I often talk about what bullshit copyright law is, and the insane ways in which it stifles and punishes creativity. That you can buy somebody else’s intellectual property and hike the price of life-saving medication several thousand percent, in a way that excludes anyone else from providing fair competition by undercutting you, is one of the more infuriating demonstrations of civilisational adequacy of the moment. That and the way one corporation, until recently, was making millions charging people to sing Happy Birthday.
But sometimes the law isn’t the biggest ass. Sometimes people’s bizarre and authoritarian ideas about property rights are what help to create horrifying and dystopian legal systems, which in turn reinforce people’s outrageously extreme ideas of what’s “right” or “fair” when it comes to protecting your ideas from being stolen, and we end up in a place where George Orwell’s estate wants to control all mentions of the number 1984.
Fuck this suppression of ideas absolutely in all guises.
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This is your sporadic reminder that allllllllll the intellectual property and copyright can get tae fuck.
Snakebite victims in the US can be charged tens of thousands of dollars for a single vial of snakebite venom.
And no, it’s not that the stuff requires rare and exotic ingredients, or takes an especially skilful and labourious process to create, or even that there had to be a huge up-front investment of years of research and development to come up with it. The system is just so utterly fucked, and seemingly geared toward everything but providing people with healthcare with any kind of efficiency.
The cost of making the antivenom, including research, development, animal care and plasma harvesting… A mere 0.1 percent [of the ultimate expense]. 70.1 percent… was due to hospital markups used in negotiations with insurance companies. [emphasis mine]
Jesus fuck. It’s not actually fair to blame this all on IP, that’s just my hobby-horse. This goes deeper in terrifying and unfathomable ways.
Although on that note, the insane Warner/Chappell copyright claim on Happy Birthday To You is finally no more after a ruling this week. While this does not mean the song is now in the public domain, this is a step 90% of the way toward sanity in this one isolated case.
So on balance, between those two news stories and that other shithead gouging prices on AIDS medication, September can still pretty much suck it.
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It goes like this: In 1893, a couple of lines of music were published in a book. The piece of music is eight bars long, and consists of a single-note melody which can be hummed in its entirety in about six seconds.
In 1927, this song was published in a separate compilation of similar musical pieces, with different lyrics which are known to have been informally attached to it for some time.
And now, as a result, if you want to reproduce the song Happy Birthday in any kind of media, you need to pay the Warner/Chappell Music Group for the right to do so, or risk being sued.
They collect millions of dollars every year this way. By claiming some bizarre kind of “ownership” of a universally familiar melody composed well over a century ago by some person or persons entirely unconnected with the people now profiting from it.
I’m trying to imagine a basically worse person than someone who’d demand money from someone else for the right to sing Happy Birthday. If you can think of anything more viscerally contemptible, let me know.
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