Archive Pen & Links

How about a post full of government joy?

January 11, 2010

For the first week of the new year, a lot of government-related news came filing down the tech wire.

• The inevitable Justice Department review of the Comcast/NBC deal begins a bitter election-year fight over control of media.

• On top of that, a federal appeals court told the Federal Communications Commission that it might not have the ability to pass regulate net neutrality. Good news for Comcast, bad news for anyone who doesn’t want ISPs to pop a cap on their Internet usage.

• In something that could halt the rush to overreact after the alleged attempted Christmas Day attack on an airline, the British government’s body scan plan may run afoul of child porn laws. This is horribly ironic because terrorism and child pornography are the two biggest red herrings lawmakers use to get controversial legislation passed. To see them clash like this just tickles me the right way.

• But by far the biggest load of crapola (pardon my French, but this is a story about France) of this new year has to be France’s plan to tax Google and other search engines and Internet properties to counter the scandalous rise in piracy.

My head it ready to start throbbing more as I try to think about the mess this is. The idea seems good on paper: Use the tax to create new works in France.

And then it falls flat on its face as a load of protectionist bull designed to punish foreign companies just for the sake of being foreign based on the idea that copyright as it exists actually works.

Let’s take a quick gander at what a mess copyright is in the United States. I was born in the Year of Our Lord of 1985. In the year 1918, the year before my grandma was born, Mickey Mouse was born. Thanks to copyright protections extended in 1998, Mickey will be safe from derivative works until 2078. That’s right, unless I live until the ripe old age of 93, Mickey Mouse, born 67 years before me, will outlive me.

I’m not against the idea of copyright as a way to allow a musician or artist to make a living off of their work in the short term. But to use it as a crutch for a corporation stifles the innovation and creativity of people who could be creating new great works.