Friday, April 23, 2021 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Richard M. Stallman

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The War on Drugs has continued for some 20 years, and we see little prospect of peace, despite the fact that it has totally failed and given the US an imprisonment rate almost equal to Russia. I fear that the War on Copying could go on for decades as well. To end it, we will need to rethink the copyright system, based on the Constitution's view that it is meant to benefit the public, not the copyright owners. Today, one of the benefits the public wants is the use of computers to share copies.

 
Richard M. Stallman

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Some people view the public domain with contempt. In their brief before the Supreme Court, the Nashville Songwriters Association wrote that the public domain is nothing more than "legal piracy." But it is not piracy when the law allows it; and in our constitutional system, our law requires it. Some may not like the Constitution's requirements, but that doesn't make the Constitution a pirate's charter.
As we've seen, our constitutional system requires limits on copyright as a way to assure that copyright holders do not too heavily influence the development and distribution of our culture. Yet, as Eric Eldred discovered, we have set up a system that assures that copyright terms will be repeatedly extended, and extended, and extended. We have created the perfect storm for the public domain. Copyrights have not expired, and will not expire, so long as Congress is free to be bought to extend them again.

 
Lawrence Lessig
 

The current term of protection for software is the life of an author plus 70 years, or, if it's work-for-hire, a total of 95 years. This is a bastardization of the Constitution's requirement that copyright be for "limited times." By the time Apple's Macintosh operating system finally falls into the public domain, there will be no machine that could possibly run it. The term of copyright for software is effectively unlimited.

 
Lawrence Lessig
 

By insisting on the Constitution's limits to copyright, obviously Eldred was not endorsing piracy. Indeed, in an obvious sense, he was fighting a kind of piracy piracy of the public domain. When Robert Frost wrote his work and when Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, the maximum copyright term was just fifty-six years. Because of interim changes, Frost and Disney had already enjoyed a seventy-five-year monopoly for their work. They had gotten the benefit of the bargain that the Constitution envisions: In exchange for a monopoly protected for fifty-six years, they created new work. But now these entities were using their power expressed through the power of lobbyists' money to get another twenty-year dollop of monopoly. That twenty-year dollop would be taken from the public domain. Eric Eldred was fighting a piracy that affects us all.

 
Lawrence Lessig
 

That free culture was carried to America; that was our birth 1790. We established a regime that left creativity unregulated. Now it was unregulated because copyright law only covered "printing." Copyright law did not control derivative work. And copyright law granted this protection for the limited time of 14 years.

 
Lawrence Lessig
 

We have a massive system to regulate creativity. A massive system of lawyers regulating creativity as copyright law has expanded in unrecognizable forms, going from a regulation of publishing to a regulation of copying.

 
Lawrence Lessig
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