UK cultural institutions leave their WWI cases empty to protest insane copyright



Thanks, Obama Disney!


Since when did lifetime of the author plus 70 years become “reasonable”?


I’m not aware of any provision of copyright law that prevents the display of a copyrighted original work that you physically own, so perhaps someone could enlighten me as to what the actual problem is. Copyright prevents copying, not displaying. (Copyright holders can licence their works under terms that prevent public exhibition, as for example with DVDs of movies sold for home use only, but that’s obviously not the case here.)


Since companies can buy copyright from an individual. Although personally I’m not too keen on copyright myself, imagine being a company who buys the copyright for something that was made by a 90 year old person who then dies a year later. Is it fair that their copyright expires so quickly where if they’d bought it from a lively 20 year old, they’d have a considerably longer copyright term?


I think that once an individual sells off copyright, the copyright should no longer be tied to that person’s lifespan.


I don’t think copyrights should be transferable to corporations at all. Since corporations do not have the natural life cycle of a human being, the absurdity of current copyright laws benefit corporations the most, but copyright law originally was at least nominally about encouraging the creation of works of human knowledge and art. An artist could have created something just shy of a hundred years ago and the corporation can still be charging for the work today due to their unnatural monopoly. The artist, however, was not incentivized at the time to create the work with the knowledge that a corporation could be charging for it almost a hundred years later. Meanwhile, the public has been missing out on a substantial amount of its cultural heritage. If you want to talk about fairness, current copyright law isn’t the place to find it.


I don’t think you should be able to sell copyright.


Investment risk, how does it work?

But yeah, life plus 70, talk about setting the bar low. The fact that there are works from the 20s and 30s, made by people who died in the '50s, still in copyright, is just on its face absurd.


As opposed to the other commenters, I have no problems with copyrights being sold (similarly “work for hire”). However, I’m in favor of fixed terms and 36 years like it used to be not so very long ago seems completely reasonable. Or how about a very simple scheme where copyrights must be renewed and can be renewed indefinitely but the cost for each renewal doubles?

Basically, I’m in favor of copyright for a limited duration, but I want things to go out of copyright (and into public domain) in a timely fashion and if a work is orphaned, I want it to go into public domain fairly quickly.


I’m in complete agreement. I think, though, that different mediums should have different durations based on the natural relevancy of the item. And I don’t think the copyright of any work should extend past the creator’s death.

The ability to increase the copyright duration by a fixed amount but at a doubling rate for each time seems like a good idea, too (provided the extension is something like 10 years or so - at least less that the original copyright by a fair bit). It allows for particularly valuable works to continue to continue to be financially productive, but it also requires people to evaluate the costs/benefits of letting IP stagnate and be reiterated upon vs establishing fresh, new IP.

1 Like

It’s a bit rich hearing this complaint about copyright law coming from the Imperial War Museum, which has locked up so much of the now public domain work of the U.K. government and its private donors, to make money off licensing them. Their dedication to letting anyone else join in “telling our collective story without restrictions” is weak.


It allows for particularly valuable works to be locked up. I don’t see how that benefits the authors or the public. I don’t know what would work well, but intellectual enclosure requires ever more surveillance, censorship, malware, etc.

But… But… If their third cousin twice removed who doesn’t know they ever existed isn’t allowed to inherit the copyright one hundred and twenty years later, soldiers will have no incentive to write letters home!


Since we’re talking about WWI here let us contrast the copyright duration for the war poems of Sigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen…Siegfried Sassoon died in 1967 so his works are still covered by copyright in the UK and Wilfred Owen died in 1918, so his works have long since passed into the public domain. I see no more reason for copyrights to be tied to the authors date of demise than patents…After a limited duration they should both expire…


If you’ve invested a ton of money to create something, why shouldn’t you have an un-impeded go of making money off of it for a while?

Even tying copyright to the creator’s life can be a problem - I have tried to research published authors before and discovered that it is sometimes almost impossible to determine which individual with that name they were, and when they died. Even more difficult is determining the current owner of the copyright - and with divided inheritances, it may be multiple untraceable donors.

If it’s that difficult for a published author, imagine how difficult it is for an unpublished author.

The copyright monopoly should only be allowed for a fixed term of no more than 30 years. 98% of the profits are in the first 6 years anyway - and we need our culture back.


because intellectual enclosure requires ever more surveillance, censorship, malware, etc.?

because greatly unequal wealth usually comes from great crimes, so why give them these monopolies which depend on these police-state powers to help them turn greatly unequal wealth into even more greatly unequal wealth?


Life plus fifty years is the minimum copyright term as advocated by Victor Hugo and enshrined in Art. 7.1 of the Berne Convention. The idea was that it would allow an author plus the next two generations to live off of the work. In Council Directive 93/98/EEC of 29 October 1993 the EU harmonized copyright terms to a single length across the community. The directive also extended it to life plus seventy on the grounds that “the average lifespan in the Community has grown longer, to the point where this term is no longer sufficient to cover two generations”. When the US ratified the Berne Convention in 1988 it adopted the life plus fifty term. The Sono Bono Copyright Act of 1998 extended the term to life plus seventy so as to harmonize American law with the EU (that it helped major media conglomerates didn’t hurt).

Wouldn’t it be nice if two generations could live off everyone’s work?

But most of us don’t have that option - and the publishing houses take that from most creators - and minor authors are forgotten entirely when their works are not republished and no third party can intervene.