newspaper on your front step I am sure you would be very upset. It's not because the
flyers were particularity valuable or that you ever intended to look at them. Its not even
because you bought them, you didn't. Still you would resent it if the government took
those flyers and gave them back to the companies who originally sent them out. You
would feel that your rights had been violated. You would certainly feel that the
government had no legitimate right to do what it did.
What if I said the government did just this sort of thing last week? On Friday royal assent
was given to a law extending copyright terms for recording artists from 50 years to 70
years. Others have noted that the commentators are being ridiculous in claiming artistic
works are being 'protected' from the 'danger' of falling into the public domain.
The public domain is not a negative status. Once in the public domain old works that had been gathering dust are often given new life as fresh eyes are able to take the old work and breathe new life into it. Extending copyright like this blocks
interesting initiatives such as one Canadian's efforts to publish a public domain James Bond story. Of course the
current extension only applies to sound recordings but that has always been the thin edge of the wedge. Once one
copyright term is extended others are quick to go up too. After all, if one area deserves extra 'protection' certainly they all
do. But copyright is, and always has been a balancing act involving the intellectual property holder and the public. The
public has an interest in a work being unfettered by monopoly control, the copyright holder has an interest in maintaining
that monopoly. Now, whether this has ever been a good bargain is debatable but a certain fact is clear: extending the
copyright duration so that items do not fall into the public domain (perhaps ever) is theft.
What bothers me is the lack of public outcry. The lack of political and media condemnation of the governing
Conservatives for supporting this extension of economic protectionism and wasteful monopoly privileges. The Liberals
were silent on the issue. The NDP were silent on the issue (and don't think I have forgotten their plan to create a pseudo-intellectual property right for sculptors). The Green Party was silent. No press releases. No promises to repeal this change
upon taking office. Nothing. From any of them. Apparently, you can steal from Canadians and get away with it.