A Proposition of Copyright Law

13 December 2019

Current copyright law makes little sense. Big companies and copyright trolls are free to bully small creators, and small creators don’t have the resources to enforce their own claims. To accommodate a society were most people hold some copyright, this needs to change.

I am no lawyer, but this is my idea for what principles a copyright law should be based on.

§1 Creator Protection

A creator of intellectual property is granted certain exclusive rights to their work. This gives them a head start on monetizing their work, should they wish to do so.

Idea Protection

A creator is allowed sole benefit of their concept for a short time (10-20 years).

For instance, if someone writes a story about an original character, others may not distribute their own stories about this character while idea protection applies.

This is similar to how copyright protection works today, but much shorter. People do write Harry Potter fanfiction, but it isn’t something they can widely publish or sell without permission.

The idea protection time period running out does not mean that others may pose as the original author. As an example, idea protection running out for Harry potter means you may publish and sell Harry Potter books, as long as you make sure it is clear that you are not affiliated with J.K. Rowling, the original author.

Work Protection

A creator is allowed sole benefit of the product of their work and very similar variations of it, for a long time (50 years).

To use the previous example, when idea protection for Harry Potter runs out, fanfiction may be published and sold, but the original Harry Potter books are still protected. No one may sell digitalized versions, reprints or derivative works that are very similar to the original (versions that only adds a few chapters, revises sentence structure, spelling etc.).

Credit Rights

Derivative works should make reasonable effort to credit the creator of the original work for a very long time.

As long as the creator of the original work is alive and has not made active attempts at distancing themselves, they should be credited. An original creator may not be referenced such that they falsely seem to support the derivative work.

§2 Consumer Protection

When a work as been published, some restrictions apply to the exclusive rights of the creator. This protects all possible consumers from anti-competitive and anti-consumer behaviour by the creator and strengthens free speech.

Fair Use

Commentary, criticism, parody, etc. is always allowed and can include small parts of the protected work.

This is intended to work the same way as current fair use policies do. However, consistently or carelessly preventing fair use must be heavily punished to hinder large companies and copyright trolls from bullying small creators.

No Unpublishing

Creators do not have the right to unpublish their work. If a published work is repeatedly made unavailable, or made unavailable for a short time (1 year), idea and work protection are permanently lifted.

The idea is that no one is allowed to hold rights to anything just to prevent others from having it. It is also intended to prevent anti-consumer practices like the Disney Vault.

This point does NOT apply when replacing a previous work with a slight alteration of it. If the new work is similar enough that Work Protection would prevent someone else from publishing it, it should be regarded as the same work.

A work may be counted as unavailable if its price is raised, or dramatically lowered dramatically in short periods, in such a way that the product might as well be unavailable to many consumers for long periods of time.

How quickly unpublishing is applied may vary between types of work. For instance, distribution of physical goods is much more demanding than for digital goods.

No Exclusivity

No third party may be granted an exclusive right to produce or publish a work.

A creator may choose to only distribute their work via one channel or platform, but third parties may not propose deals or enter contracts with the creator intended to prevent other parties from distributing or publishing the work with permission of the creator.

This protects consumers from the anti-consumer practice where distribution platforms may compete with each other by which selection they offer, rather than by how good the consumer’s experience is.