EDITORIAL: Copyright law is out of control

You know that song? You know, the one people sing when it’s someone’s birthday? I’d sing it to you now but it turns out it’s copyrighted. That’s why the people at The Olive Garden mumble something about lasagna when they’re bringing you a slice of cake. They can’t sing that song, because if they did they would have to pay Warner Music some money.

Seriously, that song? I can’t even call it by name because I’m afraid it would cause you to sing it and we’d both be up a creek.

That is fricken’ ridiculous. Yeah, I said it. Fricken’. Someone wrote that song in 1893. No that’s not a typo, Eighteen ninety three. That song has been under copyright since 1935 when Warner Music copyrighted it. Some people are suing to have that song put into the public domain, but that’s not going to happen in time for your next birthday, so good luck.

Copyright law was intended to protect people from having their works stolen. Only now, it can extend for something like 75 years after the death of the original author. And, if the author is a corporation, it could possibly mean, like, forever.

I agree that people who create things have the right to earn a living off them for a while. I’d even say, 25 years is perfectly fair. If the thing you created 25 years ago is still popular then it’s probably a national treasure and people should be able to enjoy it free of charge. But the idea that Disney can still make money off the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon, that’s insane.

I’ll take it one step further… in the case of computer software, if the computer or game system it was made for hasn’t been sold for 10 years, and the company doesn’t make a new thing that does the same stuff (like your XBox360 will play original Xbox games) then you know what, that software is free to the public domain. Think about Burger Time for the Atari 2600 or the original Super Mario Bros for NES. Those should be free.

Cutting back on copyright protection will spur people to innovate more and let more people enjoy the treasures of the last century. The Beatles’ catalog should be free to all, and so should the original Star Wars. Heck, even Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

That’s right, I said “heck” and “fricken” in the same article. Lucky for me, The Signal Group holds the copyright on it for about another 100 years. Look me up then and I’ll apologize to you for the rough language.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.