Most of us violate copyright frequently. Maybe we make a copy of a Netflix movie we won't have time to watch right away or we have an MP3 player full of music we never bought. 

While these seem like small and insignificant violations, violating copyright is potentially very expensive and might even involve serious levels of incarceration. 

If you ruled the world, how would you protect the citizenry from exposure to huge consequences for violating copyright while protecting artists and other creative people.

Finally, don't confuse copyright, which covers mostly artistic endeavors (visual or auditory arts or writing, mostly) with trade secret protection, which covers secret formuae and processes, or patent protection which applies to original inventions.

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The originator, only, would hold all rights for 15 years.  After that, free access.

And what about the penalties for violators? If someone has 500 songs on their MP3 player they haven't paid for?

Well, changing copyright laws would only help so much before the big corporations with vested interests in draconian copyright laws would find some loophole, or work around, which would require fixing the law again, and it would turn into a cat and mouse game.

While I would change the laws to make them more sensible - better and clearer fair use exemptions, heavy penalties for parties trying to exploit copyright - specially the big entities, smaller copyright holding period(~20 years), and the likes, but for the long term I'd foster an environment that would encourage people to be more open when it comes to copyrighting their stuff, and avoiding the big entities. I'd create an environment where entities like MPAA, RIAA and the likes would be irrelevant.

First, not all copyrights are held by big corporations. For example, I've written dozens of short stories. Why should I lose legal interest in my stories after 20 years? Theoretically, someone else ccould even take my name off my story and replace it with theirs. They could even make money off a story I had never made an effort to profit from.

Secondly, most copyright violators aren't big corporations, they are ordinary people. There really is no copyright without enforcement. I'll ask you the same question I asked Doug Reardon: what about if the FBI discovered you had 500 unpaid for songs on your MP3 player?

 what about if the FBI discovered you had 500 unpaid for songs on your MP3 player?

If I were caught, the fair thing to do would be to make me pay the cost of all those songs(market price, not some arbitrary huge value which) and a fine - all going to the content creator/owner.

not all copyrights are held by big corporations.

Yes, but the most aggressive, and idiotic type of enforcement is done by big corporations. And that kind of harassment is something I'd like to see blocked. When I say exploit, I mean exploitation both by the holder and by the general public. There was one case where the troll wanted $75trillion for ~11000 infringements. This is something that should never happen.

I think this quote from an article is pretty deep -

If free and open access to all of human knowledge at the push of a button truly prevents our society’s beloved artists, authors, thinkers, and other creative people from putting food on their tables, then maybe it’s time to rethink how to put food on their tables.

I agree that the fines levied for pirated songs are outrageous, but they should definitely be higher than the market value of the songs. Otherwise there would be no incentive to actually buy the songs! People would just pirate them, and the worst case scenario would be being forced to pay for them.

Definitely the industry needs more consistent enforcement, though. To not prosecute millions of people, and then make up for your losses by charging some housewife $987651968463251 is outrageously unjust. See this comic: 

If I were caught, the fair thing to do would be to make me pay the cost of all those songs(market price, not some arbitrary huge value which) and a fine

So what I proposed was not just the market value of the infringed items. It would be a fine, and it would be variable, depending upon the scale and intention of the infringement. Personal use - small fine. To sell bootlegs - bigger fine, and so on.

I really don't know why copyright shouldn't extend to the end of my life and then some. 

I can buy a house (not even build one) and it is my property. I can pass it along to my daughter and she to her children. It doesn't have to be donated to the world at any point. 

If I write a novel that makes money for me, why shouldn't I be able to profit from it my entire life and let my daughter profit from it after I'm gone, and even pass ownership on to her children?

What is so different about creative works that makes them second class property?

How about making copyright licensed.  So you have to pay an annual fee to retain sole proprietary-ship, once the item has been published, or put in the public domain.  Maybe a dollar a year for a story - I'm not setting the price, just posing the idea.

Once it goes into the public domain you, definitionally, lose ownership.

I see your reasoning, though. One would retain an interest only as long as one maintains interest.

It would also solve the issue of copyrighted works where no one can find the owner to arrange for royalty payments (it might, for example, be a totally defunct corporation).  They might as well be abandoned property BUT the current law doesn't allow for that.

Intellectual property fades into the public domain for a reason: because it provides the greatest benefit to society when it is ultimately shared. A house cannot be shared amongst every human in the world, but a song/movie/invention can. It's not a case of trying to make all ownership logically consistent, but trying to make the world a better place.

It's also a practical issue: how do you determine the difference b/t infringement and inspiration, when there are thousands of years of artistic work to compare against? It is easiest to only deal with works made in the past 40 (or so) years, whose authors are still alive. But of course, the first paragraph above is the main reason


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