What if Disney owned the Rights to Shakespeare or Why current copyright law… fails.

I love Archive.Org.

It is just, I think, a brilliant resource for uploading, downloading, and preserving the history of mass media.

That said there are some scumbags, content trolls, that have nothing better to do than flag any movie, audio, text that gets posted. I mean, get a real job/life. The ad nauseum copyright extensions that recent law allows any corporate goon to get away with, extending copyright from the very reasonable 50 years, to now 75 years at the minimum really puts at risk things such as a cultural identity.

Some concepts, if they are strong enough, endure enough, then by virtue of time they become part of the popular lexicon, part of the gestalt, and as such become everyone’s stories, become public domain.

This is why anyone can do an Edgar Allen Poe Adaptation, or a Robin Hood or Camelot film, or Hercules, or Shakespeare, etc; because these concepts became part of the larger conversation.

And we as a society, a global society, are the better for these concepts being able to be interpreted by future generations in diverse ways through diverse mediums. And more, creators can use these properties without being priced out of the game or paying exorbitant licensing fees to greedy conglomerates, gate-keepers, that 99.9% of the time had NOTHING TO DO with the creation of the properties they have bought up and put under lock and key.

Realistically ‘Mickey Mouse’ should no longer be under copyright, ‘Super Man’ should not be under copyright, ‘Batman’ should not be under copyright, ‘Captain America’ should not be under copyright, ‘The Shadow’ should not be under copyright. Half the creations of the 20th century should not be under copyright.

Copyright was designed for 50 years to allow the creator (the creator, an individual, not a corporation) to make sole income from this creation for that period, and after that period that creation would enter the public domain.

Not saying the creator can’t still use and profit from that character, but saying that after 50 years if that character/concept is still in the language, if as nothing more than a catchphrase, as Superman is used in songs, then it has outgrown the confines of sole ownership, and has become part of the larger cultural conversation and the global language, and anyone should be able to use that concept.

Public domain contains the idea that concepts are a living, changing thing, that require liberty to continue that process of evolving and being valid to new generations.

But no, instead corporations have bent over our congress repeatedly, and now you have the idea of public domain as an inconvenience that can be sidestepped and denied by corporations by ever more egregious extensions.

I think that’s wrong. Just as wrong as allowing corporations to have more say in a nation than its citizens. As wrong as allowing corporations to lobby our congress and have laws passed as if they were the people of a nation, rather than what they, unchecked, too often are… the parasites.

My considered opinion on Copyright? After its set run, formerly 50 years, copyright should not be extended.

No extensions. Particularly not for corporations. Not for Disney. Not for Time Warner.

Again this is not saying Disney can’t continue to use Mickey Mouse, or Time Warner can’t continue to use Superman, it just says that anyone else can use that concept as well. And I would argue the world is incredibly richer for the ‘Greek’ myths not being under corporate lock and key, for ‘wild west’ myths not being under corporate lock and key, Shakespeare not being under corporate lock and key.

Let’s consider that for a moment, take that one public domain writer… Shakespeare, and remove him from public domain.

If you think about how many plays, tv shows, movies, books, songs, would just not exist if you had to a/ get approval to use the characters and b/pay exorbitant licensing fees to use the concepts… it beggars the imagination. How much poorer the last century would have been, if say Shakespeare’s plays were owned by Disney.

(And Disney is going to be my example this post. I like Pixar movies as much as the next guy, but under the guise of a family friendly company, Disney seems to be a source of multiple and pervasive isms.)

I would say there are very few dramatic films or tv shows that don’t, in some point in their run, reference or do a pastiche on Shakespeare.

Because, say it with me, it is part of our cultural language.

But if Disney owned Shakespeare you can say goodbye to Branagh being able to come up with the licensing fees to ever do Henry the Vth. Say goodbye to Shakespeare college plays, or heck Shakespeare taught in schools at all… without some major payola/licensing being required.

I mean heck, just getting a single blues song (written by a Black blues player a hundred years ago who died broke, but since owned by a mercenary corporation, that is making millions off of something they didn’t create) to use for 3 minutes in a film, can end up costing you easily tens of thousands of dollars. How much more would getting access to Hamlet or Henry the Vth cost?

Too much is the answer. It would cost us too much.

Just think a bit about how much more limited a nation, a world, we would be, with just that one writer removed from public domain. How terribly robbed we would be, if the laws back then, mirrored the laws now.

All I’m saying is be aware of what these companies are prepared to do, the lengths they are prepared to go, to make one penny more, to survive one day more. And my thing is… nothing is meant to be forever, everything dies, and everything changes, nations come and go, movements come and go, and the works of man come and go, and we are the better for that constant change.

And perhaps as a nation and a world we would be better and stronger if corporations were stopped from abusing copyright and damaging Public Domain.

Here Endeth the Lesson.

On FCC vs Comcast vs AT&T vs TimeWarner vs NetFlix vs Hulu vs DVD vs Bluray!

I’m someone who is not enamored of the godawful mess the FCC has made of the airwaves.

By this I refer to the FCC basically giving away the Analog spectrum, previously allocated to the people, to big business and government interests, and saddling the American people with a shoddy and crippled digital delivery method, that necessitates paying a cable provider if you want anything approaching viewable service.

And even then you are still not guaranteed against occasional picture dropouts or pixelation, as the provider continually adjusts bandwidth to maximize profit.

Yes, most people had cable prior to the forced digital switch-over (land-grab), but not all. Some of us were content with our rabbit ears.

Now, post the forced digital march to our new digital reservations, try and look at TV without a cable provider and just using your digital converter. Go ahead… try. I’ll wait.

Hum,,,, hummmm.

See? Atrocious isn’t it? It is a national embarrassment.

If I stop in, anywhere where they have TV without cable (homes, auto shops, waiting rooms, you name it) and you look at what has become of ‘free’ tv, in the wake of this governmental stickup… it makes me… angry.

Really, really not happy.

As I said, I didn’t have cable before the FCC sold America’s airwaves to the highest bidder, and I don’t have cable now. And no I don’t do Hulu, or online viewing of mainstream shows, because that’s poised to be as big a rip-off as the cable companies.

Because just as it’s nonsense, that you are getting DVD (much less HDTV) quality service with the cable companies, it is even more of a fallacy with the online providers. Because those companies are not trying to offer you the 4GB of Data that constitutes a DVD, or 10+GB of Data that constitutes the bandwidth for a Bluray disc, they particularly are not trying to offer this bandwidth per program/per customer. You are talking easily hundreds, if not thousands, of GBs of Data per month, per customer, if they were trying to offer you real disc quality (DVD/HDTV) programs.

In an age when broadcast providers are trying to limit service past 5GB a month?

Heck no.

They are cutting costs, which means cutting bandwidth, which means they have to compress whatever programs they send you well below the levels you’ll find on the physical media. Which is why even with HDTV, the quality varies wildly, not just from channel to channel, or program to program, but from moment to moment as the bitrate is adjusted on the fly, and that bandwidth steals from Peter to pay Paul.

And worse comes to worse, you even get drop outs, which is horrible on ‘free’ digital, but is inexcusable when you’re paying for the service.

So watching anything on cable… is a crapshoot at best.

And online, be it Hulu, Netflix, whatever is the same. And with the few major broadband providers all talking about capping traffic/bandwidth limits, it’s only going to get worse, particularly as the number of users increase.

So sure, watch your movie or television series via cable or online if that’s your cup of tea, and you’re not bothered by paying for spotty and sporadic quality.

It bothers me though.

DVD and HDTV/Bluray being a bastardization of film, is a compromise which I can live with. But online and cable, by the time they reach the end user, is like stated, variable and unreliable, numerous compression and toggling tricks imposed to the point it becomes something I refuse to pay for.

That and not being a TV guy to begin with, for years I’ve just done DVDs, and recently Blurays.

But that said, I’m not a fan of Blurays.

I find Blurays , which I find quality-wise to be a very minor improvement over a well mastered DVD (examples being ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and CLIMATES), to be not worth paying more for.

The only reason I pick up a Bluray over a DVD, is if they are the same price, AND the Bluray offers more features (recent examples being WATCHMEN DIRECTOR’S CUT [this is the version to go with, not the Ultimate cut], Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS dual format limited edition steelbook, and SPIRITS OF THE DEAD… all three on most reviewers 2010 Best Bluray list).

Don’t get me wrong. Bluray is an improvement, mostly in clarity over DVD, but it is a minor jump, compared to the major leap in quality from VHS to DVD.

It’s just not big enough of a difference, for me to really get excited about or pay more for. But I acknowledge it’s an improvement.

Now, what is not a Bluray improvement over DVD, and something I really hate about Blurays, is the slip-shod packing.

Even the so-called high-end SteelBook cases for Blurays, to put not to fine a point on it, are garbage; such as the aforementioned METROPOLIS Steelbook.

And regular Bluray packaging is even worse. It’s a shoddy, inconsistent form factor, with garish ugly colors (yes, I know you call yourself Bluray, but take it from me… lose the garish blue color on the packing ), and cheap, damage prone slipcovers/materials (SPIRITS OF THE DEAD anyone?), and pithy non-existent back cover description.

Package wise it lacks the aesthetic strengths, elegance and simplicity, and to an extent beauty of the 13+ year old medium of the DVD (the year 1998 generally regarded as DVDs wide-release on the world stage).

And by the time that is ready to change, we (the whole entertainment/electronic market) will be onto our next media storage format. So yeah, I generally say no to cable, and will be sticking with DVDs to catch up on tv shows people are recommending.

And as far as Blurays, as it currently stands I don’t see them making up more than 1% of my DVD purchases, anytime soon. They need to be at least the same price as a DVD, and offer more features, otherwise I’ll stick to the DVD, a tested and versatile medium, that doesn’t suffer from idiocies such as zone lockdowns, and “so-called” digital copies(nothing more than a way to erode fair use, and get you to install nothing more than a glorified rootkit virus on your computer).

Did I mention I dislike Blurays? :).

But on a serious note, make technology yours. Use it and don’t let it… own you.

Here endeth the rant. :).