illegal to buy a copyright, if they could only be assigned for a limited time? What if, unless you were a salaried employee (hence making your work a product of the company paying you), you owned your work, period? If you were permitted to lease it, but not sell it outright?
I’m always torn in a discussion of Napster and the other digital music schemes. I have, from time to time, made my living (or an important part of it) as a writer. My brother’s a musician. Many, if not most, of my friends are writers or artists of some sort or another. These people work hard at what they do. But when I look at a particular acquaintance of mine’s CD, she doesn’t own the copyright, the record company does. When I write an article, I own the copyright – the newspaper or magazine it is published in only owns certain rights; usually the right to first publication.
I think a clearheaded study of how copyright works and a legal expression of how that system should function would go a long way to solving a lot of the current issues. It’s one of those situations, I think, when the road ahead in terms of the specifics will only be apparent when the first principles are reiterated and strengthened.
Trouble is, the pattern is clearly in the other direction – away from privileging the rights of individual copyright holders, towards rights of corporate copyright holders and other businesses involved in such matters. I have personally been involved with a number of publications that have asserted that their purchase of first publication rights includes, with no further compensation, the right to place the work in databases that, essentially, exist in perpetuity. And the DCMA points in that direction pretty clearly as well.
For the moment, I don’t have a huge problem squaring my deep belief in copyright – the right I have over my creative and intellectual work with the free distribution of songs on the net, but that’s only because of the total belligerance and seeming cluelessness of the recording industry, and it won’t hold indefinitely. At some point, I believe that copyrights should be inviolate. So my conclusion, for now, is that the whole concept of copyright must be strengthened and affirmed. Trouble is – I doubt it would be by those with the deepest pockets in this ongoing dialogue.