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How long should copyrights last?

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Copyrights  

39 members have voted

  1. 1. How long should copyrights last before becomng public domain?

    • There should be no copyrights. Information should be free!
      0
    • 1 Year
      0
    • 5 Years
      1
    • 10 Years
      2
    • 25 Years
      4
    • 50 Years
      3
    • 75 Years
      3
    • 100 Years.
      2
    • Copyrights are property just like anything else. They should never expire!
      14


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Lately I have been writing a mock constitution that I am basing on Objectivist ideas(note: I do not consider myself an Objectvist but instead a market liberal) and I am writing a rough outline of a legal code. I have gotten to the part on intellectual property rights and am totally stumped. What are your thoughts on copyrights and their duration?

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Haha no joke,

I am sitting in Econ class right now listening to a guest lecturer talk about Economics of Patent and Copyrights and how long they should last, citing Eldred v. Ashcroft, CTEA, etc, etc. Let me finish the lecture and I'll get back to you :confused:

Edited by softwareNerd
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My initial thought process in trying to put a finger on how long intellectual copyright should last is thinking about tangible property as opposed to intellectual property. Obviously, ownership of land or objects is indefinite, or I more rightly should be. I can't however see on the surface why this shouldn't be the case with intellectual property. But, as I think about the progression of time in relation to property I begin to see a bit of a divide between the two types of property, tangible/intangible.

If I own a plot of land, it is a clearly marked, tangible and finite object. As time goes by in terms of lifetimes the nature of that tangible property essentially stays the same. Any person to infringe on said property does so in a definite way. i.e. "Get off my property."

My head starts spinning when I try to apply the same thought process to intellectual property. If I invent something, write something, and literally conceive of anything that is unique, for that moment and for as long as I keep it to myself, it is mine just as much as a plot of land that I own. But considering that, for the most part, I cannot reap any tangible rewards in a market by just keeping an idea to myself, I have to share and divulge said ideas inasmuch as I want to trade it for value. A contract governing that trade can be any legal contract and as binding or liberal as the trade requires and as long as both parties abide, said property remains as legally 'owned' as a plot of land; and any infringement of contract by either party is a legal matter.

It seems to me that any contract relating to intellectual property could be indefinite, and the legal use of said property could be governed into eternity. As long as an explicit licence is used. But since this is not the case today in terms of protecting intellectual property it seems that the law has put a compromise into the process by introducing a concept of a time limit on the ability to protect a piece of intellectual property.

So, I can't think of why there should even be a time limit on copyright if at every turn, the trade of intellectual property is governed by an explicit license; giving that property as definite limit as a plot of land. Can you?

I mean, I guess if some work or idea becomes so prominent in a group of people that one would not be justified in limiting all derivitive works or the simple use of the idea, because you can't control what people think.

Edited by Proverb
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I think a copyright assigned to a person should depend on the life of the author (as current copyrights are), and the poll seems to exclude that as well.

Lately I have been writing a mock constitution that I am basing on Objectivist ideas(note: I do not consider myself an Objectvist but instead a market liberal) and I am writing a rough outline of a legal code. I have gotten to the part on intellectual property rights and am totally stumped. What are your thoughts on copyrights and their duration?

I don't think a constitution should mention anything so specific as the length of copyrights. The U.S. Constitution does not either.

For that matter, the purpose of a constitution is to outline the basic framework of government, not provide a legal code. The constitution provides the limits on the powers of government, not their actual implementation.

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I think a copyright assigned to a person should depend on the life of the author (as current copyrights are), and the poll seems to exclude that as well.

I don't think a constitution should mention anything so specific as the length of copyrights. The U.S. Constitution does not either.

For that matter, the purpose of a constitution is to outline the basic framework of government, not provide a legal code. The constitution provides the limits on the powers of government, not their actual implementation.

My legal code is a separate document from my constitution. I am creating a "mock" nation if you will. I guess I should have clarified that a bit more.

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The optimal system is life plus 50-75 years. The possibility of eternal copyright isn't beyond consideration, but it carries with it significant burden of proof issues. The right to make a work into unowned non-property must exist; then if you make a claim that a work is your property, you must prove that it wasn't made public (i.e. that it is your property). The creator, at least, must also have the right to declare the liberation of the work at some period in the future (for example "50 years after my death"). When an estate is divided, the right to the work should go exclusively to one person, otherwise you will have to deal with the mess of contradictory ownership claims which cannot be tolerated in perpetuity. Current law requires copyright to be registered before a claim can be made, but AFAIK there is no requirement for traceability of rightsholders. The owners of the property must be easily knowable in advance (just as is the case with real property).

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The possibility of eternal copyright isn't beyond consideration, but it carries with it significant burden of proof issues.

Is it right?. I argue that it is, on principle. Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism.

The right to make a work into unowned non-property must exist; then if you make a claim that a work is your property, you must prove that it wasn't made public (i.e. that it is your property). The creator, at least, must also have the right to declare the liberation of the work at some period in the future (for example "50 years after my death"). When an estate is divided, the right to the work should go exclusively to one person, otherwise you will have to deal with the mess of contradictory ownership claims which cannot be tolerated in perpetuity. Current law requires copyright to be registered before a claim can be made, but AFAIK there is no requirement for traceability of rightsholders. The owners of the property must be easily knowable in advance (just as is the case with real property).

I agree with every single point you raised.

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Is it right?. I argue that it is, on principle. Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism.
That is complete nonsense. There are no principles, without "issues". Moral principles are not rationalistic religious decrees, they are based on what is necessary for man's survival qua man.
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That is complete nonsense. There are no principles, without "issues". Moral principles are not rationalistic religious decrees, they are based on what is necessary for man's survival qua man.

The principle "man has a right to his life" does not hinge on the issues "can there be a way to kill someone with electromagnetic waves and leave no trace on the body?", "how do you prove a murder in case of CO poisoning MO?" or any other issues one might raise about how to actually enforce the right within a legal system/police force. It is a direct consequence of man's nature.

Likewise, the right to property of the intellectual sort does not rest on the issues of how it should be documented, how difficult it would be to manage or whatnot.

Deciding on a principle based on the consequences of its aplication is Utilitarianism. "This is right because it works". Objectivism derives principles from axioms, identifications of facts of reality and deduction/induction. "This works because it is right".

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I thought I recall reading this in one of Rand's essays (I thought it was in The Virtue of Selfishness)? Doesn't she suggest a compromised between a) it's the property of its creator and b ) exclusive copyrights can inhibit further development/innovation in that field, where the compromise is a set arbitrary number of years that typically lasts the length of the author's life? (p.s. I accidentally voted 5 instead of 25 years).

Edited by Vetiver
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The principle "man has a right to his life" does not hinge on the issues "can there be a way to kill someone with electromagnetic waves and leave no trace on the body?", "how do you prove a murder in case of CO poisoning MO?" or any other issues one might raise about how to actually enforce the right within a legal system/police force.
I am now persuaded that you don't understand the nature of "principles" in an objective ethical theory. Out of curiosity, do you know what "rationalism" refers to and why Objectivism condemns is?
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Out of curiosity, do you know what "rationalism" refers to and why Objectivism condemns is?

Rationalism is argument ungrounded on reality, when the person arguing does not connect his thoughts to existence. Objectivism condemns it because man must know reality to be capable of action to further his life, and rationalistic "knowledge" is no guide to action since it does not have any ties to the real world.

An Objectivist argues:

Man has a right to life <- higher principle previously identified objectively

Man lives by producing the material values he requires <- identified fact, this grounds the argument in reality

Man has a right to keep the values he produces <- new principle

A rationalist argues:

Man was created for a purpose <- higher principle of any sort, not necessarily connected to any fact of existence

If man were meant to live without effort, he would have the capability to photosynthesize <- pseudo-deduction based on arbitrary assertions, unconnected to reality

Since man can't photosynthesize, he shouldnt live without effort thus he shouldn't steal <- new rationalistic principle

A Utilitarian argues:

If everyone were a thief, no one would produce anything and everyone would die <- conjecture about the consequence of a certain principle

People must not steal because if everyone did, life would be impossible <- new utilitarian principle

No, I'm not rationalistic.

Edited by mrocktor
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Rationalism is argument ungrounded on reality
So when you say "Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism", you must have meant something other than "Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism". No, wait, sorry, that would be ungrounded in reality, thus rationalistic of me. I have no idea how to integrate your statement "Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism" with your subsequent characterisation of rationalism. I would say that your characterisation of rationalism is acceptable, but not meritorious. The particular syllogisms that you offered are of no value to answering the question, but that's not what interests me the most. What I am concerned about is the idea that once you've personally identified a principle (presumably inductively), it goes into an impermeable stasis field. Thus the idea of "expanding knowledge context" would apparently not hold much sway over your thinking, given what you've said (here and recently elsewhere). Whereas, if you adhered to a reality-responsive epistemology, then bringing issues into the discussion is not rationality, it is realism, i.e. primacy of existence, AKA Objectivism.

Or, another way to put it is, what did you really mean to say, other that what you did say, in saying "Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism"?

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he particular syllogisms that you offered are of no value to answering the question, but that's not what interests me the most. What I am concerned about is the idea that once you've personally identified a principle (presumably inductively), it goes into an impermeable stasis field. Thus the idea of "expanding knowledge context" would apparently not hold much sway over your thinking, given what you've said (here and recently elsewhere).

Is it not true that property is property? Can there be some expanding knowledge context that would nullify in one particular case (copyright) the fact that when you produce something, it is your property, and it is always yours by right until you sell or give it away? (Forgive me if I am actually making the mistake you're accusing mrocktor of... I don't think I'm a rationalist though!)

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Yes, but it is also true that not-property isn't property.

OK, so if I write a novel, is that my property, or is that not my property, or what? (I would say it's my property, and that property is property regardless of whatever other contextual knowledge one has (i.e. that property rights may not be enforceable, is that the kind of thing you have in mind?), but I'd like to hear objections.)

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Or, another way to put it is, what did you really mean to say, other that what you did say, in saying "Bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism"?

I mean so say that "bringing any issues into the discussion at this point would be utilitarianism". Where "issues" are conjectures about the consequences of applying a given principle or about the difficulties in developing a legal framework consistent with the principle or, in other words, application.

A principle is derived from facts, not from conjecture or imagination. Out of curiosity, do you know what "utilitarianism" refers to and why Objectivism condemns is?

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Sorry, I forgot to include the possibly surprising answer, which is "no".

What the patent and copyright laws acknowledge is the paramount role of mental effort in the production of material values; these laws protect the mind's contribution in its purest form: the origination of an idea. The subject of patents and copyrights is intellectual property.

In the essay you recommended, Rand simply confirms what I knew to be true: the content of a novel I write is my intellectual property. (well, it should be, whether current laws guarantee it or not.)

Maybe you're trying to say "intellectual property" is not a further integration of "property," but I think it is, just as "stool" is a kind of "chair."

In the passage I pulled the quote from, Rand goes on to explain how intellectual property rights are not "granted" by the government, as a favor, but "secured." It seems that there ought to be intellectual property, just as I ought to have the right to my house on the prarie, even if there is no government; I will defend my house even if the Indians don't understand my property rights.

Rand goes on to say:

Since intelectual property rights cannot be exercised in perpetuity, the question of their time limit is an enormously complex issue...

This would suggest that while intellectual property ought to exist in perpetuity, we don't try to make that happen because it's just not feasible. Perhaps this is the further contextual evidence you were suggesting? Anyway, I don't think it's true that it's impossible to "exercise intellectual property rights in perpetuity." I don't know if she means it's impossible to enforce them, or that one can't exercise them after one dies. It seems to me that in the modern information age, these rights would be enforceable in perpetuity, and that one could pass the rights on after one's death, hence providing for their exercise in perpetuity. Could someone please clear this up (or any of my earlier assumptions, if the problem lies therein)?

I don't have the essay on me, I'm using the Lexicon, but I have read it before, and I don't believe it addresses these issues thoroughly.

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In the essay you recommended, Rand simply confirms what I knew to be true: the content of a novel I write is my intellectual property. (well, it should be, whether current laws guarantee it or not.)
The part that isn't contained in her essay is that this is not a contextless absolute. This is why a simple-minded "I wrote it, therefore I own it" principle is false. When you are hired as a professional, salaried writer, working for some company, then you do not own the essays that you create as their employee. The company does. At no point did you own the essay. You could quit your job beforehand and try to sell it to the company as a freelance contractor, but barring that, you do not own IP that you are hired to create.
This would suggest that while intellectual property ought to exist in perpetuity, we don't try to make that happen because it's just not feasible.
No, in fact what that asserts is that because it is not feasible, intellectual property ought not to exist in perpetuity.
Perhaps this is the further contextual evidence you were suggesting?
I don't know: when you say "this", I don't know what you mean. The question is whether you've identified the relevant fact that applies to intellectual property.

When you get the time, I would urge you to acquire and read her actual essay on the topic. It is important to understand the essential metaphysical difference between physical property and mental property, and what kinds of claims each notion of property makes. They are extremely different, and it take an impressive act of mental integration to detect the essential similarity that allows intellectual property and material property to be subsumed under a single concept. That's why I urge a serious reading of her essay, because it is quite good, in my opinion, and you shouldn't reject it without understanding it.

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