[Videolib] Public performance rights question

Griest, Bryan (BGriest@ci.glendale.ca.us)
Mon, 20 Sep 2004 13:56:38 -0700

>Susan:
>But what does it matter? It's the way copyright law is written, period.
>Whether an individual thinks it's right that the heirs (or coporate
>cronies) of an artist deserve the profit is a moot point. I mean, you can
>always lobby the legislature to revise the copyright laws, but this is
>just life.
>
>Susan Albrecht
>
>Bryan:
>Well, sure, if you want to be fatalistic about it, of course we don't have
>to do anything and we can simply accept things the way they are. I would
>argue that that stance is how this law got the way it is, though. Aren't we
>as librarians supposed to be activists in these intellectual pursuits and
>try to effect change to our (and, more to the point, our patrons') benefit?

No, I'm not fatalistic, just not sure this is the issue upon which we are
called to act. So, *if* we believe that action is more important that
rewarding the person (and heirs) whose work has been copyrighted, yes, we
should act. I just don't think that is a given position for all librarians.

Disliking Disney for its practices, I understand. Wanting to alter
copyright protections, which would "get" Disney but also all other
copyright holders, I don't.

Susan

Bryan:
I don't dislike Disney--at least not as much as most of my librarian friends
do, that's for sure. What I dislike is unreasonable copyright protection.
What I think is unreasonable is having non-artists profit prodigiously, but
especially posthumously, from the genius of artists of any stripe. Once an
artist is dead, why shouldn't his/her work pass into the public domain? I
have never heard a convincing argument against this . . . The artist is
absolutely entitled to anything his/her work can earn from society, be it
money and/or celebrity. Why should someone (or more accurately in most
cases, something) not involved in his/her creative endeavor--even
heirs--continue to receive compensation for the artifact's mere existence
after the artist no longer has any say over who should share in its
earnings?
This affects librarians, and I believe enough so that it is "actionable",
because the monopolies that control the use of these items charge relatively
hefty fees to any person or institution that may wish to purchase or license
access to them. If library budget worries were a thing of the past, I
wouldn't care as much, I suppose, but the principle remains regardless. If
Disney (to take the obvious example) decides that its latest re-release of
"Snow White" should cost libraries $500 a copy, we have no legal recourse
whatsoever. We either pay the extortion or deny our patrons access to the
artifact. The effects of this monopolistic behavior can already be seen by
the exorbitant prices we currently pay for journals/databases. The only
reason popular media copyright holders have yet to duplicate this type of
pricing policy is that they have no legal leg to stand on if they were to
attempt to restrict libraries from purchasing movies/music/etc. at the
prices available to the public at large. **Yet.**
Removing the discussion of copyright laws from the realm of the public good
(where it resided for those Founding Fathers instrumental in creating the
law) to the realm of corporate economic "rights" was the first step along
that path, imho. Once everyone is "ok" with allowing
corporations/rightsholders permanent control of copyrights (which is what is
happening now, as they continue to convince Congress to extend the terms
indefinitely), it won't take much to persuade these companies to create
tiers of access, much like the database owners do. I'm only surprised it
hasn't happened already.
Perhaps I'm being cynical, but weren't we just hearing about how, now that
the digital rights issues over downloading music have been relatively
settled and market strategies are in place and functioning (iTunes et al.),
commercial CDs were going to drop in price? Instead, prices have risen. I
don't trust media rights holders to have my (or my library's) interests at
heart or in mind when they make decisions; only very wealthy libraries can
remain unconcerned, I should think.