December 7, 2006 · Lessig
December 7th. A date which will live in infamy.
So the day after the Gowers Review issued perhaps the most sensible document about IP produced by a government related entity in the 20th or 21st century — the report, remember, that after a careful review of the evidence, concluded that as a matter of principle, the copyright term of existing works should never be extended — 4,000 artists signed an advertisement in the FT calling for “fair play for musicians” by extending the copyright term for recordings from 50 to 95 years. As CNN reports,
Without a change in the law, the catalogue of McCartney’s Beatles could be up for grabs from 2012 and 2013, including early hits like “Love Me Do” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.
Oh jeez. Poor Paul, you may think. Robbed in his old age. Except of course, as popculture maven Jon Zittrain reports, and popstar-blinded CNN omits, McCartney doesn’t own his “catalogue” and anyway, the only right at issue is the recording. The underlying composition right will be “McCartney’s” for at least 70 years more.
But I get the fairness argument: Congress cheated the American people by violating the Gowers principle against extending existing terms, so it is only fair that Parliament cheat the British people too. How else will Sir Cliff afford the upkeep on the house in Barbados that Tony Blair likes to visit unless he gets another 45 years monopoly on his 1956 recordings?
What’s needed here is some good user-generated guerrilla content — remember Napster_Bad — so that the other side of this story might pierce the press-relation’s wall of these cultural elites, and they can begin to explain just why 90+% of our past should be buried for another two generations so that they can profit even more.
Or I’d be happy if they could just answer my question: Why would they oppose a system in which to get the benefit of an almost doubling of their copyright term, they had to ask?