Your Lying Eyes

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02 June 2011

Criminalizing YouTube

Via Drudge, I see that there is a bill in the Senate to expand the reach of criminal enforcement of copyright law. In theory, at least, it land you 5 years in jail for merely embedding or perhaps just linking to a copyrighted video.

The whole idea of criminalizing copyright violations rubs me the wrong way. Sure, there needs to be a mechanism to crack down on wholesale illegal distributions of software, movies and music against which civil procedures would be ineffective. But that can be done without mobilizing federal police powers to enforce copyright law.

And furthermore, the copyright thing has become a bit of a racket, hasn't it? Is it really necessary that Sean and Julian Lennon continue to earn royalties on "She Loves You" thru 2050? Is it even remotely conceivable that the artistic impulses of aspiring rock'n'rollers would be thwarted if whatever entity holds the copyright on Buddy Holly's recording of "That'll Be the Day" were to forfeit its ownership?

I humbly suggest a far more constructive regime. Copyrights have initial terms of 50 years. At the end of 50 years, the rights to an additional 20 years are put up for public auction managed by a public exchange. All sales are subject to a 50% excise tax (i.e., the seller pays the tax). There would also be a nominal charge for the exchange (or the government could operate it itself off of the tax revenues).

Thus, if Disney wants to keep hold of Mickey Mouse, they'll have to battle others for the rights. Of course Disney would have an unfair advantage in the auction, since they're effectively paying themselves for the rights - except for that 50% tax. So while it's unlikely another entity would beat Disney out in the bidding, it would still be worth it for them to try, since there wouldn't be any downside. If Mickey's copyright renewal for 20 years has a current value of $20,000,000, Disney would be sure to go that high - even up to $40 million if necessary, to keep it, as they'd only be paying 50% of the bid. But other bidders would make sure the price Disney has to pay at least approaches that $20 million.

It would also make for some hard choices on the part of record companies - how many of their works are they willing to pay a tax to own? Sure, it's hard to see why someone would want to effectively pay twice as much to gain a copyright than the current owner, but many collectors might find value in old songs that a record company might not appreciate. If nothing else, it would raise lots of revenue.

I assume there's either a serious flaw in this approach or someone else has already proposed it, but I couldn't find anything with a few minutes of googling.


Blogger Steve Sailer said...

Very interesting idea ...

June 06, 2011 5:42 AM  

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