(Contrary to what the title suggests, this article is an editorial and is ergo public domain. Only the artistic articles are copyrighted.)
Copyrights are a good thing in theory. As an artist, all I have to do is go online, submit my work, pay my fee, and my work is protected in almost every country in the world. It’s even protected retroactively as of the date I filed, which allows immediate publishing. Of course, each of the countries that respects international copyright protects them under their own copyright laws, rather than the laws in the country of filing. And this should be a clue as to how the practice of copyright law is far too flawed to respect across the board.
I mean, if we really knew the correct way to protect the work of an artist, wouldn’t every country have the same laws protecting said work? It’s a huge grey area. There aren’t a whole lot of blacks and whites in the world of art, and protecting it is no different.
As a general rule, one should not use the work of another artist in a manner that a reasonable person would deduce would net personal gain for one who is not the artist or reduce the value of the art in question (all in the opinion of the original artist). “Value” doesn’t necessarily mean monetary, and using someone else’s work in your own doesn’t necessarily mean their work is netting you the value. It’s far too subjective to police. This is why I always contact the offender, when someone violates my copyrights, before my lawyer. More often than not, the correct solution is reached outside of court.
But the impossibility of enforcing correctly is not the only reason copyrights are terrible in practice. In every location I know about, copyrights are transferable. Yes. You may give or sell your copyright to another person or organisation. I’ve given copyrights to the public domain, but I refuse to give them to another person or, God forbid, an organisation. The majority of copyrights are held by corporations, which is funny because a corporation can’t make art. Sorry, Paramount Pictures, but it’s true. You can’t make art. A corporation wouldn’t even know art if it walked up to it and said, “Hi, FOX. I’m Art.”
In fact, the only thing a corporation can do with art is destroy it for profit. That’s not entirely true. A corporation can and has funded artists’ attempts to bring their art to the screen or the speakers, but even then, they usually end up with the copyright and shave a healthy portion of the proceeds off the top before the artist ever sees any money. As time goes on, they want more and more influence in the creative process to maximise profits, but they have no business getting involved in the creative process. Like I said, they don’t know art. But, I digress for a whole paragraph. Damn.
So, with corporations holding the majority of the world’s copyrights, that’s a pretty good indication that transferring copyrights is a bad idea. I think the person who created the art should be the only person allowed to hold the copyright and, upon death, it enters the public domain. If more than one person is involved in making the art, the one who is compiling it all together holds the copyright and, upon death, it gets transferred to the other members of the collaboration in the order of who contributed the most until they are all dead, at which point it will enter the public domain. For something like a film, the writer would hold the copyright to the script, but the director to the project as a whole.
This would prevent corporations from getting a hold of copyrights and negate the ones they already hold. On a side note, I have no qualms about violating a copyright held by a corporation, provided I don’t hurt the artist by doing so. Fuck the corporation. It has no rights. It would also stop those fucking corporations from snubbing my works because I refuse to give them more rights to my art than they would feasibly need to bring it to the screen. No, you can’t hold the copyright. It’s not for sale. You can own the rights to your film version of my script at the price of producing it and hiring me as the director. You may not have the copyright to the script. If you don’t like this deal, then you are more interested in profit than art, and fuck you for that.
This editorial has been all over the place, so I need to come to some sort of conclusion to tie it all together.
Copyrights are one of those counter-productive laws I spoke about back there. But it falls into both subcategories of counter-productive laws depending on circumstance. What you want to remember, while you ignore copyright law like the rest of them, is that you don’t ignore the rights of the artist while you do it. You should always respect the original artist and always get his permission before using his work. But don’t fear the copyright law. And artists, copyright your works as a safety precaution, but only use the legal aspects of your copyright registration as a last resort for sociopaths who don’t care that they are not respecting your work. You can almost always negotiate with the decent people personally.