Overheard on CNN.com: Are we getting copyright laws wrong?
James Joyce, the author of "Ulysses," is seen in 1938. "Ulysses" has entered the public domain.
January 31st, 2012
07:16 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Are we getting copyright laws wrong?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

An interesting conversation began on a story today about creative works that enter the public domain. William Patry, a senior copyright counsel at Google Inc., argued that the length of time required for this to occur has become far too protracted. Many of our commenters tended to agree, and two popular responses are included below.

Time to update copyright law?

Most-liked comment
Several readers said they felt copyright law has become too prohibitive. Do you agree or disagree? Comment below and let us know.

Clouseau2: "The whole logic of the copyright has been turned upside down. It makes perfect sense to give authors a limited time when their work is protected to give them an incentive to make it in the first place. However, now 'limited' means 'forever.' Whenever Steamboat Willie is about to enter into the public domain, Disney just throws a million or two into the pockets of a corrupt Congresscritter and magically the copyright gets extended for another 20 years. Authors are not going to avoid making something because 50 years after their death it's going to go into the public domain. That's ridiculous. The main purpose of copyright law today is to protect the profits of a few media empires, not to enable creative output. These long copyright terms seriously infringe on the arts, as older works are lost forever and new derivative content cannot be produced."

Another view
The comment below was also popular. We heard from several people who said they were content creators and wanted to have protection for themselves and their future generations.

flyboy60: "I'm all for strong copyright laws since I am an artist and content creator. I want to benefit from work my whole life, and what's wrong with my kids benefiting too? Granted, it doesn't need to be lifetime plus 70 years, maybe lifetime plus 20 would be good. All this 'information needs to be free' horsepucky is said by those who don't create anything for a living!"

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Business • Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Mmmmm ♔♕

    everybody's copyrighted! hey broked the mold after they created me...oops! I'm not the first one to say that...lol

    January 31, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Alexander

    My work is my own,and,I worked hard to keep it from being taken away,so I support strict copyright laws .For people that work hard to keep what is theirs.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Backwards Americans

    In the USA, your patent is only protected after the patent number is issued. Anyone can view your invention, tweak it, and get it to the market before you do. In America, it's not who had the idea first, it's who got it to the marketplace first, backwards of patenet laws in other free countries where you are protected until you get your product to market. Your idea is seen by the public for the first time AFTER your patent is issued.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Backwards Americans

    Our patent laws aren't the only thing that's backwards. In America, the law requires that a defendant and his attorney have "meaningful discussions", called 'plea bargains' where true justice can be traded for lesser justice. In other free countries, plea bargaining is illegal because it so obviously sidetracks from getting to the truth.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Alexaner

    Copy rights protect work that takes many hours and days,I'm all for strict copyright laws.

    January 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. fernace

    As a singer/songwriter & creative writer I want my work to be protected! I don't much care how difficult the process is, if I created it it's mine & I want to reap whatever rewards it generates! I'm all for strict copyright laws! I agree w/Alexander, that hours, days & sometimes years go into the creative process & I don't want all that work stolen because of a lax law!!

    January 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lawrence Lessig's Alter Ego

    There is nothing "natural" about IP, especially copyright, protection. It is not even considered real property nor should it be.
    For all you Constitutional crazies the document gives Congress the power "...to promote Progress (by supporting useful arts and inventions something along those lines) by securing FOR LIMITED TIMES..."
    The key point is that protection of IP is created simply as a social incentive to get people to invent and create and not as a John Locke style inalienable right. Think of it as another form of tax break or subsidy since it is an effective legal monopoly for a certain limited time.
    Therefore, once that commercial value of a work is exhausted (rather quickly nowadays) LET THE CONTENT GO!
    Oh and just so people don't think that public domain works can't make money, I advise looking into the game Monopoly, Alice in Wonderland (with Johnny Depp and Disney) and Linux distributions.
    I could go on but I'll take a rest...

    January 31, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. David

    Well fernace and alexander both seem to think that we pass laws because it's what they want. I hate to break it to you but that's not the case. In fact it has nothing to do with what you want. People created art and literature and music long before there was a copyright law. Think Renaissance. Early in the shaping of the United States there was a great deal of discussion as whether or not to implement a copyright law. The basic reasoning was that a limited amount of time would be given to the creator to profit from the work. After that period of time the work passed to the public domain for the benefit of society. The betterment of society was much more important than the profit of the creator. Over the years, rights to created works has passed from people to large corporations. The most important thing to them is control. (not profit) If it was profit, when the 60 million or so unpublished works tied up in copyright but unavailable to the public became unprofitable they would release them for public use. Instead, big companies like Disney who have a great deal of their image tied up in Mickey Mouse want to control that created work so that no one but them can use it. It is also true that they routinely pay our "for sale" representatives to change the law to extend the length of copyright until it is now stupidly long. The only thing that comes from this is that the public is deprived. This was not the intent of copyright law. Copyright was created to balance the wants of the creator with the betterment of society. It not longer does that. It now serves only the greed of people who are too lazy to keep creating. They want to benefit in perpetuity so that they can create once and then just stop. If any other industry only wanted to create a product once and then stop developing any products so that you could only buy that one model forever and no one else could make a similar product we wouldn't have 98% of the stuff we have. In the end, society is supposed to take precedence over the individual. It's only very recently that we've raised up a few generations that think it's all about them. It's not.

    February 1, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    The creation of a serious novel, symphony, or opera does not take hours or days. think in terms of years. The creator should have a long copyright.
    The creation of a pop song takes a very short time by comparison, and the financial return is quicker.
    It is fair for the publisher of a work to earn a good profit for taking a chance on a work and selling it at his expense.
    Centuries ago, royal courts and the Church supported artists.
    Some of this confusion about paying for creativity comes from the American Idol mentality that "great" art is to hold a microphone (suggestively) in front of one's mouth and sing an imitation of Everyman's failed attempts at singing so that Everyman can identify with the glamorized failure and sort-of "felt" expression.
    The desire to shorten copyright terms is partially a result of the decline of aspiration in creativity and in education.

    February 1, 2012 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. hamsta

    Metallica is just a bunch of posers that cant hang with ozzy osbourne who has been making music for 44 years and gives free concerts

    February 1, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. hamsta

    Most crap on the radio today isnt music and i can prove that mathmatically.

    February 1, 2012 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    An insight regarding the general public's concept of the creation of serious works of art can be gained from a scene in Ken Russell's (wonderful) film THE MUSIC LOVERS, in which Tchaikowsky presents his patron Madame von Meck a new symphony written on a single piece of parchment (or paper) and tied with a ribbon.
    I first watched this film seated beside a world-famous composer. When the symphony was depicted on a single sheet, we both laughed, but those around us did not understand the unintended humor.
    Many who advocate the shortening of copyright terms have never hefted the full orchestral score of a symphonr.

    February 1, 2012 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. hamsta

    for once joey i agree with you.this stuff they call rap music is just crap and is not music.if you listen closely what little bit of it isnt stolen from someone else doesnt even make a scale.

    February 1, 2012 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    I meant "symphony," not "symphonr."

    February 1, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©™

    @ hamsta:
    We agree more often than we disagree. I'd like to end any dissension between us.
    We have different writing styles, but I respect your work ethic.

    February 1, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |