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Month: October 2017

738 words to clean up Hollywood

738 words to clean up Hollywood

Film producer Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual assault and sexual harassment shouldn’t come as a shock. Everyone’s known that this sort of thing has been going on Hollywood since the 1930s. Corey Feldman and Elijah Wood have each talked about how Hollywood does far worse: pedophilia and sexual exploitation of children.

The question is, why do we tolerate it? Hollywood makes its money because its films get copyright protection. But the U.S. Constitution says that the sole purpose of copyright is to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Who can argue with a straight face that an industry with standards like Hollywood’s really promotes progress and useful arts?

If not, then why does Hollywood get copyright protection (and the outsized profits that come with it)? For that matter, why do pornographers and peddlers of obscenity get copyright protection?

These people are our enemies, and they should be treated as such.

So, in about an hour of spare time today, I wrote a bill of 738 words that Congress could pass to fix the problem. It would revoke copyright protections for works during which sexual exploitation takes place, for obscene works, and for works depicting sexual intercourse. Why hasn’t Congress done something like this already? Instead of doing something about it, Congress instead passes laws to extend Hollywood’s copyright protections. Why do they support Hollywood so strongly and so blindly?

A bill like this would be a huge financial shock to Hollywood. But that’s what it will take, at a minimum to force them to clean up. And that’s worth it.

Below is what I wrote in an hour. It’s not perfect, but IT ONLY TOOK AN HOUR. Has no one really thought to do this yet?

Sec. 101. Short Title.

This title may be referred to as the ‘‘Protecting Victims of the Entertainment Industry Act’’.

Sec. 102. Congressional Policy Statement

(a) Subject matter of copyright: In general Section 102 of title 17, United States Code is amended by inserting subsection c, “The Congress finds that the Constitutional grant to Congress of the power over copyright requires that copyrights be granted solely to ‘promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’ This constitutional grant of power of necessity empowers Congress, and Congress alone, to determine what categories of works ‘promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’ The Congress finds that the following works do not ‘promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts’ as required by the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 and that the extension of copyright protections to any such works is therefore unconstitutional:

“(1) any work in which sexual exploitation occurred during the preparation, creation, or promotion of the work.

“(2) any work that is obscene.

“(3) depictions of sexual intercourse in sound recordings or motion pictures and other audiovisual works.”

Sec. 103. No Copyright Available for Exploitative or Obscene Works

(a) NO Copyright Available for Exploitative or Obscene Works Chapter 2 of Title 17 is amended by inserting Section 206:

“(a) As used in this section, the following terms and their variant forms mean the following:

“an ‘employee’ is anyone hired or contracted to be involved in the creation, production, or post production of a work or anyone seeking to be hired or contracted to be involved in the creation, production, or post production of a work

“‘employment’ is the hiring or contracting of a person to be involved in the creation, production, or post production of a work

“a ‘manager’ is anyone involved in the management or financing of the creation, production, or post production of a work or anyone with authority, or apparent authority, to make decisions about hiring or contracting of personnel for involvement in the creation, production, or post production of a work

“(b) There may be no copyright in the following works, including for any works which were registered, created, or compiled prior to the adoption of this section:

“(1) works in which sexual exploitation occurred

“(A) sexual exploitation has occurred when

“(i) any manager implied or directly stated to any employee that the employee’s employment or continued employment was contingent on

“(a) the employee’s participation in any type of sexual activity

“(b) the employee’s observation of anyone engaged in any type of sexual activity, or

“(c) the recording by visual or audiovisual means of the employee engaged in any sexual activity or in any state of undress that exposes the employee’s genitals, buttocks, or female breasts, or

“(ii) any manager has engaged in any type of sexual activity with an employee

“(2) sound recordings, motion pictures and other audiovisual works, or pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works which depict sexual intercourse of any type

“(3) motion pictures and other audiovisual works, or pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works which depict human genitals or female breasts and which, when the work is taken as a whole, lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value, or

“(4) any work that is obscene.

“(c) anyone wishing to challenge the claimed copyright status of a work under this section may bring an action against those who would otherwise be the copyright owner(s) of a work before a jury in any federal district court or in any state court; defendants who are found by a jury to be lacking copyright under this section shall pay to the plaintiff all attorney’s fees and all other legal costs of the plaintiff plus ten percent of the total revenues derived from the work, to be apportioned between by the jury in the case of multiple defendants.

“(1) appeals of copyright challenge actions brought under this section in state court shall be heard by the state’s courts of appeal, and then by the U.S. Supreme Court; appeals of copyright challenge actions heard in federal district court shall be heard by the relevant U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in which the district court is situation, and then by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“(A) Any defendant(s) that lose on appeal shall pay to the plaintiff, for both the trial and appeal, all attorney’s fees and all other legal costs of the plaintiff plus ten percent of the total revenues derived from the work.”

Ignorant voters, bad government

Ignorant voters, bad government

Some people are dumber than others, yet everyone’s vote counts the same.

Surveys since the 1950s have consistently shown that most Anericans are poorly informed about basic, important civic facts about our country, government, and political situation. An academic overview of research since the 1950s about voters’  knowledge found that a majority of Americans didn’t know the answers to questions about

definitions of key terms such as liberal, conservative, primary elections, or the bill of rights; knowledge of many individual and collective rights guaranteed by the Constitution; the names or issue stands of most public officials below the level of president or governor; candidate and party stands on many important issues of the day; key social conditions such as the unemployment rate or the percentage of the public living in poverty or without health insurance; how much of the federal budget is spent on defense, foreign aid, or social welfare; and so on.*

Defenders of our current system may argue that having a republican form of government is designed to solve this problem. They would argue that this is why we elect representatives who can inform themselves about the issues and vote for what would be best for us. But how can an ill-informed citizen know how to pick the best representative in the first place? Indeed, research shows that people’s

political knowledge seems to increase citizens’ ability to consistently con-
nect their policy views to their evaluations of public officials and political parties, as well as to their political behavior. For example, more-informed citizens are more likely to identify with the political party, approve of the performance of office holders, and vote for candidates whose policy stands are most consistent with their own views.**

Moreover, the better-informed demonstrate good citizenship beyond just choosing the optimal candidate or political party. For example,

the larger literature strongly suggeststhat informed citizens are “better” citizens in a number of ways. Specifically, research has found that more-informed citizens are more accepting of democratic norms such as political tolerance; are more efficacious about politics; are more likely to be interested in, follow, and discuss politics; and are more likely to participate in politics in a variety of ways, including voting, working for a political party,and attending local community meetings. Research also suggests that more-informed citizens are more likely to have opinions about the pressing issues of the day, are more likely to hold stable opinions over time, are more likely to hold opinions that are ideologically consistent with each other, and are less likely to change their opinions in the face of new but tangential or misleading information but more likely to change in the face of new relevant or compelling information.***

Some people vote against the public welfare not out of stupidity, but out of naked self-interest, voting for benefits for themselves at the expense of their fellow citizens and future generations.

To fix our system, we need voters who are informed, engaged, and public-spirited, rather than ignorant, apathetic, and selfish. Maybe it’s time we stated imposing some basic requirements about voters’ knowledge before they’re allowed to vote.

*Michael X. Delli Carpini, “An overview of the state of citizens’ knowledge about politics,” in M. S. McKinney, L. L. Kaid, D. G. Bystrom,  and D. B. Carlin (Eds.), Communicating politics: Engaging the public in democratic life, pp. 29-30, http://repository.upenn.edu/asc_papers/53

**Same, p. 35 (citations omitted).

*** Same (citations omitted).