We’re stuck in a long distance relationship with copyright.

 

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Here’s a thought:

Copyright Laws are putting us in a long-distance relationship situation with media, and hindering creativity.

In a long-distance relationship, what happens is the couple communicate in a superficial way most of the time, and only see each other occasionally as their life/work situations allow. This creates an odd situation where the relationship is stuck in a kind of dating limbo- where the couple don’t see each other enough for the relationship to progress to the get-together stage or the breakup stage. As a result, the relationship lingers on and on, because they never get sick of each other, but aren’t satisfied with the relationship either. It creates a situation where they are constantly hoping that the next meeting will be awesome, remembering the meetups that were awesome, and forgetting all the meetups that sucked. Preventing them from moving on and finding new and possibly better relationships.

Ever-extending copyright laws are doing the same thing to our relationship with media. Instead of letting us fall in and out of love with a media property (like Star Wars), the long-term copyright laws keep us exposed to only a drip-feed of that media property and keep us from getting sick of it. We remember the good times, but not the bad, and keep coming back to it. As a result, a few mega-properties (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Marvel/DC Superheroes, etc) are able to suck up all the media attention (and money) and hindering the growth of new media sources because they never quite go away.

If we had shorter copyrights, then after a certain point properties would enter the public domain and everyone could make their versions of those media properties, which would have two effects- 1) it would “burn them out” of the collective consciousness through over-saturation and overexposure (everyone would get sick of them and move on), and 2) it would create opportunities for new material to move in and grow, resulting in newer media that suits the current generation and offers new ways of thinking instead of the old stuff being recycled endlessly. (Or, to continue our relationship metaphor- it would force people to break up and find new partners.)

My friend Don often comments that “nothing goes away anymore”, and I think this is a piece of that. Nothing is going away because corporations are extending out franchises and copyright keeps the public from running wild with them and burning them out. You might say that’s just fine, since it keeps the companies in business, but it also prevents them from innovating, since all their energies are focused on the old and not the new. Just like it keeps the public’s attention on the old instead of the new, preventing the innovation which happens every day from rising up into the public’s awareness and changing things for the better (or worse).

Just an idea, anyway.

Rob

 

2 thoughts on “We’re stuck in a long distance relationship with copyright.

  1. Hmmmm….

    Some interesting points, but I think you know I disagree with a few of them.

    >Nothing is going away because corporations are extending out franchises and copyright keeps the public from running wild with them and burning them out.

    Well…. I think the key to remember is that the audience isn’t a passive participant in the media process. Part of why nothing goes away is because the audience doesn’t want it too. Once they get bored, they’ll move on to the next thing. I think that’s important ‘cos it’s the reason companies desperately hold on to the rights to profitable properties. That’s part of why I don’t think the proliferation of a few properties is entirely the result of corporate shenanigans. It’s also why I don’t think an endless proliferation of Batman semi-legit fanfic would necessate the public losing interest and a new property taking over. (‘Course, it’s entirely possible a new property would just be a slightly different Batman.)

    >it would create opportunities for new material to move in and grow, resulting in newer media that suits the current generation and offers new ways of thinking instead of the old stuff being recycled endlessly

    ….which kinda happens anyway. So…. while Batman proliferates today, “the kids” have discovered unboxing videos, and game playalongs…. new stuff that speaks to the current generation. (How do you like your “innovation” now? BWAHAHAHAHAAA!!!!)

    My main concern with loosening copyright is that it’d have the exact opposite effect from what you hope it would. Looser laws would likely make it easier for the big producers to rip off the small producers, and flood the market with THEIR permutation of a theme; drowning out the original. It’d be easy for them ‘cos they have access to means of mass production, information on what the audience wants, a BIG head start in the marketing game, and no compunctions about “tweaking” the material to make it profitable.

    If anything, I’d like to see MORE copyright laws, but ones that favour the individual creator/owner.

    Don C.

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