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Copyrights And Copy Wrongs

Anyone who downloads music or videos from the Internet should read David DeJean's analysis of copyright laws, how they affect you, and how to enjoy creative works without breaking the law. Really good stuff.
Anyone who downloads music or videos from the Internet should read David DeJean's analysis of copyright laws, how they affect you, and how to enjoy creative works without breaking the law. Really good stuff.But given all the confusion (much of it generated by the big media companies) over what constitutes fair use of copyrighted material, it might be helpful to revisit some key tenets of copyright law -- some of which might surprise you.

For instance, copyright law exists as much to promote creativity among the general public as to protect the rights of the person who wrote the book, created the movie, or recorded the song. More than 300 years ago, a landmark British case decisively declared it was not in the public's best interest for authors to control the rights of books in perpetuity. Why is that? Because artists and writers and musicians as a matter of course build on existing work to make exciting new ones. This is not about stealing, plagiarism, or copying -- this is about true innovation and creativity that transforms. That's why since that date there has always been a time limit on copyrights.

This also is why there was a significant amount of dismay in the creative community when in 1998 Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended what many considered the already too generous copyright protection by 20 years.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting the rights of creative individuals. My sixth book comes out in August, and, yes, I want to enjoy the fruits of my labors. But as someone working in a creative field (I write fiction as well as nonfiction), I believe there should be balance of rights between what rightfully belongs to the creator and what is owed to the public to encourage even more innovation and creativity.

Stanford professor Laurence Lessig has long argued persuasively on behalf of reaching an agreement on copyright protections that serves the interests of all. As the founder of Creative Commons, he argues for "balance, compromise, and moderation" that equally takes into account the need for innovation as well as protection. You also might want to check out the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University if you're interested in this subject.

What are your thoughts on this? Let us know by replying below.

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