Damn copyright complexities

September 29, 2009

Have you ever looked into the quagmire that is copyright?

It is a horribly complicated mess, but the general principle is that when you create something you own the copyright on it. That copyright is effectively a ‘legal fiction‘ – but it is meant to be a social contract. A contract between you, the content creator, and society at large. You are granted a limited monopoly on your work – the exclusive right that might give you an opportunity to cover the cost of what you have created, or possibly even make money from it. After that limited monopoly expires, anyone can take your work and do whatever they want with it – it is said to have entered the public domain, become part of our common cultural heritage.

That limited monopoly has become a joke. Put more bluntly, we now have Mickey Mouse Copyright laws. The reference to Disney’s sacred cow character is most apt. Mickey first appeared in a black and white cartoon called Steamboat Willie in 1928. (Well, it wasn’t quite the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, but it was the first where the images and audio were synchronised). It is still under copyright today, in 2009, eighty-one years after it was released. It should have entered the public domain in 1956, it should have entered the public domain in 1986, again in 2003, and now will allegedly enter the public domain in 2023. The reason it has missed all these dates is repeated extension of copyright law – lobbied for by big-name content producers, just like Disney. They are stealing the world’s cultural heritage and locking it away to profit on it indefinitely. A particularly hypocritcal act on Disney’s part when you consider how much they profited from the public domain when making films like Snow White and all the other Brothers’ Grimm fairytales.

Now, here is my little copyright headache. A song with the uninspiring title, “I’d Like…“. You will recognise the music, if nothing else from “deity”-only-knows how many adverts for Coca Cola. Enjoy, and damn the copyright complexities, they’re designed to give you a migraine. If you really want to know the hoops I’d need to jump through to legally release this, look at the mechanical license page on Wikipedia.

[If you have problems playing the above little ditty, that is probably because it isn’t in the MP3 format. It’s OGG. This is a Free audio codec with published specifications allowing anyone to write their own computer programs to work with it. A Google search for OGG and the name of your operating system (Windows, OS-X) will find you the bits you need to be able to play such files.]