Dr Plokta (drplokta) wrote,
Dr Plokta
drplokta

I Assume Dictatorial Powers

I'm getting bored, so I've decided to be a global dictator for a bit. I'll be announcing new laws daily in my journal.

My first edict concerns copyright. Copyright is supposed to encourage the publication of works, and it allows content creators to have extraordinary control over what people do with their property in return. It's not intended to allow large media companies to keep works unavailable. Your global dictator is especially pissed off by companies threatening to kill off new formats that they don't like by refusing to provide content. This being the digital age, there is no reason for anything to ever go out of print.

So, from now on, to retain copyright for more than two years beyond publication (or beyond today's date, for works that have already been published), a digital copy of the work must be available for purchase online in a suitable format at a reasonable price. This only applies to works that have been sold commercially -- this new legislation does not apply to work which has been made available for no charge.

A suitable format is one for which a reader can be developed without the use of any patents, trade secrets or encryption keys unless they are irrevocably, unconditionally and perpetually licensed for royalty-free use by anyone who wants them. Suitable formats for books include HTML and RTF. Suitable formats for music include OGG. Suitable formats for still images include PNG, JPEG and (since the patent expired in 2003) GIF. There may currently be no suitable formats for film and TV, and the media companies had better do something about that quickly, or all of their work will go out of copyright in February 2007. A suitable format is also of quality not significantly worse than other formats in which the work is or has been available.

A reasonable price is not higher than the lowest price at which the work has previously been available, and is not out of line with the prices charged for other comparable works.

Exemptions may be applied for, for works published before this decree was issued that are not available in a digital format -- obviously, anything that has ever been issued on CD or DVD cannot have an exemption.

A central register will be maintained of the URLs from which works can be purchased, or the fact that they are exempt. Anything that is not on either list more than two years after publication automatically enters the public domain, and can't be re-copyrighted later if it is put back into print. If reports are received that a work can't actually be purchased from the URL listed, they'll be investigated, and the work will be removed from the list if the reports are true.

This does not stop media companies from using DRM to "protect" their works, but they'd better be sure their DRM actually works (unlike any DRM mechanism yet invented), as they won't have the copyright law to back them up (after the first two years).

Oh, and as a side-note, if you publish a derivative work from a public domain work, for example an art gallery selling cleaned-up prints of old masters, you have to make the original available at no charge in order to claim the copyright on your new version. You can't exploit your control of physical access to the original work in order to prevent people from copying it.

Look for another new law tomorrow.
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