Yesterday I compared Copyrights with Creative Commons licenses. Jenn posted the following in comments and kindly allowed me to uplevel it to a guest post.
I’m a big supporter of copyright protections. Now don’t get me wrong. Creative Commons is a great thing. And if people choose to release all or some of their work that way, I can respect that choice. But what I’m not okay with is when people feel they should have the right to tell me or other creative professionals that we should or have to do the same.
Here are some of the important points I think people sometimes overlook:
1. Perhaps less enters the public domain each year, but I’d argue that far more is created each year with the increased ease of exposure for our work alongside our rights that allow us to monetize that work.
2. That ease of exposure and ease of monetizing (even if in small bits residually) means that people can earn from a creative work for a longer period than they might have been able to a century ago. Rather than insisting on huge up front payments, writers in particular often count on that extended period of smaller payouts to justify the time put into constantly creating new things.
3. The digital age also means that there’s less of a risk (not more) that people will miss out on classics just because they’re not in the public domain. While some lesser known works might be temporarily “lost,” I’d argue that anything truly classic will still find its way to the public through the copyright holder. They have more ways to make it happen now. You can have access without it being free. Personally I find the argument of some people that things should be free or “open” to the public to be more a sense of entitlement than something else. if they want great works released and free for the public, then they can sit their asses down, create them, and release them.
4. People behind these creative works often don’t have the same type of financial security that others have. Copyright, in a way, gives them that (and their families when they’re gone). When they can no longer write a best selling novel, they can retire knowing they can still earn from their past work even though there was no employer contributing to a 401k for them over the years. They can create new versions of past works they own to adapt to new media developments and keep their income coming in. If something happens to them, their spouse and children will still have income throughout their lives to help support the family.
5. While most creative works might not keep earning well long into the future, some will. Should those creators and their families be penalized just because they created something truly extraordinary in that sense? I don’t think so.
While 70 years can be a debatable number (and I’d be okay personally with it being slightly lower), again… who’s to determine when that family stops valuing something? Forget about works created for strictly commercial purposes. I’m a family historian. Should I have the right to publish an ancestor’s diary 30 years or so after their death, even the contents would humiliate living relatives? Should it be a free for all just because some people want access to more commercial works for free?
One of the biggest concerns I have with the overall copyright debate is that people often look at it strictly from a commercial standpoint rather than considering these other issues like privacy which are just as applicable. Copyright doesn’t only apply to commercial works. If the government can wait 72 years to publicly release census documents of legitimate public interest long before that point, then personally I feel similar information owned privately should be afforded similar protection. In the meantime, anyone who wants their work to “get around” more does have options to do so by releasing it under creative commons or directly into the public domain. Despite the cc buzz, none of that’s new. Creators have always had the right and ability to exercise their full rights under copyright law or grant licenses for certain uses.
Do you agree? Or not?
Image from http://www.sxc.hu