Thursday, July 12, 2007

Length matters.

Photo by Flickr's Focus On Me Via BoingBoing comes an interesting intellectual paper on copyright (warning: PDF), specifically examining the length of time a copyright owner's monopoly on his/her work will last. Currently, the U.S. system (the predominant model throughout the world) allows a work to be monopolized by the rights-holder for the duration of the owner's life PLUS 75 years (thank you, Sonny Bono).

Researcher Rufus Pollack has come to a different conclusion, however, suggesting the optimal term for copyright monopoly is fourteen (14) years. From his abstract:
The optimal level for copyright has been a matter for extensive debate over the last decade. This paper contributes several new results on this issue divided into two parts. In the first, a parsimonious theoretical model is used to prove several novel propositions about the optimal level of protection. Specifically, we demonstrate that (a) optimal copyright falls as the costs of production go down (for example as a result of digitization) and that (b) the optimal level of copyright will, in general, fall over time. The second part of the paper focuses on the specific case of copyright term. Using a simple model we characterise optimal term as a function of a few key parameters. We estimate this function using a combination of new and existing data on recordings and books and find an optimal term of around fourteen years. This is substantially shorter than any current copyright term and implies that existing copyright terms are too long.

While interesting (and probably correct, for that matter), this will be completely ignored by the traditional media systems who've come to depend on infinite copyright to enrich their shareholders and ceaselessly litigate against small-time infringers. The good news is, there's already an alternative in place (more or less) that gives a wider berth to legitimate uses of cultural ephemera: Creative Commons.

I have seen the future, and it is Creative Commons

Because....length, matters. :)

Photo by FocusOnMe.