Problems With Copyright Laws: Is There a Solution?

Copyright laws are designed to encourage and protect the creative works of authors and artists by allowing creators the exclusive right to protect their works. The United States Constitution grants Congress the power to create and enforce copyright laws. The Copyright Clause in the Constitution reads as following: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”. This encourages artists and authors to sell and protect their writings without fear of others copying or selling their goods as their own. Copyright laws have great benefits and were created in a time where most profits were drawn from the land instead of abstract ideas of art, music and writings.


The main concern or critique with these laws of protection is that they dissolve after 70 years after the authors death. Congress is allowed to lift this protection in the name of public good. The thinking is that art should not be trapped or concealed from progress and after time it should be explored and allow other to use or transform its expression. This “freeing” of ideas seems loaded with good intentions, however, this type of forfeiture does not exist in other facet of U.S. property or business law. Why should works of art be subject to this and nothing else?

Author Mark Helprin explores this conflict in his piece ‘A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Copyright?’. Helprin explains that the homes we buy/build are allowed to be inherited by his next of kin or large companies my be divided among surviving children but copyrighted material is subject to different rules. If you were write the next great novel or a musical masterpiece, the control over that material would eventually expire.

Why should someone’s creative works expire when a business or wealth in other forms does not have an expiration date?

Today, these is much more creative material than when copyright laws were written. Some may argue that copyright laws are more important than ever. A solution to protect creative material that still has profitable or intellectual value may be to allow for copyright renewal. This would allow for some material to be “freed” while works that are deemed to be freed to the public for the greater good of public interest will have a copyright lifted. A renewal limit may also be a worthy compromise. What other solutions would allow the protection of the arts and also allow for ideas and arts to not be held captive my copyright laws?


25 thoughts on “Problems With Copyright Laws: Is There a Solution?

  1. Carly Hernandez March 25, 2015 / 10:12 pm

    I do think that art and artists should be protected just as corporate companies or businesses are. While the copyright law aims to make a more creative world, I can also see how the copyright laws could cause a lot of lawsuits and problems within itself. There shouldn’t be a deadline or expiration date to art but the work should be able to be freed in order for others to create something new as well. Disney wouldn’t have been able to make the great movies that it has without taking some ideas from Brothers Grimm. Who knows what could be done with something that is already created but held under the copyright law? If works of art can be freed then so should the other facets. We have so much more creative potential than we used to have when the copyright laws were created. Therefore I think we should be given more leeway to explore and improve upon things that have been held captive.

    I think that websites like Creative Commons is something that is beneficial in that it allows us to let others use our own creative works under a copyright license. The emergence of the internet has made it hard to make or do anything without coming in contact with something copyrighted. I also learned about a group of artist who call themselves “illegal art” which uses pieces of culture that already exist and display them to form a connection between thought and self-reflection. This is where “freeing” art really does have a positive outcome and benefits the greater good of people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ajmiros March 26, 2015 / 9:27 am

      Creative Commons is a very cool site. I think it provides a way for creative folks to fill in the gaps where copyright law may leave their work unprotected.


  2. Brandon Coulter March 26, 2015 / 8:35 pm

    The use and exploration of different pieces of art and entertainment are necessary aspects of expanding upon current and future ideas for the better. In order to develop genuinely good and useful creations in today’s world, it is commonly seen that a past invention or concept is taken and manipulated in many ways in order to adapt this to a more accessible and contemporary form. The same can be said about all forms of entertainment. When it comes to taking and changing different parts of entertainment, however, we are commonly presented with the problems of copyright infringement and violation. It is completely understandable that if a published work is taken and utilized for the same basic purpose with little to no manipulation of the means tho achieve the results, those guilty of this action should be persecuted and set straight as a result of their blatant disregard for original integrity of the artist. This is the exact case that is presented with Robin Thicke and Pharrell William’s hit song “Blurred Lines.” While bringing in millions of dollars in revenue since its release, the duo have recently been charged and sued for over $7 million on behalf of the estate of Marvin Gaye due to their alleged stealing and discrediting of his song “Got to Give It Up.” While a simple acknowledgement could have gotten them away without paying a cent by declaring it as a Derivative Work, Robin Thicke and Pharrell are now expected to pay the fine as a result of their negligence. To use another’s work as the shoulders intended for standing on to achieve greatness and hailing the original work along the way is one thing. To steal and claim a work as your own without even the slightest attribution to the original owner is an extreme violation of copyright law.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rmpaulk March 26, 2015 / 8:55 pm

    I feel there is a big difference between creative works and other forms of wealth (such as businesses and properties). Creative works can be re-shaped, re-invented, and re-purposed. They are open for interpretation and growth. Things like businesses and properties, however, are not. You can change things in a property or use it for something other than its original purpose (turn a home into a company building), but you can’t transform it into something completely different in order for society to grow. The same thing goes for companies. You could change the company’s ideas, mottos and what they sell, but at the end of the day all you have done is created a completely different company without having to pay to get it started. This isn’t the same when dealing with creative works. You can completely transform them into something else. That is why copyrights on creative works can be released to the public, but forms of wealth go back to the family. I do agree, though, that there should be a way to re-new the copyright after the creator has passed, and that there should be a limit to how many times you can re-new it until it is released to the public. I think that is a really good solution for both parties.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. adrianhormsby March 28, 2015 / 6:28 pm

    Yes, there are definitely problems with copyright law of which the renewal problem is just one. One may ask why all these problems with copyright law all of a sudden? Wasn’t it designed at the outset of the Republic to encourage creativity and innovation, a hallmark of American progress and innovation? Lawrence Lessing hits the nail on the head in the readings this week, he argues that the role of the law is becoming less about fostering creativity and more about protecting industry against competition, a most un-American concept. Healthy competition has always been at the heart of a free market economy as it drives innovation, new ideas and new solutions, being a major motivation for change and efficiency. Rather than spend their efforts trying to keep up with and surpass the competition, however, Corporations are adopting a decidedly easier approach, just eliminate it completely through regulation, namely, copyright law. The founding fathers would be speechless if they saw what is going on. Ironically this is taking place at the very moment when the internet makes possible an exchange of ideas and information at an unprecedented rate on a global scale, making possible an extraordinary potential for creativity hitherto unknown. What a lost opportunity. If one steps back and looks at the big picture, innovation and creativity, whether it be in science, business, engineering and even education, builds on the innovation and creativity that precedes and surrounds us. In fact, in this very blog I’m synthesizing an argument by Lessing that he’s been developing for years. Do I have his permission to do so specifically for this blog or have I paid for that information by buying his book? No, I simply read the relevant chapters posted on Canvus by our Professor. Every society today and in the past has always made available, free for the taking, parts of it’s culture that will benefit it’s members. This is the basis of peer reviewed academic journals, specifically produced and designed to disseminate knowledge with a view to expand and improve upon it over time for the benefit of all. Just imagine if Newton’s Principia or Einstein’s Theory of Relativity had been subject to draconian copyright law so as not to compete with established scientific theories of the day, an absurd thought right. Whatever solution we arrive at whether it be fixing the renewal issue or redifining how we interpret copying etc, we would do well to heed Lessings warning that free cultures leave members of their society much to build on to everyone’s benefit, while restrictive cultures leave us nothing. The direction this country is heading on this issue will be important for the future of all American’s.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. eakoonter March 28, 2015 / 9:38 pm

    I always thought it was insane that copyrights expire. That person may have died or their company crumbled in 70 years, but that is their work. It should always be protected or be given the credit they deserve. However, I do think that there should be an expiration on when people can “renovate” a copyrighted invention, idea, etc. for the greater good of the public. This is especially true for medications, technology and educational tools.


  6. mvzang March 29, 2015 / 4:46 am

    Hello, ajmiros. This is a very complex issue, as we have seen in our readings for class. I firmly believe that an artist, whether in the music industry, movie industry or any other industry for that matter, shouldn’t have to worry about their works being used by others, especially for profit. These industries that I mentioned are huge money makers, and many of these “artists” don’t quite have the business or marketing ware withal to capitalize on their talents. If there weren’t copyright laws, scammers and rip-off artists would run amuck keeping many of the artists in the out of the profitable end of the business.

    What I’ve noticed in the last few years is that artists in the music field like that take what is popular, put a minor twist on it, call it their own, and make money off of it. This shouldn’t be allowed unless the original artist is fully aware and consenting. I really like that Radiohead (also one of my favorite bands) allowed and encouraged people to rip their music as much as they see fit to create their own form of music. There isn’t any real easy solution to this. If you want to make money in this business, and you lack any sort of musical talent, then you’re going to have to be good at negotiating rights to songs, because otherwise you won’t have anything to sell at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. spgregor March 29, 2015 / 9:06 am

    While I believe everyone has the right to protect what they create I can’t help but feel that the copyright laws have gotten out of control. Maybe the initial copyright laws were too lax, but the new ones seem too steep. As with so many things we have seen over the years, this too seems to lean towards being more about the dollar than the actual creation itself. What better expression of appreciation of your work than if someone wants to use a part of it years later in some way? I don’t condone complete copying of someone else’s work, but using a part of it in a new creative piece should be fine. After all, isn’t that what Walt Disney did? I find it amazing that he amassed all his millions by doing this and then his corporation is the one that asked to have the copyright laws changed.

    In my opinion, the copyright law should not be as long as it is. Upon expiration anything that is deemed of “value” should have to be renewed, and the renewal period should be shorter in length than the original one. This would allow anything not renewed to enter the public domain. We have so much more potential today to produce creative works and we should encourage this not stifle it.


  8. galaradi March 29, 2015 / 1:09 pm

    Creative works do not “expire” after 70 years of the author’s death. It just means that anyone is free to use their work without having to ask permission for it. That makes sense to me because we should be free to, for example, use music from years ago to add to our own work. We are using someone else’s creativity in our own creative work. That does not mean we claim to own that song. After all, Walt Disney did “borrow” someone else’s work to add to his, and there is nothing wrong with that. Nowadays, original creativity is becoming more difficult because of everything that has already been done. We should be able to freely use creative work that is old enough to add on to our own creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kevinpayton1 March 29, 2015 / 6:46 pm

      I agree, but I will insert instead of using the word creativity, I would say repurpose. Its my belief that works are like ingredients. There are but only so many ingredients you can use, but there are millions of ways to add those ingredients. Each time creating a new dish based upon the amounts of ingredients used.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. kevinpayton1 March 29, 2015 / 6:42 pm

    In my opinion copyright laws appear to protect large corporations interest more than the creator of the work interest. With publishing rights and who actually owns the work is more intriguing to me than the law itself. For example, I didn’t find out for many years that a lot of the Motown artist didn’t own their own music nor did the Beatles even own their own music rights. It appears as if big business found a way to protect and hold hostage progress for money. There is a difference in business and creative works. Creativity is intellectual while business is brick and mortar. Creativity can be built on and expanded on further progress in society, while business can be built on and expanded on to further profits. After watching the stunt Walt Disney pulled to expanded his rights to his legacy, I am more than convinced that unless a new copyright law benefits the wealthy, it will continue to impede progress. I do understand the artist and pioneers view that their time and effort should be compensated, but it is a historical fact that culture builds upon the past. I don’t think there needs to be a renewal clause because 70 years after death is a long time to hold progress captive. If in 70 years after his death a creator or their estate hasn’t benefited off of his ideas then let them go public to be improved upon, transformed, or mixed to form another.


  10. sneff16 March 29, 2015 / 7:25 pm

    I think after 70 years of having a copyright on something, it is fine for it to expire. This allows for the work to be used by other people without asking for permission. 70 years is a long time and the music and art that is current at the time, will need to be revamped in 70 years anyway. This is a common practice today in music. Think of the song “blurred lines” by Robin Thicke and Pharell. Although, in that case, they sampled part of Marvin Gaye’s song “Got to Give it Up” without permission and it wasn’t 70 years old. Has anyone ever heard of Girl Talk? It’s samples of tons of songs with the background music changed to another song, but it all flows together into one cohesive piece. The man behind Girl Talk, Gregg Gillis came under a lot of scrutiny because it was unclear if his work fell under the copyright laws fair use policy which states “The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”I don’t think there is a need for copyright laws to be extended.


  11. nebior March 29, 2015 / 8:45 pm

    I feel very strongly that if someone makes something so great that it brings them a profit then they and their families deserve to make money off of it as long as money is being paid for it. Unlocking something early could prevent a family from making money from a creator’s product. If people could find a way that could keep money going to the original creator while still allowing alterations and improvements to be made to the invention then that would be the best way. On the other hand, people must be allowed to build upon past inventions or innovation would stop. There has to be some balance and I feel that the current laws are that careful balance. The laws seem to have worked so far, but everything has room for improvement, even those laws. As long as Congress is actively unlocking things that benefit the good of all people while still protecting ideas the best they can then things should continue to progress.

    –Ben Walker

    Liked by 1 person

  12. doniecew March 29, 2015 / 9:05 pm

    I am kind of in between feelings with the idea of “freed” copyrights. I think that if someone came up with the idea of something creatively then they own it and have the right to call it there’s for anyone else that’s trying to recreate or benefit off of it. The difference in inheriting a house and rights to creative material is that I came up with this idea on my own, I didn’t purchase it with money. I think that renewing the rights give people that still want an opportunity to own their material a chance to have it for a little while longer.


  13. asibo March 29, 2015 / 9:14 pm

    While I enjoyed Helprin’s angle on copyright, as it differed from the other readings and “RiP: A Remix Manifesto,” I still disagree with his premise that intellectual and creative property are essentially the same as private property. Where a book that one has written and a house that one has built differ is that the former can be copyrighted and the latter cannot, at least to my knowledge. I think before we make the argument that all intellectual and creative property should be owned by its creator in perpetuity, as well as private property, I think we need to examine the fact that the law was originally established to make these differentiations. A work of art enters the public domain because it can benefit culture and society; a house doesn’t enter the public domain it has no benefit to society or culture, merely it’s current owner.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. bjuhasz10 March 29, 2015 / 9:28 pm

    I agree with some of the comments, in that this is a very complex issue. There are so many groups involved when it comes to copyright laws. First, looking at it from the point of view of the owner of a copyright, if I came up with an amazing invention or idea, I think I should be able to own that idea forever. On the other hand, 70 years after you have passed away, what use do you really need to have a piece of paper declaring something “yours”?

    However, when I look at it from a 3rd person point of view, I tend to look at the big picture, and I think to myself that by opening copyrights after a certain amount of time, it allows other creative users, thinkers, and innovators to come up with things bigger and better than the original idea. I think that allowing everybody to get involved if they wish helps move our society forward. Ultimately, if I put myself into an inventors shoes, and invented something awesome, why not give others the chance to take my idea and make it better, especially after I am already gone?


  15. bubbastinx March 29, 2015 / 10:13 pm

    I think renewal limits would be a healthy compromise. I also believe that anyone one who lobbies for a change for the copyright law for the greater good of the public is feeding us a tube of bologna.

    Many of the legislations that gets rammed through congress often times are sold under the guise of public benefit, but once you dig through the fine print. It’s just another way to profit.

    All that being said, I would worry that many people who want positive repairs to copyright would get hosed.


  16. thegradytrain March 29, 2015 / 11:09 pm

    I think the current laws that are in place to protect creative content is pretty solid for the most part. If anything needs to be changed its that they’re needs to be more of a smarter system to help moderate the flow of created content. Like you said: “…these is much more creative material than when copyright laws were written.” Today there is so many places to see new creative content. For me, the places I see the most creative content are probably YouTube and Reddit, and I know those are only drops in the bucket in terms of places online. The systems those two sites have in place is not the greatest but I think they work for the most part. I do occasionally see issues with YouTube and it flagging something that for a breach of policy. I remember seeing a video by a producer that documented how he was being flagged for using licensed music but in reality he produces everything himself and proved it. It basically showed how YouTube’s system for catching creative rights infringement has occasional issues. The copyright laws that extend to media outlets like YouTube and Reddit don’t need to be really changed, just made more aware of the content going through.

    In terms of not have copyright laws, I don’t think it is a good idea in the short term. In terms of long term protection the whole “70 years after death” seems quite a long time for mostly anything. By then most people should have a good idea of what the content was and it should have already made whatever mark it made on society within that time.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. mstor763 March 29, 2015 / 11:15 pm

    I would feel that ultimately the artist/creator of whatever the product may be should not have to be concerned over the issue of whether someone is going to take their work and reproduce it slightly different to claim as their own. As we have learned in other articles though, the issue actually helps spread their work and therefor has increased profit of artists (when in relation to the music/movie industry)

    In regards to the issue of lifting copyrights I feel that as long as their are rules for copyrights there is not much an individual can truly do. Rules are set in place for a reason and lifting these said rules would probably create issues that were alleviated from en-placing said rules. I suppose you could reduce the time frame after an individual dies, but that in turn probably effects the family directly and therefor would no longer be an incentive of producing certain products to support your family in the long run.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. smkiraco March 29, 2015 / 11:29 pm

    Copyright laws are without a doubt outdated and definitely need to be reevaluated. Also, I do not think art can be compared to business or reallocation to “next of kin.” This country already has a huge problem of inherited wealth and I do not think that art should be included. Maybe I am biased since I am more of an open-source guy, but I do not see extension of copyright protection 70 years after the author’s death to be positive. I am not saying that copyright laws should not exist either as artist’s works should definitely be protected is they so choose while they are alive. I just do not agree with the possibility of holding royalties indefinitely. The only solution I would have is very specified contracts created by the author’s themselves dictating exactly how they want their works to be used and reproduced, but that does not solve the problem of publisher influence.


  19. elrader2015 March 29, 2015 / 11:32 pm

    Hi there,
    Copyrighting is an issue that I think has a lot of grey area. On one hand I see why it’s unreasonable to have a copyright expire after a certain amount of time, but by that same token, why do family members have a right to your wealth long after you have passed? Personally, if I created something that was copyrighted and it expired after my death but the invention or innovation was used for the greater, why not? If it advances humanity, why should my heirs be entitled to live off of inherited wealth? Instead, this should inspire them to go on and create a promising future for themselves instead of relying on the wealth of their families. I see why the expiration of a copyright is seen as an issue, but I also think that after ones passing, the issue shouldn’t be as big as it’s made out to be.


  20. akuelbs March 29, 2015 / 11:38 pm

    Right now, there really isnt anything we can do to change and help out copyright laws. If we were to create a process to get items that are copy wrote lifted and content available to the public, how would we go about doing this? If you think of the process it would take to get material that is under copyrights changed, it could be a long and drawn out process which could waste a good amount of time. Who knows how effective the content would be by the time it would be freed to the public. It is a tough topic to really go in depth because people wont want to hassle with it. By the time some content has been freed, people who wanted it freed might have changed their opinions on what they wanted to do. The only real way we could change it would be to get rid of copyright laws all together, but that is a decision that would be the worst all together. Copyright laws are there to protect users creating material and we cant get rid of that because you have to give people right for what they create. But if you look at the other end of the spectrum, i dont really believe there is anything else we can do to sure up the copyright laws and make them “better.” Maybe we could try to update the laws a bit and lower the duration of the copyright being enforced, but besides for that, i dont feel there is much that can be done.


  21. cseejay March 29, 2015 / 11:46 pm

    I tend to agree that for copyright laws, I understand the reasoning behind wanted to make a more creative world by making ideas/art accessible to the general public after a period of time. I personally feel like copyright rules should be changed as my opinion is once you release something like movies or music to the public, to a large degree it’s no longer yours. I also feel like the creator should still get credit for his/her work, but limiting what can and can’t be used due to copyright laws can limit creativity. Because I’m personally so music and film centric I tend to think about the effects of copyright laws in relation to creation more than anything else. I personally like the idea of being able to cut, edit, and remix media without violating certain rules and being sued by companies that own certain music or movies. I think in the long run, sampling ultimately helps artist with their original content anyway, so I’ve personally never understood the angry individuals feel toward DJs when remixing and slightly changing their songs. I do believe that copyright laws are necessary but I do believe they need to be drastically changed to help improve creativity of newer artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. hessaj March 30, 2015 / 12:05 am

    Copyright is hard to come by for art, from what I seen. One time, i went into Hot Topic and saw an Adventure Time shirt and saw the design and thought to myself, “hey I seen that design before”, and a few days later came to find out that that design was stolen from the artist and used her art without her permission. I was pretty shocked by this and soon saw other cases like this, but with online shops. It’s hard with artists who have their work stolen and used for their own benefit. What I think is that, anything of the sort, should probably already be copyrighted, or should be a law of the sort to protect artists. Watermarking could work and obtaining the watermarkless image should they contact the artist for it to negotiate.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. blcarr March 30, 2015 / 8:49 pm

    Can you imagine something like Michael Jackson’s Thriller album having a expiration date that expires. Any and everyone will be sampling that album. To some it may be some type on honor to have a person remake your original work and turn it into another major hit. I am on the fence about that. Artist get offended when they are sampled but they feel its alright to sample someone else work. For example, Rob Base sampled Maze & Frankie Beverly’s joy & pain “which was a hit in its own right” was hit with one of the highest lawsuits known to man. Back then, artist thought figured they were paying respect to the artist they sampled. But instead, they were paying big cash due to copy right infringement. In music today, I feel the copyright laws in the music industry have lightened up a bit. In order to release a persons sampled song, you must get permission from the original owner. But if the track is used for a mixtape, (its ok) because no money is being made?


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