Have you ever scanned the first couple of pages of a book, scrolled down to the bottom of a website, or browsed the label on a container and seen a capital ‘C’ incased in a circle. That is a copyright symbol, they are everywhere. A copyright is an exclusive right given legally to the creator of that work for a certain amount of time (usually the life span of the creator plus 70 years). According to U.S Code 17 there are eight groups of copyrightable works (such as pictorial, computer programs, architectural works, etc.), but it does not extend to ideas, titles, or facts.
Nowadays the symbol is no longer necessary. If the idea came from their mind onto a physical object (written on paper or carved into stone) it is considered their property. And any use of this property without the creator’s permission is grounds for copyright infringement. The Copyright Overview by Purdue University states that the penalty for copyright infringement is hefty, anywhere from a $200-150,000 per each stolen work and/or jail time.
Copyright laws are meant to protect the creator and promote creativity and learning. Initially, the laws protected the creator from being bombarded with variations of their idea. Ultimately allowing them time to better their creation without the added pressure of others stealing their work. After that time period, the work was given back to the public domain. But now corporations have changed copyright laws to “protect” their work indefinitely.
Some argue that over the last couple of decades these laws have been used less to protect the creators and more to line the pockets of the companies who own the rights of the work like in the film RiP: A Remix Manifesto. Which alienates the public domain from being involved in the creative process of building upon ideas. And in Free Culture’s Beginnings it states that, copyright power has grown dramatically in a short period of time, as the technologies of distribution and creation have changed and as lobbyists have pushed for more control by copyright holders”. Can you think of any examples of this?
Still, there are others who agree with Mark Helprin in A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright? when he states, “no good case exists for the inequality of real and intellectual property”, reasoning that it should always belong to the person who created it.
What side do you fall on? I think there is a middle ground. Everything is a copy of a copy, this is how we progress as a people, by improving upon what came before us. Without access to the past we cannot create a prosperous future. Do you agree?