Monday, October 17, 2005

Umm... You realize we can't sing Happy Birthday

In this NY Times article (registration required) it talks about how hard it is to make a legal documentary. One example from the article, your cell phone rings with a ring tone from a popular band. Is it legal to use it in the film? Iffy. The lable owns the copyright and to get permission can cost a lot of money (like $5000 for 6 seconds of a song). Or you want to include a clip from a movie (costs money again, anything after Mickey Mouse's Steam Boat Willie is still under copyright courtesy of Disney). Or you want to include scenes from a birthday party (happy birthday is still under copyright).

The whole extended copyright thing bugs me. Basically, anything copyrighted is copyrighted forever. This creates orphan works, works no one can use because the copyright owner is unknown.

Do I think copyrights and patents are bad? No. It is fair that when someone puts work into something, they should see the benefits from it. But it shouldn't last more than 20 years past the life of the inventor/author.


jpstanley said...

I think that sort of thing ought to be fair use--but copyrights have long since drifted far from Constitutional purpose of "promoting the progress of Science and the Useful Arts" and have become a tool for corporate greed, led largely by the recording industry. So I wouldn't at all be surprised if someone got sued for millions of dollars for recording a 6-second ringtone.

Preposterous! said...

Adding further insult to this issue, the Happy Birthday song was originally copyrighted in 1895 (for real!). Also, according to Great Composers, Inc., the works of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin are currently held in copyright as well, even though all four of these popular composers died before 1895.