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?