BoingBoing is reporting that that someone selling buttons with the word “Tolkien” on them was shut down by the Tolkien estate.
Not content to censor a book that combines literary criticism and fiction by including JRR Tolkien as a character, the Tolkien estate has shut down a guy who makes and gives away buttons that have the word Tolkien on them:
– Tolkien estate censors badge that contains the word “Tolkien”
The Tolkien estate isn’t the only ones. Martin Luther King Junior’s estate is also notorious for being a copyright troll. Try posting his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube, or even quoting a few words from it somewhere publicly visible. You’ll hear from them soon enough.
In the gigantic copyright war that has dominated the Internet for the past ten to fifteen years, this particular aspect is often overlooked, since most of the attention is on digital distribution. If there’s a way we can make some slow progress in copyright reform, I think a good place to start is changing the expiring time at least a little bit.
The stated purpose of copyright, int he constitution, is to promote the progress of science and useful arts. In what way does granting a creator’s descendants intellectual property rights over their ancestors creation promote any progress of science or useful arts? These people aren’t creating anything, they are just milking the work of their ancestors.
You might argue that if someone who is currently alive will have an incentive to create something with the knowledge that it may provide for their children. That may be true, but it’s not necessary to grant the children the intellectual property rights for this to happen. If something is successful in the creator’s lifetime, they will presumably earn a great deal of money from it. That money can be passed on in the form of inheritance, and that should be enough of an incentive. If the children want continued revenues beyond the inheritance, they should create something of their own.
Personally I would prefer copyrights, if any, to be much shorter than they are now, and for them to expire very quickly. Even if you are far less extreme on copyright issues than I am, you have to concede that any copyright should immediately expire and disappear the moment the original creator passes away. Even if you are one of those people who believes that copyright infringement is stealing, you must admit that you can’t steal from the dead.
As soon as someone passes away, all of their intellectual property that was not a work for hire, should immediately enter the public domain. To deny the world access and use of such great works, or even individual words, for the sake of bringing profits to people who were just lucky enough to be children of great artists, is heinous. You can’t tell me that a pile of money in Tolkien’s children’s pockets is of greater value to the world than the greatness of his books spreading far and wide for free.
I’m not quite 100% on not allowing the descendants to inherit the copyrights, but bear with me for a bit. I’m more along the lines of copyrights should be for a reasonable fixed time span that cannot be retroactively extended as we’ve seen Congress do repeatedly in the past decade or two. I say we should go back to the fixed timespan of the original copyright law of 14 years. I’m willing to be flexible and go a little longer, but no longer than say 25-30 years or so, tops. That’s 25-30 years from the date of creation, not after the death of the creator or anything like that. Right now, I believe copyrights for a work created by an individual is something insane like life plus 75 years. By just going back to a 14-30 year copyright or whatever, the creator’s rights are still preserved for a very good length of time, in my opinion, the work enters the public domain within a reasonable time frame, and it allows the descendants of the creator the chance to reasonably benefit from his/her work just in case the creator dies a day after that magnum opus is completed.