Mickle Mirth at Michaelmas, 2005:
The church in the picture, St. Michael's in Norman, Oklahoma, no longer has a medieval banquet as part of their patronal festivities. Nowadays they have a fair, which was on Saturday last week.
Fowl of flight be mirthful and make melody!
When I was in private practice at a large law firm, a partner asked me to approach the estate of a famous playwright. My colleague was hoping to get permission to produce an abridged version of a play at his son's special education school.I think that for published books, the 42-year term of copyright we enjoyed from the 1830s until 1909 was about right, but as noted in an earlier post, as a first step I would probably support a proposal to roll back the term of copyright in published books to a mere 75 years from publication, or 50 years from the death of the author, whichever is shorter.
The school was willing to pay the licensing fee, but the children were capable of only performing one act, not three. The production would be only before parents, not for any profit. After all this was explained to the estate, they subsequently refused permission and the money, insisting the children had to produce the play as written, or not at all.
The undersigned respectfully request that the President consider the following proposals for the amendment of the U.S. copyright law, and if he deem any of them "necessary and expedient", that he recommend them to the Congress in accordance with Article II, section 3 of the constitution; or, if he find any of them not to be necessary or expedient, that he reply to this petition in writing giving his reasons.
1. We request that the duration of copyright in published works by known authors (except for computer software source code, treated separately below) be reduced to a term of the lifetime of the author plus fifty years, but in no case to exceed seventy-five years from first publication; and that the duration of copyright in published works-for-hire and anonymous and pseudonymous published works be reduced to a term of seventy-five years from first publication. This change would be made without regard for the duration of copyright in the law of any other country, and without regard for any "rule of the shorter term" in any foreign law. Any international agreements that conflict with the proposal, to which the U.S. is a party, would be re-negotiated to conform to the new shorter term.
2. We request that the duration of copyright in computer software source-code to be reduced to a term of 25 years from creation. The Patent and Trademark office, or the Copyright Office, would be empowered to issue rules for computing a presumed date of creation when it cannot be determined from the text of the source code itself.
3. We request that the law be amended explicitly to state that the author's exclusive rights, once they have expired by operation of the law, become rights that are vested in the general public. An explicit statement is necessary due to the contemptuous and scornful tone toward the concept of publici juris works that was used by the U.S. supreme court in its Eldred and Golan decisions.
4. We request that the United States withdraw from the Berne Union.
Legislatively re-instate the Sony doctrine and reverse Grokster. Technology developers should only be liable for copyright infringements by users if there are no substantial non-infringing uses of the technology.
Decriminalize copyright to pre-1998 levels: put the Golem to sleep. Return the definition of criminal copyright to require large scale copying for commercial gain; reduce the funding to criminal enforcement and reduce the presence of federal functionaries whose role is to hype and then combating the piracy threat. In particular, as calls to shrink the federal government abound, it is critical to include in every legislation downsizing the federal budget provisions that would defund and eliminate most of the burgeoning apparatus of multi-agency criminal enforcement of copyright. The most direct pathway to this will be in appropriation bills, to defund implementation of PRO-IP until a more balanced substantive approach can be worked out.
Create a fair use defense to the anticircumvention and antidevice provisions of the DMCA. Users should be exempt from DMCA liability if they propose, in good faith, to make a fair use of the encrypted materials. Decryption and circumvention providers should be exempt from liability on the model of the Sony doctrine, if there are “substantial non-infringing uses” for the circumvention technology or device they offer. This would fix a much older overreach by the industry, from 1998, that has been very slowly and imperfectly loosened by the Librarian of Congress under powers to exempt certain uses from liability.
Rein in the international trade pathway for copyright extension. Another pathway, similar to criminalization in the sense that it harnesses federal functionaries to help the industry, distinct in the set of functionaries it harnesses, has been international trade. Through a set of trade agreements, both bilateral and multilateral, the U.S. government has pursued the passage of requirements more stringent than it could itself pass in the U.S. The recent adoption of SOPA-like laws in Spain is one example, as is the notorious Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). We need a law that would prohibit secret negotiation of IP-related provisions in international agreements, and a law that prohibits the U.S. from entering agreements that require of ourselves or our trading partners more restrictions on the public domain than then-current U.S. law permits.