain. In Scotland all children had recieved free compulsory education since about 1600. Robert Burns the most famous Scottish poet was a farm labourer.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Sun 11th Apr 2010 06:29 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

You are aware Thom that the happy birthday song is copyrighted? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Birthday_to_You

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment by Kroc
by Spinfusor on Sun 11th Apr 2010 15:40 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
Spinfusor Member since:
2007-01-11

It's copyrighted, but the copyright would be invalidated if anyone bothered to challenge it in court.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by Angel Blue01 on Mon 12th Apr 2010 00:03 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
Angel Blue01 Member since:
2006-11-01

Then let's challenge it!

Reply Score: 1

Nothing happy about it
by bile on Sun 11th Apr 2010 06:29 UTC
bile
Member since:
2005-07-08

Copyright is past its prime and should let go of life. Government enforced intellectual monopolies are not necessary for innovation and fundamentally infringes on the property rights of others.

http://goo.gl/4iIv
http://goo.gl/8uUd
http://goo.gl/u2Mo
http://goo.gl/8TqK

Reply Score: 1

Comment by frood
by frood on Sun 11th Apr 2010 08:30 UTC
frood
Member since:
2005-07-06

copyright today is about profit, and profit alone.

Surely it's for more than that. I mean, without it, I can just copy all your articles, bind them together, and sell them. Saying I wrote them.

Reply Score: 2

Rant
by mikeinohio on Sun 11th Apr 2010 09:15 UTC
mikeinohio
Member since:
2010-02-21

I was going to go on a rant about modern copyright and patent laws. From what the other posters have written, I would be preaching to the choir.

It would be interesting to see an article on OSNews covering the metamorphosis of patent law. That started as a good faith attempt on the part of lawmakers to balance the inventor's need for return on investment and the public's need for access to new technology.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by IrDA
by IrDA on Sun 11th Apr 2010 11:21 UTC
IrDA
Member since:
2010-01-31

A very nice article indeed from Thom. Well done mate, keep up the good content in OSnews.

Reply Score: 3

What would people have instead of patents?
by rom508 on Sun 11th Apr 2010 12:52 UTC
rom508
Member since:
2007-04-20

I think in broad terms, Copyright, IP (Intellectual Property) and Patents assert the rights of ownership on something you created. The problems are usually to what extent those rights are asserted.

You need ownership and you need to protect it. You "own" the hours you spend at work, hence you get paid for it (and not someone else). You own the property at your house, hence it is illegal for someone to just come in and take it. The same principle applies to software and other inventions. The time, money and effort you put into developing your invention makes you the owner of that invention. With software it is hard to create something, i.e. the effort needed to create a complicated operating system, or banking software can be very high. At the same time, it is very easy for someone to copy your invention (I'm talking about making physical copies of bits and bytes, not about copying ideas). The law should protect you - the inventor/developer from someone copying your work with minimal effort and selling it, thus depriving you of the income.

What I personally have a problem with is when the inventors (or companies they work for) are given too much ownership over something. As we humans evolve, we constantly invent more complex ways of interfacing with the environment around us. Hardware and software are prime examples of that. Increasingly, people seek to own any silly idea that they can come up with and they try to exert this ownership via patents. Part of the reason why the can do it, is because the inventions prior to them (on which their patented ideas rely on) have not been patented themselves. Thinks like mathematics, networking protocols, the idea of the Internet, etc. Do you really want to live in a world where you can't create anything new unless you pay everyone their patent fees. Imagine paying people who invented TCP/IP every time you use a web browser or check your email.

This will be a major issue, until people globally agree on a fair and reasonable system to give people ownership over their inventions, but at the same time to give everybody else the freedom to innovate and build upon the previous ideas. Current patent systems as they exist in various countries give too much monopoly over the ideas that should not be patentable in the first place.

Reply Score: 4

Karitku Member since:
2006-01-12

The problem isn't that the whole concept of patents and copyrights are wrong but details. Actually originally patents and copyrights where made to protect the small person, not corporates, and they still work as such but there is questions that need to be dealt properly. How long does patents and copyrights last? Should they be monopolistic or always licensensable? How broad can they be? What can be patented or copyrighted? We work on global markets yet patents and copyrights aren't, why?

Reply Score: 4

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

How long does patents and copyrights last? Should they be monopolistic or always licensensable? How broad can they be? What can be patented or copyrighted? We work on global markets yet patents and copyrights aren't, why?


1) A patent application should always be accompanied by a fully working prototype. Ideas are not patentable; working products are. A drawing is not a product. A description is not a product. If you want to patent a wireless blowjob dispenser, you better show us a working prototype.

2) A patent term should be no longer than 7 years. If you can't market an idea and profit from it within seven years, then the idea is probably a dud anyway, or you are bad salesman. Let someone else take a stab at it. This also ensure that people do not coast endlessly off one invention, stifling innovation; a short patent term forces people to come up with new things to ensure revenue streams.

3) A patent should only be held by people (not companies).

4) Tied to that: patents should be non-transferable, and tied to the original inventor(s). This prevents patent hoarding and patent trolling. How can you treat an idea in your brain as something tangible? It's fcuking retarded.

5) Software cannot be patented. Software is already protected by copyright.

Just some random musings. This isn't rocket science, politicians. Any retard can come up with a more effective patent system.

Reply Score: 5

leech Member since:
2006-01-10

Seriously, in all the years that I've been reading OSNews, this is the best comment I've ever seen by you.

Wireless blowjob dispenser indeed!

By the way, I recently learned that pharmaceutical companies can renew their patent if they start testing a medication on a new group!

The medication called Serequel was supposed to run out of it's patent, but it was renewed because they are now testing to see whether or not it helps children. So that means no generic!

When I found that out, I was seriously pissed off. Only in the pharmaceutical industry can they do that (as far as I can tell) Talk about bullshit.

Reply Score: 2

sorpigal Member since:
2005-11-02

3) A patent should only be held by people (not companies).


I agree, first of all, but I have given this some thought and I don't see much benefit of making this a requirement. It would be extremely risky if patents were non-transferable and if they were transferable it would lead to a "patent holder" job title--someone in whose name the patents are held, which changes when he leaves the company.

4) Tied to that: patents should be non-transferable, and tied to the original inventor(s). This prevents patent hoarding and patent trolling. How can you treat an idea in your brain as something tangible? It's fucking retarded.


And this relates to the previous. There are people who invent things but would never be interested in using them. The genius in the lab may invent a fantastic new process for building widgets every month or so; he should have the right to sell each invention to a company (or employee of a company) so that he can keep on inventing things and not need to worry about building/marketing/selling/etc.

I am firmly against software patents and for extremely short patent terms, etc., but I must warn you that ideas like this are not as obviously correct as first blush might make them appear.

I have no good answers, but I have some ideas. Perhaps a transferred patent is non-renewable and a non-transferred patent may be renewed once. Perhaps a transferred patent loses some of its duration on each transfer (say, two years) thus reducing the value of buying them.

Reply Score: 2

boldingd Member since:
2009-02-19

I would also agree that a fix for the patent system would be more about the first two points, and less about the latter two. The really big problems with the patent system as it exist now, to my mind, are the ridiculously long terms of modern patents and copyrights -- to the point that it's starting to look like a copyright can be strung out indefinitely with a little effort -- and the enormously high potential damages for violating a patent or copyright. And, well, as a third point, that you can patent any damned thing, including earth-shakingly obvious "inventions."

Reply Score: 2

Feanor Member since:
2006-12-21

There are people who invent things but would never be interested in using them. The genius in the lab may invent a fantastic new process for building widgets every month or so; he should have the right to sell each invention to a company (or employee of a company) so that he can keep on inventing things and not need to worry about building/marketing/selling/etc.


That is what a patent license is for. The Inventor can license his patent to a company or individual. This allows the Inventor to focus on inventing while still making a profit from the license, while at the same time keeping the patent under his name.

Reply Score: 1

Oh, the irony
by kiddo on Sun 11th Apr 2010 21:40 UTC
kiddo
Member since:
2005-07-23

Thanks Thom for a very well written and insightful historical perspective. I love it.

Now, I just wanted to highlight a delicious irony that jumped at me when I looked at the bottom of the page in the "printable version":

© 2007 OSNews LLC 1997-2010. All Rights Reserved. OSNews and the OSNews logo are trademarks of OSNews.
All trademarks, icons, and logos shown or mentioned in this web site are the property of their respective owners.
Reproduction of OSNews stories is permitted only with explicit authorization from OSNews. Reproductions must be properly credited.


(emphasis mine)

Maybe it's time to evaluate copyleft licenses for OSNews contents? I'm just sayin' ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Oh, the irony
by ozonehole on Sun 11th Apr 2010 23:05 UTC in reply to "Oh, the irony"
ozonehole Member since:
2006-01-07

I don't believe Thom said he opposed copyright. Just that the original copyright law (which ran for a maximum of 28 years) was vastly superior to what we have now (his exact words being "one can't help but hope we will return to those days").

The big problem with modern copyright law is that it simply runs for too long, and keeps getting longer, largely thanks to lobbying by Disney to protect its Micky Mouse franchise. It's ridiculous that photos taken during the great depression of the 1930s are still "protected" by copyright.

Edited 2010-04-11 23:14 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Oh, the irony
by Cody Evans on Mon 12th Apr 2010 00:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Oh, the irony"
Cody Evans Member since:
2009-08-14

Even earlier than the 30's actually, no copyright has entered public domain since 1923.

http://books.google.com/books?id=tRwsKG2LBGkC&printsec=frontcover&d...

< OFFTOPIC>
Posting this from a netbook running ChromeOS ;)
< /OFFTOPIC>

Reply Score: 1

What about 100 years ago?
by Kuukunen on Mon 12th Apr 2010 18:54 UTC
Kuukunen
Member since:
2010-03-28

This seems like a good time to read about Copyrights 100 years ago.

http://www.thepublicdomain.org/2009/07/17/were-we-smarter-100-years...

Reply Score: 1

Americans got ripped off again
by jefro on Mon 12th Apr 2010 19:38 UTC
jefro
Member since:
2007-04-13

Copyright was supposed to have the Nation protect works for a limited time after which they would be part of the public domain. Sadly copyright's are being protected at taxpayer expense for far too long and works are not being returned to the taxpayers as it was intended. Corporate greed by some big names did it. I don't think it is a mouse but a rat!

Reply Score: 1