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30 CEOs and other top executives in a new report sound off about how nonsensical copyright law is progress

Whether you're a college student, an engineer, or an executive in charge of a huge tech company, there's a growing consensus that U.S. patent and copyright law is badly out of touch with reality.

A new report by Rutgers University law school professor Michael Carrier, published in the University of Wisconsin Law Review, saw the lawyer detail 30 interviews with CEOs and other high-level executives in the tech industry.  It found overwhelming evidence that content holders have created a messy state of affairs for U.S. copyright law; a mess which is both stymying technology, and hurting the content holders themselves.

I. Consensus: Copyright Law in the U.S. is Out of Control

Mr. Carrier comments, "Many innovators working on revolutionary technologies and many venture capitalists told me that copyright law has harmed innovation in the music industry.  [I]ndustry leaders made clear to me that there are numerous innovations that failed to reach the market because of copyright laws"

He sees companies like Napster --which started on the principle of a radical new technology, but eventually fell under a flurry of litigation from the music industry -- as a failed opportunity for both parties.  He comments that "a lot of innovators were scared away from trying to work with the record labels."

DMCA cat
The DMCA and other punitive laws have plagued the tech industry.
[Image Source: Error Access Denied]

After the lawsuits, Napster flipped hands several times before eventually winding up -- in greatly diminished form -- as a property of current owner Rhapsody.

II. Win-Win Services Delayed by Legal Mess 

The author blames punitive litigation for delaying services like Pandora Media Inc.'s (P) and Spotify's internet radio offerings.

In their rush to fight the future content creators stifled win-win technologies like internet radio.
[Image Source: Pandora]

On the topic of Orwellian "Stop Online Piracy Act" (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) in the House and "PROTECT IP Act" (PIPA) (S.968) in the Senate, he writes, "The laws presented examples of copyright holders trying to expand the law to protect themselves at the expense of everybody else.  We saw that the technology and internet communities have muscles to flex. Innovation needs to be part of the equation. I wrote this article to help put innovation at the forefront of the debate."

Indeed, the government is now having to answer tough questions regarding the abuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) [PDF] (see Title 17 of the U.S. Code) to take down multiple legitimate sites at the request of the  Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The message seems clear -- by pushing punitive legislation like the DMCA, SOPA, and PIPA; and by supporting equally punitive/nonsensical lawsuits against individual file-sharers seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages -- content holders are hurting their own opportunity to profit by trying to fight technological progress.

Sources: Rutgers [1], [2]

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By MadMan007 on 9/17/2012 3:40:47 PM , Rating: 3
You forgot judge (Posner) in your list of who thinks patent law is broken.

RE: judge
By retrospooty on 9/17/2012 3:52:27 PM , Rating: 2
RE: judge
By perspicacity on 10/12/2012 9:14:59 AM , Rating: 2
copyright law != patent law

Basic principles
By bennyg on 9/18/2012 10:51:05 AM , Rating: 2
AFAICT all that needs to happen is someone needs to go back and just look at two basic rules that have got lost in the myriad of exceptions

1. Discovery not patentable. Invention patentable. Basic algorithms subject to approved patents from Apple, Google (etc), MS... all stupid. Of the kind created by millions of students in exam answers for decades. Never should have been granted ab initio.
2. Prior art. If sci-fi has rectangular phones/tablets with rounded edges noone can claim that concept unless theres some OTHER idea on top that IS novel.

By ArieSm on 9/19/2012 9:57:51 AM , Rating: 2
The writer comes off as writing as though copyright is a recent phenomenon, even of the 20th century, when in fact it isn't. It's been around as long as our constitution has. Copyright is crucial to many artists. It's insurance that their hard work and source of income won't be stolen from them. Many people might think its only whether Britney Spears can choose between a Gulfstream IV and a Gulfstream V, but in reality, copyright royalties can be the source of a meal or the ability to pay rent for a month for many struggling artists.

And since its been around for so long, that means that the law needs to be modified from time to time. Though many think of it most notably happening when VHS and Betamax came out, it also means it should be codified for the internet.

By fatbaldandhappy on 9/17/12, Rating: 0
Liberals trying to force their beliefs on the 99%
By Beenthere on 9/17/12, Rating: -1
By Solandri on 9/17/2012 4:50:43 PM , Rating: 5
Those who would benefit from changing copyright laws are the vocal minority.

I completely agree. Let's put copyright law back to where it was before it was ever changed. The first U.S. copyright law was in 1790. 14 years, with one renewal for another 14 years if the author were so inclined. After 28 years, it becomes public domain. No exceptions.

By drycrust3 on 9/17/2012 6:24:29 PM , Rating: 2
14 years, with one renewal for another 14 years if the author were so inclined.

I think that is a much better idea than something like 50 years after the author has died. If I see something with a copyright date on it, then I could easily work out when the copyright expires, e.g. if the copyright date says 1985, then I can add the copyright expiration time, plus 1, and come up with the year after which copying is legitimate.
However, with the "50 years after the death of the author", no two pieces of copyrighted material have the same date, and most people aren't in a position to even know when the author died.
One of the things I've noticed with some of the popular songs is that there are different versions of them, so that even though a song is copyright, the version of it played in, say America, can easily be slightly different from what is played here in New Zealand. This could be because of differences in the law, but just adds to the confusion of copyright. For example, say a song was a hit in 1970, but them some words had to be changed in 1980 so the song conformed with censorship ratings for a radio station. Does the reworded song have the same copyright expiration date as the original, or does it have a different date? And if someone gets done for file sharing the reworded song, is it the same as sharing the as the original?
As I said, I think you should be able to determine the expiration date based upon the information on the copyright notice.

By TSS on 9/17/2012 6:49:41 PM , Rating: 5
That's not a problem. The reworded song is copyrighted 1980 and when it was produced, assuming everything happened legitimatly in the music business, royalties where paid for the cover of the 1970s song. If it's from the same author, royalties don't even come into effect, and yes the work would still be 1980 copyright however the original will reach public domain in 2050 assuming the author died in 2000.

Though if your country has a longer term of experation you might need to wait longer. That i don't know.

In any case, 28 years is still too long. It might've been long in ye olde days where it took weeks just to travel to another city, but today it's ages. 28 years ago:

- dropping a mobile phone on your foot broke your foot.
- 64kb was enough for everybody
- Saddam hussein was our friend
- no space shuttle had ever exploded
- gas was about $1,20 a gallon and dropping
- interest rates where at 9% and rising. Today's $500 billion @ 0% on interest on national debt would be $1,5 trillion.
- Though that $500 billion would only be $255,5 billion.

I say 10 years, no exceptions, and no extentions what so ever. If we leave the system open to extention within a couple of years they'll extend the extensions to right back where we started. After that it's anchored in the constitution in a copyright amendment so nobody will dare change it again.

If you can't find a way to capitalize on your invention in a decade, you don't deserve to. A decade is a long time.

By bigboxes on 9/17/2012 10:00:33 PM , Rating: 2
LOL, it's Gomer again! It's seems as it's YOU that is frustrated because no one cares about YOUR absurd and distorted views of reality and copyright laws.

By Fritzr on 9/18/2012 2:18:20 AM , Rating: 2
Actually Disney Corp. cares a great deal about copyright law and surely has plans in place for a further extension of protection shortly before the early mouse cartoons go PD.

Disney has been one of the main driving forces behind copyright extension. If they ever fail to extend the copyright protection, they project serious damages due to original House of Mouse animation, artwork and stories being made available without a payment to Disney.

The corporate viewpoint is that copyright should not expire before the corporation does. This is in conflict with the US constitution, but since the biggest bank account tends to win the election, campaign contributions, both direct and indirect, influence Congressional decisions.

Many companies pay both sides of the election, but fail to mention the competing contributions when it comes time to tell the winning politicians what goals they need to work for if they intend to win the next election.

By BZDTemp on 9/18/2012 4:08:49 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, Lex Disney is a prime example of how big money influences/buys US politicians. Washington is as corrupt as can be :-(

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