Why Copyright Law is Stupid – A New Series

I’ve written about why lawyers frustrate me, why FAS 157 (Topic 820) sucks and why the current state of patent law stinks.  In each case, I’ve tried to not just be a critic, but be part of the solution.

Specifically, I wrote an entire series on how law firms could change their ways to not piss me (and their clients) off and have been very active within the NVCA and personally trying to change the way that software patents work

As for FAS 157 (Topic 820), if you can’t beat them, join them.  Today it was announced that I’ve been invited to a “blue ribbon panel” organized by the Financial Accounting Foundation (FASB) to help determine the proper valuation techniques of private companies.  Either I’ll have a positive effect, or I’ll have a ton of fodder to bitch about.

But enough of that – what’s next?  Well, I’ve decided my next target will be copyright law.  There are a ton of things wrong with the current state affairs, none greater than the fact that most of the doctrine was developed before electronic media and what has come since has been a knee-jerk reaction to lobbying efforts by large content owners.

I’ll whet your appetite with  specific cases that want to make me scream:

1. ASCAP has used copyright law to go after royalty fees from girl scouts who sung popular songs around campfires;

2. Book publishers claim that Google copying their works in order to search them is a copyright infringement.  If held true, all Internet search would be subject to copyright law and effectively banned;

3. There is no clearing house for performance rights meaning that I can own a piece of music, but am limited to where I can actually play it unless I negotiate individually with the content holder; and

4. Incidental uses of content subject the user to infringement claims.  A woman recorded her 13-month old son dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”  The video (all 29 seconds of it) was posted on YouTube and immediately was subject to a DMCA takedown notice.  Google complied.  The mother is now suing Universal (the entity that owns the song) for violation of fair use laws.  (Good for her). 

But these are old news and frankly, there are bigger fish to fry which I’ll get into during the series.  These are just tastes of how the archaic ways of copyright laws have not kept up with the times.  (And no, I’m not going argue that Napster was legal).