LA Times op-ed has an interesting viewpoint on copyrights

This LA Times article by Dallas Weaver is well worth a read.

The present system treats these copyrighted works as a funny kind of real property with no carrying costs, taxes or significant fees.

if all copyrights were taxed at a fixed (but significant) amount per year to maintain the copyright (all registered through the copyright office and searchable), there would be a significant carrying cost and most of the copyrighted material would revert to "public domain" and become available to "promote the progress of science and useful arts."

I made a similar suggestion (but not as well-thought-out) in my win-win copyright proposals, but the advantage of this idea is that it would give copyright holders an incentive to actively release works into the public domain as soon as they're no longer profitable, rather than relying on them falling into the public domain some time after they cease to be profitable.

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Intangible property tax.

An Intellectual Property Tax would also completely solve the unlocated copyright holder and "out of print" problems.

I do think there is something to be said about a graduated property tax system that accounts for the commercial viability and licensing methods. For instance, a percentage of royalties for royalty-bearing publicly distributed works, and then a yearly tax based on how liberal or restrictive a license is used.

Maybe software under a certified FLOSS license (or similar licenses for non-software) would get 10 years copyright for free, with moral rights being retained for life.


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.

moral rights

I've said for a long time that I'd like to see the duration of moral rights separated from the duration for economic rights. The only thing to be careful of is that grey area between the two. It's easy for a moral right ("I don't want my work associated with that product") to become an economic right ("Oh, well if you're willing to pay me that much, I guess it would be ok"). That doesn't seem to be an issue with moral rights like the right to have your name associated with your work.

Right of Integrity

I have always found the "right of integrity" to be the most confusing and misunderstood right.

Berne says: "(1) Independently of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to, the said work, which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation."

The key phrase is not "distortion, mutilation or other modification", but "prejudicial to his honor or reputation". Far too many people focus on the first part which gets them confused with rights to authorize derivatives which is a material right. As soon as you get in writing that the person would be willing to allow the modification in exchange for a payment, you have evidence for a court that would toss out any right of integrity claims.

The other thing we need to retain is the right to waive this aspect of moral rights, given there are methods of production such as peer production where the focus is not on the integrity of the reputation of any individual, but the integrity of the group of peers. It would be just as wrong to allow one peer in a peer production community to hold the others hostage as it would be for works of an individual to be mutilated/etc in a way that is "prejudicial to his honor or reputation".


Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) consultant.