What exactly is copyright law? What can you do? What will land you in prison? How many years after creation is it okay for you to copy? Does it matter if you make money with the copy? Copyright laws have changed a lot since the early days.
Did you know that Disney is the reason that copyrights have changed so drastically recently? Yes, when the copyright protection was about to expire for Mickey Mouse, Disney lobbied to ‘fix’ that. The result… copyright became much longer and much tougher.
Copyright law has gone through some major changes since it started. (read Copyright timeline if you want to dig into all the boring details)
Copyright was originally created with the advent of the printing press. As publishing started, it was a ripe area for people to steal and republish. The Licensing Act of 1662 in England made it illegal to do that. The downside of that move was a monopoly. Suddenly, you couldn’t even expand on someone else’s ideas – you couldn’t create stories involving characters in other’s works. Nothing wrong with that, right?
Actually, there is.
Disney built their entire empire on re-imagining the works of others. They didn’t create the characters or stories behind many of their biggest films. These are simply classic fairy tales that they co-opted. In fact, most of what you see on the silver screen and television is a remake of someone else’s story produced without getting copyright rights. Why is it okay for corporations to play fast and loose with copyright while individuals are crushed for creating a fan film?
Willful breaking of copyright now can cost the violator hundreds of thousands of dollars. Actually, even accidental copyright infringement has successfully been prosecuted.
You tell me. Are the current copyright laws a good thing? Do we need to protect the creators ? Are they a bad thing? Do we need to loosen the laws to encourage creativity? Where do we draw the line?