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Witless
This isn't exactly a world crushing issue. But in the industry I (and a lot of the people on these forums) work in it is a big one.

How do you guys feel about the how copyright is handled in music, games, film and other creative media?

I'll go into my thoughts about it from here. I am not against copyright as such, but I am really starting to dislike the modern day interpretation. First I'll go into what I think copyright should be.

Copyright was created way back in the 1700s in the UK because the original creators of work would often be ruined when printing press companies would print 1000s of copies of their written works without their consent. This would ruin the abilities of writers to make a living since the printing press companies would make all the profits out of their hard work. When these people were ruined, they left the world of writing books behind and the people would lose great writers so everyone except the printing company would lose out.

Copyright law came in to effect not to protect companies in this situation, but to encourage creatively minded people that their work could be profitable to them and not be stolen. Also (and this is key to what I believe about copyright law) it only lasted a short time (14 years back in 1710). That was considered adequate time for someone to make money out of their work and to go on to make new works. The idea wasn't to come up with one story and make anyone that wanted to use it for the rest of time to pay through the nose to do so for all time.

Copyright these days doesn't really feel like it encourages creativity at all. Some one coming up with an idea for something certainly doesn't feel in charge of what they have created. Very often the first clause in any kind contract is to make something of your ideas is that you sign over the copyright over to any distributor that helps you make money out of what you have done, with the added clause that X number of things you create after that automatically get signed over to them too. Admittedly book writers and painters are often more in charge of their creations than authors things for comics, tv and film, but even then they lose control whenever adaptions come in to play.

Now consider also that current copyrights last for the life time of the original creator plus 70 years. On top of that, distributors of copyrighted work seem to have the power to clamp down on anything that is even paying homage to or even vaguely inspired by something they own. That doesn't sound like copyright law is encouraging people to share their ideas with the world, it feels like copyright law has been warped into being exactly what it was invented to stop, which was to protect creators from being pushed into not wanting to share things in case they lose control over what they do.

How many times have you read a book, watched a film, or seen a painting and found out that it's been inspired by someone else? Imagine if Disney hadn't been able to make any of it's films because the descendants of the original writers of stories like Alice in wonderland disallowed them to, or if Lord of the Rings never saw the light of day because the old owner of the copyright had been rich enough to turn down the offer to sell the rights even though J.R.R Tolkien himself had been dead for 30 odd years.

In the past that was considered a quite normal to be inspired by old works, yet recently and increasingly copyright law is being used to penalise inspiration, like the pub that was asked to shut down or change it's because it was called the Hobbit (thank you Stephen Fry and Ian Mckellen for helping put an end to that nonsense).

Think of this, in our life time we will never see someone try a new take on the Star Wars universe without large amounts of George Lucas's intervention. I'd love to see what a Star Wars The Old Republic film would look like in the hands of a new director unrestricted by Lucas film. But with the life time of George Lucas plus 70 years being the length of the copyright it'll probably never happen. How is that increasing creativity in the world?

My personal solution would be to reduce the length of copyright back down to a figure like 30 years in length, and also to give writers for film and tv more power over their work. Right now we seem to be in some kind of remake-geddon (a Batman reboot is already in the talks (seriously)). Most people sit with the reason that it's because large studios like the safety of a franchise with an already existing fan base. But I think there's also the reasoning of copyright. A lot of studios just like to milk copyrighted works they own over and over, they like to continue investing in something they already put money into acquiring. I fully believe this remake-topia we're currently in will not ended for a while yet. If copyrights ended after 30 years, ideas would be free to the world again to become what they will, which opens it up people being able to be inspired by works they grew up with and loved, and forces studios to go back to that good old method of coming up with new ideas more often.


The games side of the copyright thing I think is different so am writing about that here. DRM (digital rights management) is crap and needs to go. It doesn't stop pirates since they are pirates and crack the DRM and makes it more difficult regular legal gamers to play. It's been said 1000 times, and needs to be said again. I know there's this belief that without DRM PC gaming would be gone but this tells me otherwise. There's been a bit of back and forth with games (and movies) about exactly how much money is being lost to pirating. The view seems to be that every single pirated game IS a game sale lost. As if some how without pirating all those piraters would have found the money to buy all those games. That's a big leap to make in my mind and it's a big leap in many people's minds.

I think the same thing as my friend that works in the "dark side of the internet" other wise known as tracking people's movements on the internet. He (and I) think it's a supplier problem, not a customer problem. In a digital age we'd like to be able to get digital content easily. There's a reason Steam does so well. It's cheaper than the store, it's cheaper than getting direct from the company (during sales) it's convinient, and it makes it easier to stay in touch with your gamer friends and track if you own games you can play together. I know so many people that say "if it's not on steam, I won't buy it" a great deal of the time, I am the same as that. If it's not available through an easy to use system that doesn't involve me having to add to my collection of instruction manuals with CD keys on them then I think, "I'll pass". I would be interested to find out if there is a relationship between games being available on steam (and similar services) without DRM vs how much pirating goes with that game.

DRM feels like punishing legitimate game buyers for the actions piraters which aren't stopped anyway.

I am not anti-copyright as such, I would just like to see copyright be used to invite more people to do something creatively and to feel the law is on their side. It often feels like it's either going to put their work in the hands of someone else hand if they want to make something big of it, or punish them with some copyright infringement charge which causes people to keep everything private. That is fine, but being able to make a life out of something you love is a good goal to work for in life, and copyright law as it stands is in my opinion hurting that in the creative industry.
Hobbes
I think the creator (assuming the copyright and royalties remain linked to him/her) should be entitled to make money from their 'product' for as long as they wish, and should be allowed to challenge those that put this at risk. Therefore, my view is that copyright should exist for at least as long as the creator's life. There have been times when a book or film has not been particularly successful, but some years later it gets rediscovered and suddenly begins to sell with a 'cult' following. I think that reducing the copyright length could potentially prevent this from happening, as someone else might come along and revisit the idea but possibly with a higher marketing budget, and then make more money than the original author.

Sure, you could argue that it shouldn't be all about money but, when all is said and done, the majority of the people that are in such industries are doing it (or in the hope to be doing it) as a profession... to make their living from what they enjoy.

I'd argue that if copyright law was more lenient, it might not actually encourage creativity. There's enough copycatting of success as it is with a sudden rush of young-wizard books once JK Rowling began rolling the cash from Harry Potter, and the recent 50 Shades of Gray explosion means there's suddenly a load more books popping up in the same genre to quickly cash in on the frenzy.

I think I'd rather see a new space-based epic than watch someone just dream up a story in the existing Star Wars universe.

I dunno. New versions can be fantastic when the copyright is passed around. But I'm not sure whether it is necessary to make any major changes to the laws?

Witless
Well that's the thing, the laws are changed often. It's Disney that keep petitioning the changes. Every time their characters are about to leave copyright they petition the laws to be changed and have succeeded 4 times so far. It's odd for a company whose success is built on telling old stories to make sure the same thing can never happens with their characters.

I'd argue that making copy rights last forever is the cause of constant remakes. Companies want to keep reinvesting in what they already own since no one else can do anything with their intellectual properties.

If patents worked in the same way as IP, there would be people today trying to claim money every time the wheel was used in a car after making some vague link to their family line being traced back to the origin of the wheel (which would be impossible to do, but someone would try). If music copyright worked like film copyright you could be sued for playing a modern song on after self teaching it on a piano and then uploading it to YouTube. I believe for film the only videos you are allowed to use are for review and parody purposes and even then the law will still side with the copyright owner any way a great deal of the time.

From a business stand point producers and business men make a lot of money out of copyright law than authors and directors since they often construct companies in a way that the actual authors of films don't own the rights to films. Alan Moore certainly doesn't own the rights to Watchmen, V for Vendetta or League of Extraordinary gentlemen anymore. They are currently making prequel to Watchmen that he has completely been shut out of. Directors and Writers lose out quite a lot in the modern film world when it comes to ownership of things they do.

I would say making copyrights a lot less restrictive empowers the people that do the actual work a lot and gives them a larger share of the financial success of the industry compared to currently where is the more business production side that makes the lion share of the success currently. In another industry it'd be as if a carpenters receptionist made more money than the carpenter doing the hands on work and held on to copyright with an iron grip because because the reception knows that if the carpenter goes, he/she wouldn't be able to make anything new.

Copyright law works like this, the initial creator always gains automatic copyright, but in order to actually get on board with any kind of distributor you have to sign a contract and 99% of the time that contract auto signs rights of anything you make during the time of that copyright over to the company. After that point, the author can actually be sued for doing anything with that work outside working hours even though it was their idea in the first place. Since no author generally has the money or resources to distribute (or often even create) large works they either have to except never being able to own anything they come up with for themselves, or just not share their work and have it as a hobby rather than a job. Which again breaks the initial reasoning for copyright in the first place. To allow authors to feel safe to share their ideas.

The rights being signed over is an interesting one too. If I work on my own project that has nothing to do with work, but I discuss it with work friends, or use a work computer to help render or use work equipment to help with it. Even if it's outside work hours, my employer can (and probably will) make a case that they helped it get made, so they can still claim part ownership (or more) of what I make. That gets even hazier when working from home because it starts becoming harder to prove you did nothing during work hours (and for me that has no fixed work hours it's a mess).

For me personally, less copyright means that I am no longer scared that a character I make that might look a bit like someone else, or a story line element that is a bit the same doesn't mean I fear retribution when I don't have an army of lawyers to defend my self. It also means I could regain access to works I lost access to earlier in life. In the larger world it gives authors the power to play around with each others ideas. If some director wanted to go to Alan Moore and make a film or something based on his comics that was closer to what Alan Moore wanted to see, they'd be allowed to where as currently Alan Moore's locked out of his own work so can do nothing about it.

As it stands studio board members choose what can and can not happen, and they are recycling the copyrights they own over and over again and mostly rejecting original scripts or adjusting scripts so much that they fit what market research has shown them will sell (this is a generalisation of course, if it was a universal truth I'd never ever watch films). I'd also like to think other directors that are less afraid of change might try other less known stories that exist in these universes. I'd like to see the death of Spiderman series from the comic in cinema, I bet that would get made if you didn't need permission from DC studios board members to do it. I also bet with loss of total control of IP they'd be forced to start coming up with new ideas they had fresh copyrights on in order to distinguish themselves from old characters that became freely available.
Hobbes
I'd certainly like to see more of the copyright being retained by the content-creator, rather than the publisher. Even just ethically that seems fair. As you say, Alan Moore having a say in whether a different director can make a more... ahem... Moore-friendly version of his comics seems perfectly acceptable.

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QUOTE
If music copyright worked like film copyright you could be sued for playing a modern song on after self teaching it on a piano and then uploading it to YouTube.


Does happen. Well, to some extent. Videos have been removed of cover-versions and parodies due to supposed copyright infringements. I do find this ridiculous.

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Perhaps if, after a short period of time, copyright was lifted from an IP, then maybe we would see a bunch of other people exploring an existing world in their own way. But I don't think that this ties in with the idea of increased creativity. If the restrictions of copyright law actually mean that Joe Bloggs has to come up with a new idea rather than just spin a new stance on someone else's, surely that is making people push their creative boundaries a little more?

I don't want to see a media full of spin-offs or 'alternate versions'. True, nor do I want to see a media full of sequels and prequels. But cutting short the life of copyright seems a drastic way to "force" developers to move away from making their ol' faithful Resident Evil/Final Fantasy/Super Mario/GTA etc. games because now anyone can make them. To me, it would seem incredibly unfair for the copyright time-limit to be reached on an IP, somebody come along with their own version and make a bunch of cash, and the original creator to be alive and wondering why he no longer benefits when he laid down the foundations and did all the initial hard word in creating the universe/world/whatever.

Certainly there's an extent to which you have to be (too?) careful about how similar your character is to an existing one. In a visual medium, that's certainly more of an issue, and it's always difficult for your inspiration not to show through too much.
Witless
Scumbag David, tries to start something in issues, then completely forgets that he had.

QUOTE
To me, it would seem incredibly unfair for the copyright time-limit to be reached on an IP, somebody come along with their own version and make a bunch of cash

Well patents last only 20 years on inventions and it there's no mass movement of people trying to mimic copyright law and get it to last well over 100 years. In fact up until Disney came along that's how copyright law worked too, and back then the diversity of ideas that were given budgets was far wider than now where the original ideas sit underground or with really low budgets.

If copyright ran out, no one would stop the large companies from continuing to milk franchises, if they really do make a good new film/game people will still buy into it. Your average fan of a game or film has no idea which studio made what. They and wouldn't care if a studio lost control of copyright in the same way no one really cares that companies other than Goodyear tires make tires out of vulcanised rubber nowadays. They just want to see good films and play good games. The amount of money in the industry doesn't go down without companies holding on to copyright, and the amount of money authors makes stays pretty much the same. If copyright lasted 50 years, J.K Rowlings copyright on Harry Potter would not run out until 2047 and she would be in her late 70s by then and that'd just be the copyright. The profits for book sales at that point would still be hers, all it would mean is that she wouldn't be allowed to sue people anymore if someone else wrote a book based in Hogwarts (which she already doesn't do if they do it for non-profit because she's not insane).

Me personally would like to see copyrights stay with the actual creator of an idea rather than the distributor but I can't see that happen anytime soon, so it'd be nice if at least the copyright didn't have such a over the top length of time. The thought that if I came up with something good enough to go into large scale production it'd be bought off me, and only be released 70 years after my death is a bit ridiculous.
Hobbes
Perhaps the diversity of ideas was wider a few years ago because the medium, and the market, was relatively new. Nobody really knew what would or wouldn't be a grand success. Although that obviously is still the case now to some extent, with some big-name big-budget movies becoming big flops and some small-studio small-budget films finding great success, I think the industry was still finding its feet back then and so a new idea was given the go-ahead because there probably wasn't a lot of evidence yet of whether it would do well. Similarly with gaming.

I think it would be confusing to have a market where potentially there could be, for instance, two Resident Evil games side-by-side; but from two separate sources, with their own story-arc etc. There's god knows how many survival-horror zombie games out there, but only one set of Resident Evil games. A variation upon a theme can exist, without it having to become a copyright issue.

I guess I don't personally believe that the lengthy lifespan of copyright is responsible for a lack of creativity. The indie scene in the gaming market shows that people with new ideas CAN get their work out there, and make substantial money from it, and not have to worry that their game got turned down by countless big studios that were two interested in churching out their next sequel. When it comes to film, this is admittedly a little harder because a lot more money is involved to turn an idea into reality.

Perhaps a relaxation on what constitutes a breach of copyright would be better than reducing the time that copyright is held?
Pikasyuu
just to add:
a woman recently held a 50 shades of grey themed lingerie party and EL James came after her for copyright infringement when 50 shades of grey ITSELF was a Twilight fanfic. irony, ow.
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