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Modern Copyright Extremism Will Kill Creativity As We Know it

04/08/2015 12:27 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 05:59 EDT
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The word COPYRIGHT among the letterpress letters

Where have all the great works of literature from the 20th century gone?

A study by University of Illinois professor Paul J. Heald reveals that it's easier to find books first published in the 1880s on Amazon than it is to find ones published in the 1980s. As Atlantic writer Rebecca J. Rosen puts it:

"A book published during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur has a greater chance of being in print today than one published during the time of Reagan."

So what gives?

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According to Heald's study, excessive copyright terms on works of modern literature are quickly making 20th century works unavailable. All it takes is a quick surf through Amazon to notice how much easier it is to order books from the 19th century.

The disappearing 20th century canon of literature is bad enough on its own, but excessive copyright regulations make it harder to access any work of art that falls under these lengthy terms. Here in Canada that's 50 years past the creator's death, for those playing the long game.

These restrictive and punitive laws diminish our creative choices and our artistic lives. And, thanks to the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), these laws could get a lot worse.

Here's what's at stake:

We all know the old cliche that good artists borrow and great artists steal. Let me unpack that for you.

As a musician, I know that every note I play riffs off of something someone else played in the past.

Ever heard of a 12 bar blues? It's the basic building block of virtually all western pop music from the 20th century to now, handed down from Delta bluesmen to Rock n' Roll imitators all the way to electronic tinkerers -- reimagined, remixed, revitalized. These diverse styles owe patronage to this simple chord progression, yet none of them can claim sole ownership.

Music, much like all art and cultural productions, thrives because musicians are constantly borrowing, sharing, and reacting to differing approaches to the seven (12 if you count sharps and flats) simple notes that make up the major scale. Slap a copyright on a chord progression, melody, riff, or a tone and watch the endless variety, one of the most beloved qualities of music and the 21st Century, wither.

That's why we're fighting back against TPP copyright extremism. The more people know about the TPP, the less they like it (which probably explains why negotiators are so keen on keeping the terms of the agreement hidden away from the public's eye).

But it's not over until the fat lady sings -- a song we've all heard before.

Here's how you can help us out: we need as many artists, musicians, writers and creative people as possible to get involved in the campaign. Tweet the link below at your favourite musician/writer/painter/blogger/noise artist/Jim Carrey impressionist/balloon animal therapist/leotard enthusiast to let them know about the campaign and spread the word about TPP copyright extremism.

TWEET: .@whomever #TPP negotiators want to charge you for being creative. Help #savestorytelling

Make sure to fill in the .@whomever with your favourite musician, artist, writer, or whomever else you think should know about TPP copyright extremism.