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(TFT) Re: Who owns ideas?

From: "J. McGuire" <wtsoft@io.com>

> 2) The intended duration: "...by securing for limited times...."
> Let's say that someone writes a short story when she is 21. Given average
> lifespans in the US today, it's not unreasonable to expect her to live to
> the age of 81. That gives us 60 years of her life since the story was
> written, plus 50 more years. *PLUS*, according to one of the less
> commonly-known clauses, her heirs can renew that copyright for an
> additional 50 years. Is it reasonable to believe that 160 YEARS was the
> sort of "limited time" that the authors of the Constitution had in mind?

I've looked at a lot of copyright stuff and nowhere I've looked is there any provision 
beyond life + 50, publication + 75 or creation + 100.  Now, if an author died shortly 
after publishing a book in 1977, then the heirs could renew the copyright in 2005 for an 
additional 47 years, to make a total of 75 years from publication, which would also be 
death + 75. Please tell us where this mysterious extra 50 years comes from.

I do agree that life + 50 is a little long, but it protect works created shortly before 
death from being prematurely made public domain.  This makes a work have a minimum 
copyright of 50 years.

> >A number of authors have sued successfully 
> >based on movies being created that (according to the authors) were based 
> >on *ideas* from their books. Under strict copyright law, *ideas" cannot 
> >be copyrighted, but these suits have been upheld. (Harlan Ellison has won 
> >a couple...)
> The US justice system does not determine who is legally, morally, or
> honorably correct. It determines who has the most money and the best
> lawyers. (couldn't we just compare bank balances and have the lawyers
> arm-wrestle, and save all that time and money?)

In the case of Art Buchwald, who sued a movie studio (can't remember which one) over 
Eddie Murphy's 'Coming to America', it was definately not the case of who had the best 
lawyers or most money. It came down to who could prove they were right to a jury. Art 
Buchwald certainly didn't have the most money. He won.

> Y'know, there is a way around this, at least for the honorable individual
> author. I think I should put it in my will: "To the Public Domain, for the
> perpetual use and enjoyment thereof, I irrevocably grant the rights to all
> of my creative works, excepting only those for which I filed copyright in
> the ten years prior to my death. The latter shall be given to the Public
> Domain in perpetuity on the tenth anniversary of my death."

My personal take is that I'd rather have some control (even after death) about how best 
to improve the world by my works.  I'd put a statement saying that royalties must go to a 
foundation I create doing things I approve of. Better that than simply enriching some 
publisher for printing my books after 10 years.  I don't think the old system (where 
Tarzan, Barsoom, Oz and Peter Pan are coming into PD) is that bad, except for the renewal 
thingie.  That's one area I think the 1992 law did right.
Brett Slocum <slocum@io.com> -- MiB #0666 (Minneapolis, MN - CL) -- ICQ #13032903
* Illuminated Sitekeeper for Steve Jackson Games
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"Ah'm yer pa, Luke." -- if James Earl Ray was the voice of Darth Vader
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