Sunday, January 29, 2012

Another Interesting White House Petition: Reduce The Term Of Copyright

The White House's use of its "We The People..." petition system has been interesting to watch over the last few months since it was introduced. While they quickly raised the "threshold" necessary to get a response, lately it's been used in some interesting ways. We've highlighted a few different petitions -- specifically those related to SOPA/PIPA, Chris Dodd and ACTA. In the case of SOPA, it was in finally responding to the two related petitions that the White House finally came out against the approach in SOPA/PIPA.

The latest petition that some have mentioned is one petitioning for copyright terms to be reduced back to 56 years, like it was prior to 1978. Personally, I'd rather than before we pick an arbitrary time frame, that at least some research be done to figure out what might be the optimal time frame. But, clearly, reducing the term makes a lot of sense. Hell, even among many of the strongest copyright system defenders we hear them "admit" that perhaps copyright terms have been extended too far. Of course, if Congress ever did move to reduce the term, you can rest assured that all hell would break loose from the legacy players. They're not giving up any monopoly powers without a fight.

In the end, this petition might be a little pointless. Copyright law is left to Congress to determine, not the President. So petitioning the White House on this may come across as a little misguided. Of course, with the way politics runs these days, the White House often does set the legislative agenda, and under some weird mythical magic future where the President did take up this issue, it could potentially lead to a legislative attempt at reducing copyright term limits -- though, again, the freakout from the legacy players about how "the government is stealing from artists!!!!!@#!@#" would be deafening (of course, the flipside, that whenever Congress extends copyright they're "stealing" from the public, will never be acknowledged).

That said, even though the target here may be a bit misguided, I think it would be good to get this petition up to 25,000 signatures, pushing the White House to respond to it. Post-SOPA/PIPA, it would be nice for the White House to recognize that copyright policy is internet policy, and that the public really does care about this on a widescale basis. If copyright-related petitions keep hitting the 25,000 signature threshold, perhaps they'll realize that this never was about just the SOPA/PIPA bills...

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