The term is “Intellectual Property” (although in the area of “designer goods” the word intellectual is obviously a SERIOUS misnomer).
That being said, whilst an artist’s work clearly needs protecting against theft, the copyright laws set up for that purpose have become a JOKE, highlighted by the recent court case involving “Happy Birthday To You” – a song written over a CENTURY ago.
Mildred Hill wrote the tune and Patty Hill the lyrics – except they ran “Good Morning To All” and were only adapted later. And there is reason to believe that even the tune may have been “borrowed” from the world of folk music.
Of course, The Hills have not been Alive for many decades now (did you see what I did there?) Nevertheless, this has not stopped Summy – then Chappell – and more recently Warner – from glomming two million bucks a year in royalties from this Victorian song.
And that is where artistic copyright falls off the rails. Naturally, an artist has the right to benefit from their work – but not for EVER. If I built someone a gazebo, I would only expect payment ONCE.
However, thanks to these outdated laws, money has to be paid for enjoying art – to people who have played NO part whatsoever in its CREATION.
Example; Laurel and Hardy are part of American History – but do not look for their work on YouTube. Anything of theirs that is uploaded is quickly torn down. But not by L & H – or even Hal Roach (who lived to 100, but even HE is now long gone).
No, the company that now owns their work is a GERMAN PROPERTY COMPANY (or it was, a few years back).
And THAT is the problem. As any right-wing arsehole will say, intellectual property is as tangible as a ton of coal, a Ferrari, or 500 copies of my book. And as such, it can find itself – like “Happy Birthday To You” – passing through any NUMBER of hands, NONE of whom had anything to do with its conception.
Which is where something COULD be done. Like, drastically SHORTENING the time before a piece becomes public domain. “Happy Birthday To You” WAS set to become public domain next year, in Europe (70 years after the death of its composer) but in America…
Thus a company could still buy an artistic property, but would be aware of its limited lifespan – say TEN years after its creation.
And that way, a composer could still make a mint out of a hit – and pass some or all of it on to their heirs, if they wished – but after a decade, the piece would become public domain. Then again, public domain might have to be re-defined as being for use WITHOUT PROFIT.
Another solution would be to limit the amount of involvement by companies not related to the pieces in question – in other words, this would force artists (and their descendants) to be RESPONSIBLE for their work, rather than them just unloading it onto some faceless corporation.
Whatever is done, it needs to be done SOON. THIS medium has made enforcement of artistic copyright almost impossible – with “examples” being made of unfortunate individuals by bullying corporate giants (the “mix-tapes” fiasco of a few years back).
Most people are reasonable and would PREFER to respect artists’ copyright – but they have little time for those faceless giants. So if Messrs Sony, Universal and Warner want public support – without which, they are now HELPLESS – they had better COME UP with something said public can LIVE with…