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September 16, 2009

Does the U.S. need tougher copyright laws?

Posted: 11:22 AM ET

A new report by the World Economic Forum (pdf) ranks United States intellectual property (IP) protections 19th in a worldwide survey. The rank was not based on a comparison of IP laws, but determined by a survey of global business leaders on how well they felt intellectual property was protected in their country.

The US Chamber of Commerce responds to the U.S.'s 19th-place finish by calling for greater IP protection and stricter copyright laws.

For a country whose economy is driven by innovation and creativity, where nearly half of the exports are from IP-based industries, and over $5 trillion of our GDP is based on IP, America should be setting the gold standard for IP rights and protections.

Ars Technica argues tougher IP laws are "largely a giveaway to huge businesses and rich artists," and claims most artists see less than 1 percent of the financial benefits of copyright extensions.

Artists and producers undoubtedly deserve compensation for their work. But is more "protection," which restricts fair use, encourages DRM and decreases public domain, always a good thing?

Nate Anderson of Ars Technica doesn't think so:

Reports like this come out, trade groups argue that their countries all need to do a better job of "catching up" to the first-place finisher, laws are passed, IP systems are tightened up, and a new number one country emerges. Everyone else then tries to reach this "new level."

It's a one-way system of ever-increasing control coupled with moral opprobrium for not agreeing that the only direction IP protection must go is up.

Do you feel more laws are needed to protect intellectual property in America? Or will further restrictions only stifle innovation and prevent a free flow of information?

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Filed under: DRM • Internet • online news • piracy

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Joshua Jones   September 16th, 2009 11:46 am ET

Stronger copyright laws is not what is needed. What is needed is for these failing industries to work on the ongoing issues with their business models and for them to step into the present, rather than calling for stronger Copyright to protect their failing business models.

Greg Arney   September 16th, 2009 12:07 pm ET

Stronger copyright laws are no solution. It is our primitive copyright law that has allowed large, powerful entities to muscle small creators out of business by intimidation and lawsuit. It essentially amounts to cronyism: a support network for hyperindustrialized IP created by the corporatist relationship between business and government. These companies need to stop proselytizing and start competing. The truth is that profits are threatened because the information age is breaking old institutions down, and now individuals and loose collectives are single-handedly performing complicated tasks once left to heavily funded teams. Rather than attempt to delay their erosion, we should look for new ways to forward–and so should they.

Franko   September 16th, 2009 1:20 pm ET

Of issue is the leveraging of a dominant position for greater control
US did not break up Microsoft,or Intel
Europe is leading the way with antitrust cases

Large corporations dominate with inferior products
The revolving doors; lobbyists, industry, politicians legal system
Ensure the rule of money over the guilty, downloading a mp3

Ben   September 16th, 2009 2:15 pm ET

I would prefer Americans just not be lazy thieves. Rather than tougher laws maybe try to enforce the ones we have? Enough with the RIAA/MPAA suing people in civil court, prosecute these pirates and brigands in CRIMINAL court. Send these IP thieves to the deepest darkest hole the law allows and then we will see if the problem declines.

Jason   September 16th, 2009 2:36 pm ET

Tougher copyright laws? No, what we need is a complete reform of companies. We're probably ranked 19th because of piracy, or software and music, which is their own fault. They use DRMs such as SecuROM, which can limit a person from installing a piece of software to 3 times, that's 3 times in it's life time, and they still want you to pay 60-80 dollars for that piece of software you may only be able to install 3 times. We need less stricter copyright laws, and stricter laws on how a product can be copyrighted and how it can be used. It's time for companies to stop trying to get in the consumers product and time for the consumer to get their money back from companies pockets.

Paul-Mikael Howell   September 16th, 2009 3:35 pm ET

As one might suspect copyright laws are a big issue for those of us in the new generation bracket (under 30 years of age), for myself for example I am a current college student who needs certain things to complete my education or break from it in order to stay sane. most copyright laws restrict the movement of information and data through the system of artist or filmmakers and such so much so that an album with expected sale volume of say 0.5 a million for an artist more than the cost of production and promotion and then when the final figure is calculated for the artist he/she might only receive maybe a 1-2 dollars of the retail price that the consumers pay being 14-15 dollars. There is something to be said about protected the right of the artist and not the distributor who is ripping off the public by driving prices up with copyright protections and turning around saying that someone who pirates a song has to give them 22,000 dollars for the one song when the retail value of the song maybe is $1.50 maximum. there should be a more conscious limit to those type of charges which more properly reflects the amount stolen not some value that is in the ballpark of 14,500 times the retail value.
the proper thing for these companies to do instead of paying hundreds of lawyers to charge the pirates with stealing (most of whom would never buy the product anyhow) is to cut costs of the products whether it be movies or music so that more ordinary people may enjoy it rather than charge them more to lawyer prosecution against pirates that most likely wont be caught anyhow.

Arthur   September 16th, 2009 4:55 pm ET

Problem is, most are being incredibly ignorant on the situation of Warez. While most artists do deserve to be compensated for there hard work, New idea's need to be come up with to connect to the new generation of humans. Our generation is continually realizing just how much we get ripped off by corporations an even musical artists. I'm sorry but we shouldn't have to lose money to someone for THERE terrible music. (Luckily this is being realized with the largely successful ITunes and other services). Regardless of what is right and wrong, for true evolution as a global culture we must realize the battle against pirated software etc is a already lost battle. Groups that crack it are only getting more sophisticated and some groups can be very dangerous with there skill in it. There needs to be a common ground found, there is no single answer. Constantly those who love movies lose money on terrible movies that are fed into theaters (It's getting worst and worst as the months go by, ridiculous money grubbing sequels).

To really sum it up though, generation X is already sick of being ripped off by greedy corporations and this will only lead to more stealing of there property, whether its deserved or not (I.E. terrible software, video games, etc, Perfect example: Shovelware on the Wii)

Anon   September 16th, 2009 5:57 pm ET

Just the opposite! The current bunch of crap we call copyright and patent law is ridiculous!! It stifles innovations and unfairly rewards "trolls". Copyright should be limited to the life of the original artist/author or whatever. Patents should be strenuously looked at to insure that whatever is being patented is not obvious and is original.

clay   September 16th, 2009 6:31 pm ET

IP laws don't work in today's technological world. Although in the US we're strongly for the individual the reality of it is that we're all connected now by the internet...which functions as a swarm mentality. Look at people posting comments on this isn't 1 person that is right but the combination of opinions that construct the middle ground.

If artist want to get paid make something worth paying for. Otherwise quit whining.

Lee   September 16th, 2009 7:08 pm ET

Copyright should be limited the life of the owner if an individual and the same length as a patent for a commercial entity. After that poblic domain.

Jack Phoenix   September 16th, 2009 7:31 pm ET

Enforcement is needed. There should never be a copyright for a product that is not developed. People and corporations should not be able to develop theories and protect them, that screws everyone and protects the mega corporations.

RJ   September 17th, 2009 4:01 am ET

I wonder how many people who have commented here actually own a copyright for something...

I do. Many, actually – and imagine if you will if the general public started taking cars off of dealership lots, refusing to pay for them because they learned somewhere how to hot-wire them. It is the MANUFACTURER/CREATOR who should have the right to set the price of their product and enforce it using whatever means they have at their disposal. This is the foundation of capitalism and our economy. Just because you wouldn't go out and spend your money on a particular type of vehicle doesn't mean you can get it for free. It is not the business model that is failing but the ethics of the general public that are eroding. It is EXPENSIVE to make music and films and requires hundreds of people, hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to record, manufacture, and market something to point where you would even have HEARD of it and now you think you should get it for free? The arguments used by the current "entitlement" generation are ridiculous at their core because they assume that music and films are different than any other kind of product. People are starting to feel that they should be able to do whatever they want whenever they want to whatever they want and it is hurting businesses, families, whole industries. You don't HAVE to buy music you don't like. Nobody is FORCING you to. It's like walking into a burger joint, ordering a burger and when it arrives, saying to the cashier "You know, I don't really like your burgers so I'm not gonna pay for it. I'm still gonna eat it though, I just won't enjoy it." And to the person who is using the "combination of opinions that construct the middle ground" argument – the majority is not always right. Most of the time they're not even close. There's a REASON that the bell curve exists. It shows the relationship of distribution. There are always going to be less smart people than average ones so if you find yourself in the majority you're probably dead average. Hate to break it to you...

It is painfully obvious to me that most of the people who have opinions on this particular subject are entirely ignorant of what copyright actually entails. As a music creator who has had a modicum of success and still struggles day to day financially because of the selfish greed gripping the masses, I hold no sympathy for those unwilling to pay for a product. In return for your devaluation of my life's work, I hope one day to pilfer something for your coffers. Then maybe we'll be even. Until then, respect the artists, and the companies that provide jobs and content for your iPods. Without them the soundtrack to your life will consist of nothing more than public domain standards. You are sucking the life out of creativity by stifling the rewards for excellence. There is no justification for this – only rectification will do.

Franko   September 17th, 2009 2:36 pm ET

Productivity and unemployment have risen. Wages have not.
So the government bails out the car companies, has cars crushed.
Allows, and pays for monopolistic practices

The poor and unemployed have no recourse
While those with the money want more intellectual property laws

Keep your intellectual property, safe, in secret, behind fences.
Once it escapes, do not expect others to enforce

Marvin   September 17th, 2009 2:49 pm ET

I think most of the posts above have very good points. As an artist myself, I feel that my music and ideas should be protected but only to a degree that does not infringe on the rights of people. For example with current laws in place, the content of people's computers can be viewed for the sake of prosecuting illegal downloads. I don't feel the people downloading the material are the proper ones to pursue in this case. Thats like a bank rober throwing hundreds of dollars into the streets to and the police arresting the people who find the bills.

Most people will be hard pressed to pay for something that is being offered for no cost at all. I'm not saying that people should seek free product just for the sake of not paying but what I am saying is that the ones that should be prosecuted is the parties that make the information available in the first place instead of prosecuting college students and parents of children who download without knowing the hundreds probably thousands of laws that exist. Its all about money.

To comment on RJ's comments, if you're struggling, chances are you're not that good an artist or you also find yourself in the majority (average) even if you don't want to admit it. The sad truth is that as many have stated, the industries have been strangled by these mega companies which make it nearly impossible for people to make it in the industry unless the are willing to get robbed by the companies that make them known to the public, ie, how many artists with platinum albums have gone bankrupt. Meanwhile the companies make money hand over fist. But as you say RJ, thats the foundation for our economy. By the way, the economy is in the process of failing just to let you know.

Sean   September 17th, 2009 8:57 pm ET

As a musician in a band with several releases...

Copyright is out of hand. The purpose of copyright was to encourage artists to produce materials that would eventually become part of the public domain for the betterment of society. Instead it has become a way for large corporations to lock the rights away and keep them in perpetuity, often through contracts stripping the rights away from the creators – who are given the choice of "sign or never be heard".

It's a joke. It's a joke for the sole benefit of the major labels and distributors who will whine and cry about their "risk" involved in spreading material they have no creative stake or claim in.

machater   September 17th, 2009 11:47 pm ET

you get FIVE years in prison and a $250000 fine for 1 bootleg movie. what more do you want

Buttercup   September 18th, 2009 2:00 am ET

Two words: Steamboat Willie.

Glenn Clarke   September 18th, 2009 11:07 am ET

Listen, many are complaining about this but few are taking definitive action. Well, there is an organization that is addressing this now, and it is What is being expressed there must be put into action within the next 12 to 18 months! If not, then creators of content will be in the same boat all over again! So, take action, read, and participate!

Franko   September 18th, 2009 11:25 am ET

Hunger for food, hunger ti learn and explore is frustrated by corruption

The copyright laws have turned a generation into criminals
Not only do the people of foreign countries feel oppressed
But also everyone downloading a mp3 he cannot afford

Kevin   September 18th, 2009 12:31 pm ET

To RJ,

If I go into a burger joint, order a burger, and it tastes horrible and I am completely unsatisfied ... chances are if I go to the manager and tell him, I'll get my money back. I personally have never done this (so don't start thinking I'm one of those 'whiny, think-I'm-entitled-to-everything' people), but at least it is a course of action I can take if I hate what I have purchased.

Try going to your local Best Buy to return a CD or Blu-ray/DVD after you've watched it, explaining to them that there's nothing wrong with the disc, you just hated the movie and want your money back. I'm betting they'll laugh at you and tell you 'NO WAY!' Same thing goes for a movie you watch in a movie theater ... if the movie sucks and I hate it, why can't I get my money back?! Obviously, it's highly unlikely that the theater would even consider doing such a thing.

So don't lecture us on wanting to 'preview' movies BEFORE we buy them by downloading them to decide if it's worth our hard, earned money. Until the movie studios stop making movies that are crap just to earn a buck, forgive me if I refuse to buy into your argument!

john   September 18th, 2009 12:39 pm ET

1st make the copyright laws make sense.
Copyright is supposed to give exclusive rights for a "Limited" time period.
This provides authors of works incentive to create things by saying that they are they only ones with the rights to copy those works. BUT it is supposed to be for a limited time only. Then these works are to be added to the public commons for anyone to use as they see fit.

The problem is this "Limited Time" keeps getting longer and longer and longer. And worse still its not being extended for the artists but for the corporations benefit.

Take "Happy Birthday" for example. people have actually been sent take down notices for posting a video of their kids birthday party because they sang happy birthday. (Yeah they should goto jail those crooked people)
This song was written in 1912 using the tune from another song that was written in 1893.
This is insane.

Copyright should be cut back to a more reasonable time period. say 7 years or 14 years.
If the copyright laws were made more reasonable then and only then could I see making the punishments stricter.

PS Copyrights violation is technically a civil matter not a crimal one.

JoJo   September 18th, 2009 1:10 pm ET

Copyright laws need to be lightened, not made stronger. They are supposed to protect the creator, not the big business behind the industry, and people have lost site of that.
The competition in the industry is not other producers, as works are distinct, but rather the competition is now piracy. Piracy cannot be stopped. That is a given. Therefore the solution is to lower the price of electronically delivered media to the point where it is competitive, like any other industry would have to do to stay in business. If I could get an album for what it was really worth, say $3, I would buy it instead of pirating it. As it is, I am not paying top dollar for something that I already paid the rights for when I bought it in a different media format, just to make rich execs richer. It ISN"T their creation, and they should NOT be the ones making money off this monopoly.

Gene   September 18th, 2009 4:51 pm ET

What is with this endless litany of imagined IP laxness? Seriously, I wonder how anyone can think corporations aren't going overboard in an age when the music industry can make demands for royalties on thirty-second previews.

Here, put this into your search engine of choice, preferably an image search: "your failed business model is not my problem"

Robbie   September 19th, 2009 5:38 pm ET

Copyright laws are too strong, not too weak. The exchange of ideas and culture has been fundamental to the human race right from its start – to slap a price tag on those commodities and stifle their free flow will only have a negative effect on the grown of our global culture and civilization.

In other words, this issue is bigger than a few executives looking to earn a few more bucks for company shareholders.

I just wonder how long it will be before big media companies team up with conservatives, like the health care industry, and start calling pirates "socialists" and praying for them to die of brain cancer.

Jeff   September 24th, 2009 6:09 pm ET

Yes, please tighten up copyright laws. After reading these comments, please stop stealing music and spend your time learning how to write a sentence.

Jeff   October 8th, 2009 10:34 am ET

The current copyright laws are hypocritical. Companies do everything they can to stop you from your Fair Use right to use of the product that you bought. Take DVDs for example. Fair Use says that you are able to backup something you bought for your own personal use. But yet these companies use DRM to protect their movies from allowing you to do just that. Once you crack the DRM to make your copy, you are in violation of copyright laws. Now these companies will claim you are not buying a copy of the movie, you are buying a license to view the movie that happens to exist on a disc. But of course, when this disc goes bad, they will not replace that disc. Even though you still own the license, they expect you to purchase another license to view the movie again.

Now, I will agree that pirating is bad, however, a pirate is someone who copies copyrighted material for the intent of profit. Someone who makes a copy of a movie, game, song, etc. to use how they please for themself is doing nothing wrong.

Copyright Law Changes | ENGL 278W   September 23rd, 2011 10:49 am ET

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