Over the past few months I’ve seen a lot of people make the argument that copyright on creative works should expire in the hellishly short periods of time of either 30 or 14 years rather than the 70 or more years that it currently last. Let me be incredibly clear about my feelings about this - YOU PEOPLE ARE COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY WRONG WHY DON’T YOU FUCK OFF!

Their aguments (it’s worth noting that most people who make these arguments are tech people or busienss people, not creative people themselves) is that “well, most people make most of their money the first year a work is out so why not let other people have fun with the characters” or “well they shouldn’t be able to rest on their laurels they should get back to work creating new stuff.”

What a load of complete and total horseshit.

First off if the work is minor enough so that the creator is only making money off of it for the first year or so then it’s unlikely that other people are going to want to use the characters for commerical purposes anyway, so why do you care if the person retains copyright.

Secondly, it’s not simply a matter of “getting back to work”. Some artists only have one great idea and no more. And that’s fine. If that idea is great enough they should be able to profit from it for as long as people are willing to spend money on it.

Each time someone spends money on a piece of creative work they like it makes their lives a little bit better. The person whose work made their lives a little bit better deserves compensation for that. Jesus H. Christ I think J.D. Salinger was a complete douchebag but I don’t think he should have been financially forced to keep writing after The Catcher In The Rye and Franny And Zoe. Those books touched millions and millions of people. He deserves every dime he got from it. And it’s quite possible there was no way at all for him to write anything beyond that. Creative work is not like writing code or pouring pints. It’s not something you can just sit down and do. It’s something that happens when it happens and only when it happens.

Thirdly, and most importantly, why do you want to create a situation where businesspeople are rewarded for their efforts more than creative people are. Do we really want to create a system that pushes people who would be otherwise creative into becoming Wall Street types simply because we’ve made it much, much easier to be rewarded for ideas in business than for ideas in art.

Here’s the deal. If a guy has one great business idea he can start a company around that idea. Then, he or she doesn’t have to do much of anything else but hire people to market his great idea and make it a reality. He or she can hire someone to run the company, retire early and live off the stock dividends. They can also give shares of the company to their family members and friends. As long as they own the stock the person with the one great idea can live off the proceeds for decades. So can their children.

Creative people should be working on the same playing field. If an artist gets one great idea it shouldn’t be stolen from him or her and given to the general public in 14 or 30 years. They should be able to benefit from it the same way a businessperson is able to benefit from their one great idea. (And don’t tell me “well, businesspeople shouldn’t be able to beneift from their one great idea for life either” because, you know, we are never going to have a system where entire companies are nationalized after 14 or 30 years just to “make sure the person comes up with new ideas.” )

People who think creative work should go out of copyright in 14 or 30 years must think that writers are typists, that God gives painters paint-by-numbers sets, that coming up with a classic rock song is something someone simply does after smoking a blunt and can easily do again.

These people are wrong. I wonder how they would feel if every 14 years we emptied their bank accounts or zeroed out their best investments just to make sure they kept working hard. I wonder how they would feel if they couldn’t pass part of their business on to their children.

Mostly importantly I wonder why they think letting large corporations profit from art for years and years (which is what happens when copyright expires) is better than letting the person who created it profit from it for just as long.