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Copyright vs. patents

31 Jul 99 - 03:35 PM (#101165)
Subject: Copyright vs. patents
From: Henrik W.

Recently there were a few threads on the Mudcat about
music copyright and its legal implications etc. In my
work as an engineer I have sometimes had to work with
patents of different kinds. An interesting thought did
spring to mind: What if the principles behind patent law
were applied to copyright of for instance music?

Patents were introduced in order to encourage people
to publish details of their inventions - the incentive
being that the invention would be protected for a certain
period. Some interesting aspects of the way patents work

1. Only inventions which are not publicly known can be
patented - e.g. if you publish an article describing
your invention then you cannot afterwards apply for a
patent - you have to do it the other way around.

2. You have to pay to keep the patent valid - and the
price will rise with time, so in most cases companies
will only keep up a patent for 5-7 years unless the
patent is crucial to their business.

3. The maximum patent life is of the order of 10 years
- much shorter than the time a musical work is protected
by copyright.

4. Perhaps most interesting: A patent usually only
protects you right to use an invention for commercial
purposes. If I invent a machine that writes folk songs
and get this patented, anyone can - legally - build one,
as long as they do not use it for commercial purposes.
Wouldn't it be nice if the same principle was applied
to music?



01 Aug 99 - 01:02 PM (#101324)
Subject: RE: Copyright vs. patents
From: Doctor John

Henrik, Yes. The kind of things you describe would certainly stop someone copywriting a traditional song which happens from time to time and can't be right. I didn't realize that you had to pay to keep a patent valid but not a copyright: that would stop the dog in a manger effect which occurs from time to time. Dr John

01 Aug 99 - 07:39 PM (#101395)
Subject: RE: Copyright vs. patents
From: T in Oklahoma


I heard that the duration of patent in the US was recently raised from 17 years from when the patent issues to either 17 years from when the patent issues or 20 years from when the patent is applied for (whichever is longer? whichever is shorter ? Does one term always trump the other if the patent issues ? I don't know.)

As it happens, the some commentators claim to find a "tendency to require a somewhat greater degree of originality in order to accord copyright in a musical arrangement". Nimmer on Copyright 2.05[C],2-57 (2nd Edition, 1978).

01 Aug 99 - 10:56 PM (#101421)
Subject: RE: Copyright vs. patents
From: Les B

Dr. John - what is the "dog in the manger" effect ?

02 Aug 99 - 03:16 AM (#101466)
Subject: RE: Copyright vs. patents
From: Doctor John

Les, By that I mean a company or an individual who holds recordings which many of us would like to hear or have but for reasons unknown will neither issue them, broadcast them or sell them even if you're prepared to well over the odds fpr a copy. Sometimes songs are subject to copyright and have never been recorded and nobody can because of this effect. It seems to be to nobody's advantage at all. This kind of thing was mentioned on the Nic Jones thread a while ago. Dr John