New Bill to Limit Copyright to 56 Years, Would be Retroactive

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
The "retroactive" part has Constitutional problems - "no ex post facto law" - but the concept is sound.

It still has to go through (at least in theory) the committee process for legislation and persuade 51 Senators this is a good idea. Plenty of opportunity to polish the rough edges ... or disappear the proposal into a black hole.
 

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payn

Legend
The "retroactive" part has Constitutional problems - "no ex post facto law" - but the concept is sound.

It still has to go through (at least in theory) the committee process for legislation and persuade 51 Senators this is a good idea. Plenty of opportunity to polish the rough edges ... or disappear the proposal into a black hole.
Wouldn't it need 60 senators?
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
For this reason I think that it should be a scale involving time after the death of the author/creator, rather than a set time period. Say Life+10 years, or simply the life of the author/creator, with no inheritable rights. If you create something at 20 and live until 90 should you then potentially die a pauper?
I'd be all for a 3 tier system. Total control from 20 years or death of the creator, then something like a non-commercial creative commons license with some automatic default "creator gets X percentage of income made from the IP" until the death of the author, and then after that the only protection is that you have to be cited as the creator of the IP when the IP is used by others.
 






Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Nope. Because this wouldn’t create retroactive criminal penalties.

The ex post facto clause is much more limited than most people realize.
You’re probably right on this one. Near as I can tell, Hawley’s proposal says nothing about changing the criminal penalties, just the duration.

OTOH, the First Amendment issues (doing this because Disney expressed a political opinion certain GOPers don’t like) and Fifth Amendment issues (taking property without due process) would remain significant barriers to this surviving a well-funded legal challenge.

(And I doubt Disney would be fighting this alone- amicus briefs would darken the skies.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
This seems like just a stunt to build credibility for Hawley without actually accomplishing anything. Any bill that actually gets signed into law would exempt all "intellectual property" owned by Disney and anyone else rich enough to buy politicians (i.e., not you).
It’s probably not credibility, per se. It‘s publicity. If guys like Hawley and DeSantis want to compete against Trump in the primaries for the 2024 presidential cycle, they need massive publicity. The GOP primaries give primary winners lots of delegates fast (several are winner take all primaries) and that gives pretty big advantages to the biggest names in the running.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
A good thing is a good thing, regardless of how our why it came about (a truth the American left could really stand to take to freaking heart). Disney's ludicrous stranglehold on copyright laws was always horrible and has been incredibly restricting on creativity for decades, an even more egregious proposition coming from a company that built it's brand and fortune upon the public domain.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Just to understand, you are saying that a property you fully control from ages 20 to 76 will leave you a pauper, but if you extend it for 14 more years you will not? If it's that big of a deal, what happened to the money made during those 56 years?

Sometimes something isn't big until later, and sometimes something that WAS big and didn't bring in the money, may revert rights and then be able to bring in money later.

Oil! by Upton Sinclair was revived a little bit just a few years ago with "There Will be Blood" in the cinema. It was 80 years after Oil! was written. If he were alive, would you say he deserves nothing for them having used his story and book as a basis for inspiration?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Just to understand, you are saying that a property you fully control from ages 20 to 76 will leave you a pauper, but if you extend it for 14 more years you will not? If it's that big of a deal, what happened to the money made during those 56 years?

Let us consider the case of Peter S. Beagle - Hugo and Nebula Award winner, holder of a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and SFWA Grandmaster. You'd imagine that with such under his belt, he should be raking in cash from his work.

The man wrote one of his most popular works, The Last Unicorn, back in 1968. It was made into a movie, with a script he wrote himself, in 1982. Unfortunately, the company holding the contract from 1999, withheld every red cent of the money due to him. It took eight years of legal battles to get a settlement. And then... his manager then screwed Beagle again, tying up not just The Last Unicorn, but most of his other work as well. That only resolved in 2019.

And, by this law, he'd lose rights again in 2024.

Most creators are not legal powerhouses, and can lose decades of livelihood in legal disputes. In having a mad on for big businesses, it is more than possible to stomp all over individuals.
 

Making it retroactive just means he's not serious, as that is almost certainly several trillion dollars in government takings of private property for which IP owners would have to be duly compensated, except that it's intangible property so it would also completely strangle our court system trying to litigate what the the values are.

Some critics will also point out that it violates US treaty obligations under the Berne Convention. It should be noted that, whatever the diplomatic consequences, treaties are not directly enforceable on US law, meaning that while in some countries the government is directly legally bound by it's treaties, a US law can ignore US treaties.

Personally I think the US never should have joined the Berne convention or changed our copyright laws to conform to it in the 1970s. The prior regime of more limited copyrights with renewals served the purpose for which Congress was given the specific enumerated power of creating copyrights and patents "to promote science and the useful arts", meaning the utilitarian idea that by giving people a time limited exclusive right in their creations people are encouraged to create, but the public domain is ultimately enriched when their exclusive right ends. This was perverted by joining an international convention geared towards a different purpose of preserving some sort of artistic moral right in their creation, and whatever the merits of that, it has been further perverted by pure corporate rent collecting leading to lobbying to extend copyrights to an absurd length of time.

A system where of a more limited length with renewals for people actually still using copyrights is much more friendly to having a public domain while giving people and entities more than enough incentive to create. Nobody decides to create or not create something based on what rents they can or can't collect over a half century down the line. Current copyright law just impoverishes the public domain for little useful purpose.

But while I support a copyright system in many ways similar to what Mr. Hawley is proposing, this is just political grandstanding. It will go exactly nowhere, and it will go exactly nowhere because the whole point of it for him is being retroactive to punish corporations he dislikes, which is the absolutely terrible part. That would put the US government on the hook for trillions, create a ridiculous burden on the judicial branch, through all large copyright based industries into abrupt disarray, and hence will bring the dollars of every media conglomerate to bear in making sure his bill goes exactly nowhere.

Grandfathering in existing property interests is a basic part of how laws are made in the US and it is that way for a reason, whether you like those property interests and the people and entities who hold them or not.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Disney's ludicrous stranglehold on copyright laws was always horrible and has been incredibly restricting on creativity for decades
IMHO, when we only focus on the big players, we overlook the benefits those same laws Disney and others fought for benefit the little guys…and through their estates, their families,

And I have to say- as a creator of IP myself- I’ve always been bothered by the “copyright restricts creativity” assertion. Every creative person finds some kind of inspiration from other creators, but I’m leery of those whose ability to create seemingly depends too heavily upon the work of others. Especially when it’s obvious you can do things inspired by copyrighted materials without violating the law. There’s literally dozens of superheroes based on Superman, and similar iconic superheroes have their own cadres of copies. All legal.
 

Not only is any benefit for "little guys" purely unintentional, if there was a practical way to shaft the little guy even harder, they would do so. Take this as a general principle, and if you find an example in our society where it doesn't apply, chances are you're wrong.
 

Thanks for your answers. I like to know this thread is interesting for you.

It is hard to guess this is going to happen, because this not only affect comics and Hollywood productions, but also musical and literary industry. And we don't know the impact with other countries. Could a Japanese videogame studio to use characters from marvel comics for the 40-50's years (for example Silly Seal and Ziggy Pig)? And an American publisher to publish a mash-up version of characters from European comics? (Blueberry is an French comics started in 1963, and Lucky Luke is French-Belgian from year 1946) Now let's imagine some American megacorporation bribing foreign politicians and then this happens in Spain, and USA can use IPs from Spain what now become "public domain", for example Zipi and Zape, two little children famous in the Spanish strips decades ago, becoming a potential rival for other more recent franchises because somebody created the right cartoon or webcomic.

The Northamerican entertaiment industry could hire an army of lawyers saying if other countries don't follow the same rules then this may be an unfair disadvantage.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Not only is any benefit for "little guys" purely unintentional, if there was a practical way to shaft the little guy even harder, they would do so.
Unintentional or not, the benefit exists. And a lot of my clients (and associates) are happy to have it.

(And believe me, not a one of them is is anything but a “little guy”.)
 


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