Copyright & Integrity for Creators

There is a lot of chatter continuing in the world of copyright. And, as has been the case for some time, that discussion revolves around money only and not necessarily rights of creators and fairness toward them. The issue seemingly most often raised is how much money is generated through copyrights, fair use of creative works of authorship, and balancing the two against one another.

Now, copyright is granted under the Constitution in the Intellectual Property Clause, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, in order to provide an ownership incentive to people to create and innovate and share their creations with the public without the fear of them being stolen. That original grant of copyright was 14 years, which is much shorter than the current copyright term of life plus 70 years, the lengthening of which had little to do with incentive to create and share and more to do with financial concerns.

Why does this matter? Well, for the sake of commentary, it matters because the argument has become about money and not about the core justifications for protecting creative works. Moreover, the discussion has little to do with ownership and more to do with demonstrating how much money one side has lost from "piracy" and how much creativity another group can show has thrived where someone's copyrighted property has been used without permission, whether "fairly" or not. Just because someone can generate more money from taking a painting or creative work from someone else doesn't make that stealing a justifiable act. And just because you can download or share information and you can grow the economy by doing so does not, legally and ethically speaking, justify taking that information or file and your copying and sending it to others.

Free flow of information should be a goal and essentially is the value that the Internet facilitates and creates. But intentional stealing or taking of another's work is, at base, unfair. Groups like Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org) recognize this-protection of artistic integrity is important for creators. How a copyright is licensed or enforced is a whole other subject. But, while the world debates enforcement, strength of laws, and how a copyright regime should be structured, we should all be aware of what is fair for the creators out there. They do not have to share any of their works with us and providing some protections to creators is just the incentive for them to share. Copyright claims may surely be out of control, and fair use under severe attack from all sides, but it is essential that fairness rules the day. Consumers cannot get everything for free and authors and copyright owners need to embrace new ways of doing business and models for delivering content access in a seamless-experience manner at a price point people generally can accept and even enjoy.

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