copyright died

I am not certain what the benefit is for society to go on supporting copyright the way it has been going. Copyright, and patent law, now collectively intellectual property rights, have gone badly wrong.

The legal instruments that originally protected peoples’ right to profit from their work, as an incentive to innovation were a great idea. My career was based on copyright, allowing me to sell and license the work I did. For many years, customers normally paid for a single-use of my artwork. If they wanted to reuse my work they needed to pay again for another use. If another customer wanted to use my work, I was free to profit from my right. That way I could earn a living.

Then contracts began to include boilerplate that meant, instead of paying for the right to use my artwork, customers were buying all the rights, transferred without limitation from me to them. As a contract stipulation such a provision undermined my right to profit from my work, or for that matter to use it at all. It has been more than a decade since I retained the ownership of any of my creative work. At the same time, the companies, mainly publishers, who purchased my work, enjoy intellectual property rights on work they never created.

Had I retained the copyright, it would have expired some decades after my death. However since in seven decades there will be no record of who originally created the work and owned the copyright, or when they died, it is hard to see how the corporation’s rights will ever expire.

My work is of no great cultural value, however it is important to note that since the USA increased the limit on copyright from 50 to 70 years, it is nearing two decades since any part of contemporary culture has entered the public domain there. This is stifling to cultural innovation. And the US government is keen to export its copyright law to as many other countries as possible. This is a key provision of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As for patent law, current interpretations of what is patentable and what is covered are responsible for all the non-imaginary problems associated with GMOs as well as the grave ills proliferating in the pharmaceutical industry.

We need to fix the broken parts of intellectual property law. It should not be possible for all copyright to end up on the ledgers of corporations. It should not be possible for patent law to make indentured servants of farmers. However if we cannot reset the rules protect innovation and motivate individuals as they were originally intended, then perhaps we would be better off scrapping what we have now and starting again.

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I am an experienced freelance graphic artist and sometime canoeist. I feel strongly about the quality of professional work and like sitting by a remote lake on a sun-warmed rock.

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