Friday, April 27, 2007

Some thoughts on a "Copyright Offensive"

I had originally posted this in my /. journal. Didn't realise they would disable comments after a while. Let's hope that doesn't happen here.

The idea for a Copyright Offensive is this:

We need a set of proposals that we can push. They need to be such that they can make the situation better. They need to be such that we can reach a compromise on them that will still make things better.

Here are some thoughts for your consideration:

1. All 'non marked' works get an automatic copyleft, not an automatic copyright.

2. Copyleft works can be registered for free, copyright works incur a registration fee.

3. There is a yearly copyright tax imposed on copyright works, copyleft works are exempt.

4. The copyright tax is based on a percentage of the copyright holder declared value of the work.

5. The copyright holder will be encouraged to declare an honest value by having to sell the copyright to to work at the declared value or 5 percent above that value to any and all comers. At the value if the purchaser will put the work under a copyleft, 5 percent above if the purchaser will keep the work copyright.

6. Copyright status lasts for 10 years, then the works convert to copyleft for another ten then they go into the public domain.

7. Originally copyleft works remain copyleft for the life of the author (and perhaps plus whatever.)

8. Works building on public domain works are not eligible for copyright status, only copyleft. (Does this make any practical sense??)

Fall back position for public domain going copyleft. Any work drawing from the public domain for copyright MUST clearly indicate what is public domain and what is *new* and point to the public domain work on a gratis web site or make it available on one if at all possible and to the extent possible. (as in you obviously can't do this completely in the case of a sculpture.)

all the best,



zotz said...

Some additional thoughts...

If works registered as copyright are found to be built from copyleft or "public domain" works, they lose their copyright status. And the copyrights to all works of their works.

Damages and losses must be proved.

At least half of the copyright ownership of any works must vest in human beings. Specifically those creating the works. So, for works for hire or other works normally held by corporations or the like, they will have to share with the actual creatives.

Copyrights can only be sold for a half of their duration, after that the revert to the creators.

Public funds can only be used towards works licensed copyleft or put in the public domain.

Basically, what laws would make the life of artists better or be reasonable in the context if humans but would scare the business as usual in the realm or the arts types...

all the best,


Crosbie Fitch said...

Something similar here:
Good Copyright, Bad Copyright

zotz said...

Another additional thought...

All Free, copyleft licensed works are exempt from all compulsory licenses.


diem said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
diem said...

The idea of the copyright tax just seems silly insofar as it fails to distinguish between works with a large audience and those with a small one. Very technical books often sell for very high prices because the cost of production has to be spread out over a much small audience. If the tax is based just off the stated price per copy of the work (ignoring the appeal of the work) these technical works will be burdened with a much higher tax for their total revenue than the more popular works. For example, take a popular crime novel. Let's say it sells 500,000 copies, at a stated price of $20 per copy. Take a technical work that sells 500 copies at $140 each (mainly to research university libraries). If the tax is directly proportional to the stated value per copy (ignoring the number of potential buyers) the annual tax on the thriller will be 1/7th (20/140) of that of the technical work, even though it generates around 140x as much revenue ($10,000,000 v $70,000). This will be hitting precisely the wrong people.

zotz said...


sorry I took so long to respond, I just noticed your post.

We have a slight misunderstanding here.
I am not talking about the value put on a copy. I am talking about the value put on the copyrights by the copyright holder. The value at which they would sell or assign their copyrights to another.

all the best,


paxcoder said...

(re: your last comment) I don't get it. What if one doesn't want to sell his copyright, can't he set the value to 0? One can just sell copies, or even licenses to use his work as long as he/she can.

zotz said...


No, if a person didn't want to sell their copyright, they could set the value high enough that no one would buy it at that price and pay a percentage tax on the value they set.

Or they could license the work with a Free license, copyleft if they like (my preference) and they would pay no tax and not have to set a value at all or sell if they don't want to.

The idea is to not have the government person set the value of the "property" that you will be taxed on but rather allow you to set the value. The forced sale provision is to keep you honest in your valuation so that you don't cheat on your taxes. (The generic you here, not you in particular.)

paxcoder said...

Would authors be *forced* to sell at estimated value? Because then a giant could buy everything valuable. In the long run it may benefit free community, but not before a costly revolution.
I hope you understand what I'm saying.

zotz said...


if their work was not copyleft, yes. but they can estimate the value as high as they like and pay the tax on that value. that would be the only way to keep them honest with setting a real value on their work for tax purposes. would we prefer to let a government assessor set the value for tax purposes?

i guess you could force sale if buyer wants to copyleft work and reset value at offering price and pay back taxes.


I am not sure what you are getting at though.

paxcoder said...

What I'm getting at is this (your words):

I am not talking about the value put on a copy. I am talking about the value put on the copyrights by the copyright holder. The value at which they would sell or assign their copyrights to another.

The big players would buy all small players' copyrighted works - because they are able, and small players can't afford their own copyright.
If small companies' businesses depend on having copyright (eg book authors /publishers?), this would be devastating for them. And since there are so many of such businesses, for all of us - the whole economy.
That's why I have to change my mind back, advocating it *is* extreme.

In short, new business models would start being used based on freedom. But many companies will die, not being able to adapt. Perhaps whole industries as we know them. It's a bloody revolution, so untill some smooth transition can be guaranteed, count me out.

Hope I'm making sense.

zotz said...

Why can't they afford their own copyright? (Am I missing some idea you have that is unstated?) The tax does not have to be large. You could even graduate it if you have to. (I don't like that idea.) You could even make the rate larger if they want the copyright to last longer. (I may like that idea.)

In any case. all of these ideas are not necessarily meant to survive negotiations and resulting compromises.

Also, they have not been tested by much back and forth yet either which is why I appreciate the time you are taking to do this.

paxcoder said...

>The tax does not have to be large.

Ok, keep in mind though, even 1% of the set value is high for someone trying to fend off unfair competition who may want to buy his core business' assets. If there's always a chance to buy your copyright, a giant may have what it takes to do just that (money). Heck, sounds like post-VC investment.

On the other hand, if the tax is really small, it presents no trouble for the giant.
I remember when Microsoft paid the fine that EU set for it for unfair competition (IE). The First thing that came to my mind was they paid it as it was a tax on monopoly. Ok, we do have a ballot screen now, but see what market share IE has by now.

What if tax was proportional to the profit from the product after all? Is it such a bad idea?

zotz said...


I am not sure I like the tax being proportional to the profit.

A couple of reasons at least.

1. Too much like a double income tax in many places.

2. Supposedly, too many big players blockbusters and mega hits somehow don't earn a profit.

So, please comment on the idea of the tax on the self declared value starting very small and going up each year you want to retain the copyright. Tax ends when you put the work under a Free license.

Alternately, how about the tax on your first work being very small and on each new work getting larger? I don't think I like this one as much as it is likely to be easier to game.

paxcoder said...

>please comment on the idea of the tax on the self declared value starting very small and going up each year

Better, but rich can still handle it better. I think the issue is more complex than that, to be quite honest. It'd take a lot of smart people (economists, lawyers, manufacturers, authors..) to figure out.

P.S. Blog comments that don't notify me of replies? This needs some work.

zotz said...


the rich get a lot of advantages from being rich. the good looking get a lot of advantages from being good looking. the talented get a lot of advantages from being talented. those on the wrong side of such advantages can't always do too much about it. they have to look for their own advantages.

the rich copyright loving corporations seem to want their copyrights to last forever. a reasonable human being might not. so an exponential or even linear growth in the tax rate combined with the ability to self set the value could allow a reasonable person to set an extra high value on their copyright for the early years when the tax rate was low, earn their money and then convert to a copyleft with no tax after that period.

meanwhile, one wanting to keep their copyright basically forever would face a growing tax bill.