Firstly, I think it would be wise to acknowledge the obvious – that copyright law differs from country to country but that the West has dominated the discourse surrounding it for decades. Even with seemingly egalitarian international agreements, countries such as the US and Canada determine what many view as the “standard” for copyright law. Having lived in the Global South, I have a differing view of what copyright law should be. I shall, therefore, divide my opinion into: “what Grace the person thinks” and “what Grace the publisher thinks”. Only because I am talking about publishing shall I focus on the US and Canada. Oh, and one last disclaimer, I am centering my argument on the creative sector only.
Grace the person believes that the creator of an original piece of work should be able to financially benefit from that work and that they should be able to set the rules about when they want that work to fall into the public domain. Idealistic, yes, but fair. They created it, why should they not determine when they as well as their families for generations to come should benefit from it? I recognise that this may cause confusion as this will entail eliminating the government as the overriding voice in issues of the law. Also, there are countless creators in the creative sector and it will be tough to keep track of what each individual wants. Therefore, the more realistic suggestion I guess would be to give creators of original pieces of work autonomy by extending the copyright laws currently in place.
Life+70 in the States and Life+50 in Canada are not only beneficial to creators from a financial standpoint but they force other people to create their own innovative works as opposed to reinventions or reuses of existing ones. Some may argue that “nothing is new under the sun” and that I am wrong to call any work truly “original” but I disagree. Human innovation has produced some bona fide work and to keep this influx flowing, copyright laws should remain as they are or be extended. If I were to practically change the laws, I would increase them to life +100 in the US and life + 70 in Canada as a start.
Before you begin to think that I am against the sharing economy, I am not. I believe in collaboration and that people can draw inspiration from each other. I even believe in the usefulness of fair dealing. I just believe that society should not feel entitled to the creative work of others. And unless a deal is struck with the original creator of the work or unless the original creator gives express permission during their lives, then their work should be theirs even up to a century after their death. Also, a lot can happen in a century, technology can shift massively and by the time the works fall into the public domain, careful thought might have been given on how to work with it and space would have been made to welcome a new wave of creativity.
Grace the publisher
In an article titled A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever, the Authors Guild in the United States argues that Life+70 should not apply to the publishing industry because most contracts between publisher and author favour the publisher and leave the author without a way to defend their original work. I will not lie; this leaves me conflicted. Grace the person, for example, would say that as the original creator of the work, an author should be in control of it and that publishers should not have complete rights over the work of others. The budding publisher in me, however, has now seen how much goes into the polishing of a manuscript and how much labour the publisher puts in before a work can go to market and believes that Life+70 should stay in the hands of the publisher. If ever the publisher stops adding value to the piece of work, however, the rights should revert back to the author. This will make publishers accountable, to try and get the best out of the market in a mutually beneficial way.
As you can tell what I believe as a person does not always align with what I believe when I put my business cap on. Please notice that the scope of my discussion is copyright law in relation to people and not corporate entities because this is what I am familiar with. Let creators and their estates benefit from their work and may this motivate others to innovate!
These opinions are different to those of the majority but do not condemn them just yet- let us continue the conversation instead!:)