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  • Harriet Miers and her grasp (or lack of same) on copyright law?

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on October 22nd, 2005 (All posts by )

    I couldn’t care less about Harriet Miers, and if she becomes a Justice at the American Supreme Court per se, but there is one issue where I do care a lot, and that is copy right law. Does this, by all accounts very nice Lady have the intellectual firepower to come to a halfway sensible position, when SCOTUS is ever presented with nonsense like this: (it turns out that this link doesn’t always work*, so here’s the second paragraph at least):

    - Copyright term extension is a very fitting memorial for Sonny. This is not only because of his experience as a pioneer in the music and television industries. The most important reason for me was that he was a legislator who understood the delicate balance of the constitutional interests at stake. Last year he sponsored the term extension bill, H.R. 1621, in conjunction with Sen. Hatch. He was active on intellectual property issues because he truly understood the goals of Framers of the Constitution: that by maximizing the incentives for original creation, we help expand the public store-house of art, films music, books and now also, software. It is said that `it all starts with a song,’ and these works have defined our culture to audiences world-wide.

    - Actually, Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever. I am informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution. I invite all of you to work with me to strengthen our copyright laws in all of the ways available to us. As you know, there is also Jack Valenti’s proposal for term to last forever less one day. Perhaps the Committee may look at that next Congress.

    (Emphasis mine).

    This from Representative Mary Bono, from a speech before the House of Representatives on October 07, 1998.

    That’s right, this is not, repeat not, a joke. Sonny Bono, the male half of Sonny & Cher and later Representative Sonny Bono, had pushed through the extension of copyright protection to 95 years after the death of the originator/copyright holder. Like his widow states in the quote, he really had wanted copyright to last for ever. While this might seem ludicrous, it is no more ludicrous than the notion that it might be illegal to use the CDs you bought and own the way you want to, and that the concept of ‘fair use’ might be soon basically dead and gone. The recording and movie industries will soon have seen to that — in the European Union it is already illegal to convert the songs on a music CD to MP3-files if said CD is in any way copy-protected (I’m not quite so sure about the DMCA, though).

    While paying royalties to Julius Caesar’s heirs for reprinting ‘De Bello Gallico’ probably won’t be necessary, for the new law certainly won’t be applied retroactively (I hope), I have no doubt that this ‘forever-minus-a-day’ copyright will get through Congress sooner or later. Too many Representatives and Senators are beholden to the media industry for that not to happen. If that law survives the scrutiny of SCOTUS, the United States will insist that the rest of the world should follow suit, and the round-heels running the EU will only be too happy to comply, being in the pockets of the same industry themselves.

    So, to get back to my original question, does that nice Ms. Miers know how to respond properly to this kind of sophistry, or doesn’t she?

    * It’s a pretty ‘longstanding’ link, so I’m surprised that it would time out now.

     

    3 Responses to “Harriet Miers and her grasp (or lack of same) on copyright law?”

    1. Junior Bear Says:

      Intellectual capital protection doesn’t sound like something a Chicago Boy would want to weaken. Its the neokeynes that see every market as a monopoly (or at least a oligopoly). Copyrights and patents are there to protect private property. And that tag at the end about being ‘surprised that it would time out now.’ sounds wonderfully conspiratorial, but perhaps I’m misinterpreting it.

      Cheers
      JB

    2. Ralf Goergens Says:

      I don’t want to weaken IP protection, I don’t want to see the protection extended to essentailly the rest of human history. I’ll do a follow-uo post on the limits of copy right and patents in the next days.

      Nothing conspirational about the link, it’s just that I had found it via Google some time ago, and it worked all the time, until now.

    3. Don Says:

      The Sonny Bono Copyright Extention Act is why I will never be a Republican. It was a thieft of public domain for the benefit of the rich. The artist are screwed over all the time by the industry with their hollywood bookkeeping. They are not the ones who benefited by the extension. The music business still charges music artist with breakage, as in the old vinyl days. Ever see an AOL or Earthlink CD crushed in the US mail? Years after the release, the publicity columns are still charged on releases. Ever wonder what a ‘percent of the cut’ meant by producers? Its primetime for RICO is any administration had guts to act upon this racket. This was like taking vast expanses of public land and giving it away to highly profitable corporations. Sorry, but the SBCEA fulfilled the stereotype that as a party, the Rep’s work for business and not public interests.

      My understanding was that the Founding Fathers limited copyright because of the abuses of the crown in issuing lifelong and inheritable rights. They determined that around 30 years was adequate compensation to motivate people to innovate and become creative. After that, it went to the public. The SBCEA goes back to the royal lifetime award. Gold [in any form] certainly buys alot.