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The Public Is Part of the Problem

I am in total agreement that the length of copyright protection is unreasonably long.

I am in total agreement that the length of copyright protection is unreasonably long. We can thank big corporations for persuading Congress to keep changing it. Unfortunately, for now it is the law of the land.

But Dave Wilson missed the other large part of the problem: How do we get the masses to respect copyright law?

Even if the copyright term was shorter, how do we get people to understand that just because they bought a piece of software, it does not give them the right to make copies to give to their friends? Just because a photo appears on the Internet does not mean you can copy it and use it on your Web site to sell widgets.

Maybe the length of a copyright is stifling innovation, but people’s blatant illegal use of copyrighted material is also stifling innovation. Much time is spent trying to make copyrighted material “copy proof” that might be better spent on new creations.

I am not condoning the RIAA’s lawsuits or some of the more onerous enforcement measures. But something needs to be done. It’s a huge mess.

Creators should have the right to decide how their work should be used and how they might derive income from it. It should be a specific, limited period of time.

Yes, the length today is too long. However, hand in hand with that is the public use of that material. We need to redefine what is acceptable copying for “personal use” and what is stealing. And once we decide what stealing is, we need to enforce it.

Unfortunately, changing copyright law is going to be very difficult. Too many large corporations have a vested interest in the outcome. (And it’s not just the music industry.)

But as a creator, I want to have control over how my creations are used. In general, the public has a “help yourself” attitude about copyrighted material. If they can take it without compensating the creator, most will. That needs to change. But we are talking about a societal change. Talk about difficult!

Margaret Bryant
Carrollton, Texas

The author, a broadcast engineer for 30 years, is now a photographer.