The Constitution grants Congress the power:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for
limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their
respective Writings and Discoveries

That power is being abused. Let me illustrate:

Pelagic is a company that makes SCUBA diving computers. The purpose of these computers is to allow a diver to manage his life support equipment. Pelagic used to offer computers that would not only allow a diver to monitor the amount of breathing gas left in their own tanks, but to wirelessly monitor their buddy’s gas pressure as well. According to the manufacturer, that feature was removed on November 1, 2011, due to a patent infringement claim. To my knowledge, no other manufacturer offers this feature. Meaning that the patent is not furthering the arts, but is merely keeping competitor’s products from reaching the market.

The “Happy Birthday Song” cannot be performed in public, because the Copyright’s owner, Warner Music, demands royalties. The problem is that the song was written in 1893 by a pair of sisters, and was not copyrighted until 1935 by entirely different people. Even if not, does a 120 year period seem like a “limited time” as stated in the Constitution? After all, the exclusive right was said to be “for
limited Times to Authors and Inventors.” Over a century later, the beneficiary of a writing or discovery is certainly not the author or inventor, it is most likely going to be a corporation. In the case of Warner Music, the company makes $2 million a year from royalties for singing the birthday song.

Where did this come from? Well, the latest came from the Copyright Term Extension Act, passed in 1998. Before that time, Copyrights were good for the life of the author plus 50 years. The Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for
works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years
after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.

This was done at the behest of the Walt Disney Company, to preserve the copyright on Mickey Mouse, and Mary Bono, to preserve the profits she was making from her father’s works. Walt Disney died in 1966, and this law is in place to protect the profits of the corporation until 2019.

How does this further the Arts? Or science? Instead of furthering the Arts and Sciences, Copyrights and Patents have been twisted to suppress them in order to preserve and increase corporate profits. Instead of encouraging the arts, this law is simply allowing the companies to sit on their laurels and collect royalties.If the term were shortened, the entertainment companies would be forced to innovate and create in order to maintain profitability, rather than simply market and license century old ideas.

I understand that Authors and Inventors need to profit from their work, but I am not sure that one needs to profit for the rest of their lives, or for a century.

I think that 10 years is more than enough time.

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SiGraybeard · October 5, 2013 at 3:48 am

Another bad aspect is that we used to patent based on "First to Invent" and that was changed over to "First to File". More like Europe, I hear.

So it used to be less of a race. As long as your notebooks and records could demonstrate you invented first, it was yours. Now it's first one to the patent office. The corporate attorneys where I work said the law amounts to a "patent lawyers full employment act". Full employment of any flavor lawyer (eww…) can't be that good.

Angus McThag · October 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Jerry Pournelle, who has an ox to be gored by this, has stated that 20 years from first publish milks all of the benefit an individual author could ever need.

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