The “Right” in “Copyright”

Ignatz and Copyright
Welcome to Ignatz & Copyright, the first in a series of articles in which I, along with you the readers, will explore the debate over copyright, Canada’s Bill C-61, the American DMCA and related matters. If you want to find the inspiration behind this series, read the entry title Ignatz Zayats and the Copyright Debate, as well as the comments.

I thought I’d start by providing a quick definition of “copyright”, just to make sure that we’re all talking about the same thing. Copyright is a compound word, and in this entry, I’m going to look at the “right” in “copyright”.

First, the “Right”…

The “right” in “copyright” refers to the set of exclusive legal rights granted to creators over their works for a limited period of time. These rights boil down to:

  • The right to copy the work
  • The right to recognition for creating the work
  • The right to distribute (or say who can distribute) copies of the work to the public by selling, renting or lending it
  • The right to perform, display or transmit (or say who can perform, display or transmit) the work in public
  • The right to prepare derivative works (or say who can prepare derivative works) based upon the work

Copyright’s intent, to borrow the words of the “Copyright Clause” in the U.S. Constitution, is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”. By creating a legal mechanism for creators to be compensated, creators can make a living, and are given an incentive to continue creating works.

As I mentioned earlier, copyright is granted for a limited period of time. Once this period of time passes, the work enters the public domain, at which point it can be freely used and adapted by anyone.


One reply on “The “Right” in “Copyright””

I have not proposed any radical “solutions” because I’m not convinced there’s such a huge problem. Apple’s iTunes Music Store has sold three billion songs already. I haven’t seen sales numbers, but Amazon appears to be doing fine selling completely open mp3s. Despite all the sky-is-falling panicky thrashing coming out of the big music companies, music sales are not down all that much.

My contentions:
(a) Most people *are* willing to pay for music. All you have to do is make it more convenient than hunting down shit on bittorrent. Which is not that hard, see Apple and Amazon.
(b) Big music companies’ business model is screwed. Technology has overtaken them. They have a problem to fix. It is not my problem to fix, and I do not see why I should have to sacrifice my Fair Use rights to their inability to accept this.

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