Isn't It Unfortunate That We Need A Special Mark To Indicate Works That Are Already In The Public Domain?

from the creatively-common dept

In the past, we had complained that, with Creative Commons licenses, you still had to put some restrictions on the usage. At the time, the least restrictive still required attribution, which wasn't the same as ridding yourself of copyright. Thankfully, about a year and a half ago, CC introduced the CC0 license, which was a dedication of the work to the public domain, for those who wanted no restrictions at all on their works. This week, Creative Commons has also launched a "public domain mark" which differs from CC0 in that the new mark is for indicating existing works that are already in the public domain around the world. Thus, a site that collects works from centuries ago, or whatever, can indicate to people that they're in the public domain by using such a mark. So the main difference is that CC0 is about putting works in the public domain, and the public domain mark is about indicating existing works that are already in the public domain.

While I'm always happy to see more ways to educate people about the public domain, it is a little sad, when you think about it, that this is needed at all. The fact that we need to proactively tell people what works are in the public domain suggests how many people don't realize -- or even resist the idea -- that many, many works are in the public domain today and are free to make use of in any way. It's an unfortunate statement of our time that we have to proactively designate what's in the public domain. The public domain is supposed to be the rule, with copyright the exception... but the fact that we need such a mark shows how far to the other extreme we've gone.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 8:46pm

    I would think the biggest reason it is needed is how variable the copyright term is on various works. There is no simple rule you can use.

     

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    Revi (profile), Oct 13th, 2010 @ 8:50pm

    Practical, maybe?

    I wonder if this is more practical than sad. Given that original work is automatically copyright and you may not know the origin of work on a website it just provides clarity that the work does not fall under the website's copyright.

     

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    cofiem (profile), Oct 13th, 2010 @ 9:07pm

    Probably a useful idea. I do like that they separate existing public domain and new public domain. Hopefully that doesn't add to the confusion, tho.

    @Revi I think you've described why it is sad. Copyright was originally required to be registered to exist at all, rather than automatic. Needing to differentiate content by using a "Public Domain" (not under website copyright) mark, rather than a "Copyright" (is under website copyright) mark is the exact opposite of the original intention of Copyright law.

     

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    Richard Thomas, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 9:10pm

    Awareness seems to be the key thing here. If such a mark sees widespread use it will become easier to find public domain works increasing the popularity of the public domain amongst consumers of these works and (hopefully, eventually) amongst creators.

    On a separate note, there seems to be a typo in clause 4b of CC0 ("present or absence of errors"). Not an ambiguous statement but still. Do such things get fixed ever?

     

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    Bruce Burdick, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 9:51pm

    public domain should not be the rule

    Copyright is automatic upon creation. The Berne Convention did away with formalities to obtain copyright. Mike you are just wrong, again. It is not sad. Authors were being ripped off by studios and publishers due to the confusion and ignorance of the notice requirement before, so copyright was made automatic to avoid authors inadvertently losing their copyright through publishing without notice. Copyright, even under current law, really only comes into play when something of significant commercial value is created and the USA is greatly rewarded under the current system, with Hollywood being a major source of foreign income to offset our growing mountain of deficits due to lack of product exports.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 10:15pm

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    It is the middlemen that created copy protection laws not for the author but for themselves. It is they who unfairly benefit. Authors are better off w/o these laws and you provide absolutely no evidence to support your statement.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 10:19pm

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    "really only comes into play when something of significant commercial value"

    Being profitable doesn't mean it ought to be monopolized. The value to society of aggregate output (ie: a lack of monopoly creates more aggregate output) is greater than the social value of the personal gain of someone who benefits from an unjust govt imposed monopoly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 10:20pm

    Re: Re: public domain should not be the rule

    sp/of someone who benefits from an unjust govt imposed monopoly./that someone who benefits from an unjust govt imposed monopoly gets.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 10:29pm

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    Authors were being ripped off by studios and publishers due to the confusion and ignorance of the notice requirement before, so copyright was made automatic to avoid authors inadvertently losing their copyright through publishing without notice.

    And thanks to the internet, now everyone is an author.

     

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  10.  
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    MrWilson, Oct 13th, 2010 @ 11:02pm

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    It's difficult not to make this sound like a personal attack because I really do expect a better argument from an attorney.

    Let's get technical.

    Mike isn't wrong. It's just his opinion and you disagree with it.

    Regardless of your perception of the benefits of the Berne Convention, your statements don't address that Mike was referring to the extremity to which current copyright laws go. Your statements pretended that Mike was arguing against any copyright at all. Copyright should be the exception and not the rule because if copyright terms were more limited, then the majority of the great expanse of works that has been to this date created would be in the public domain rather than still wrapped up in copyright.

    You cite Hollywood as a major source of foreign income to offset the deficits due to the lack of product exports, but the decision to move from a manufacturing economy to an intellectual property economy was a deliberate one. You're saying Hollywood is helping to save the day but Hollywood influenced the disaster that caused the day to need to be saved. Putting out a fire that you started is not something to be touted.

    Not to mention, Hollywood is the same industry that films outside of the US to save money while still expecting Americans to have jobs to be able to pay to see their movies. Hollywood is the same industry with an epidemic of accounting tricks used to claim that movies lose money just to be able to avoid paying American (and international) actors the amount of money their contract stipulates.

    Further, with copyright as it stands, there are thousands of movies that are currently rotting due to copyright. No money is being made from them. They are no longer commercially viable, and, under a reasonable copyright term, would already be in the public domain and able to be preserved.

    You say the USA is greatly rewarded under the current system, but you're only referring to the owners of the intellectual property itself. "The USA" includes all the citizens who would otherwise have unfettered access to an even more vast wealth of knowledge and their own culture if copyright terms were far more limited.

    Copyright doesn't have to cease to exist for it to become more reasonable. The strawman you're arguing against however does have to cease to exist for your argument to become more reasonable.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Oct 13th, 2010 @ 11:27pm

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    "something of significant commercial value is created"

    Are you the same moron who came in here the other day pretending that public domain works have no commercial value, or some other idiot?

    In that other thread, here's what I had to say to the question of how much Disney alone has made from public domain works:

    "According to boxofficemojo.com, $1,024,299,291 in international theatrical revenue from just one film, this year alone (Alice In Wonderland) - obviously not counting DVDs and other merchandising."

    Then imagine how many copies of the original novel have been sold since it went public domain, and how many publishers have profited.

    But, yeah, "no commercial value", right?

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 12:30am

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    Copyright is automatic upon creation. The Berne Convention did away with formalities to obtain copyright.

    Indeed. No one said otherwise, but as many experts in the field are now realizing, this was a huge mistake that has been immensely damaging to creativity.

    Mike you are just wrong, again.

    My opinion is not "wrong." It's just that we disagree. I have evidence on my side. You have your own salary.

    Authors were being ripped off by studios and publishers due to the confusion and ignorance of the notice requirement before, so copyright was made automatic to avoid authors inadvertently losing their copyright through publishing without notice.

    And yet, when that was done no one considered the massive costs on free speech and creativity this would create. Now that this has been documented it's time to fix that.

    Copyright, even under current law, really only comes into play when something of significant commercial value is created

    If only that were the case. Yet we see all the time that it is not.

    the USA is greatly rewarded under the current system, with Hollywood being a major source of foreign income to offset our growing mountain of deficits due to lack of product exports.

    Hoo boy. Where to start here. The USA was not greatly rewarded under the current system. A few companies (and lawyers) have been, at the *expense* of everyone else.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 1:28am

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    "Copyright, even under current law, really only comes into play when something of significant commercial value is created and the USA is greatly rewarded under the current system"

    Tell that to the mother who was jailed because she was filming the anniversary of her son(or daughter), tell that to people who was condemned to pay millions when people doing a real shoplifting get a hundred dollar fine, tell that to the people who had their videos taken down when they are fair use, tell that to the people being silenced using the DMCA or legal threat, tell that to all those people who can't work with products because they are similar to someone else and are being threatened and have to close shop, copyright is the most dangerous law ever devised it will destroy the USA from the inside.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:19am

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    Authors were being ripped off by studios and publishers due to the confusion and ignorance of the notice requirement before, so copyright was made automatic to avoid authors inadvertently losing their copyright through publishing without notice.

    Uh huh. Right. Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's do the same for patents and make them automatic too! Too many poor inventors are being ripped off due to confusion and ignorance. Yeah, that's the ticket!

    Of course, the lawyers will benefit more than anyone else, but that's the point, isn't it?

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:23am

    Re: Re: public domain should not be the rule

    You're saying Hollywood is helping to save the day but Hollywood influenced the disaster that caused the day to need to be saved. Putting out a fire that you started is not something to be touted.

    In this case it's kind of like burning down your house so it won't burn down in the future.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:28am

    Re: Re: public domain should not be the rule

    The USA was not greatly rewarded under the current system. A few companies (and lawyers) have been, at the *expense* of everyone else.

    Ahh, but those companies and lawyers basically "own" the USA, so the "USA" has benefited. See how that works?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 4:35am

    Abolish Copyright

    The sooner the better.

     

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  18.  
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    abc gum, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 5:45am

    Does Creative Commons have a trademark on their "Public Domain Mark" ?

     

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    Jon Lawrence (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:10am

    Marks & marks

    I actually think this will HELP producers who wish to either distribute, derive from, or use public domain art/media in their own projects.

    As noted in the post about CBC stopping use of CC licensed music from their programs; large distributors have one over-arching concern as driven by their Errors & Omissions insurance policy providers (and their legal teams):

    Where's The Binder?

    And Does Said Binder include clear documentation that will protect us when we get sued?

    That's it. If you're doing music cue sheets, or materials logs for professional media, you have to provide a copy of the license with your deliverables for the network; and a clear piece of paper with a mark that says "hey, this IS properly cleared" can actually be a benefit.

    For a mark to make fun of - check out this ridiculousness posted by the Producers Guild yesterday: http://www.producersguild.org/?Producers_Mark.

     

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  20.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:34am

    Re:

    I wouldn't be at all surprised, though anyone can use it.

    Most of these little things are so it's not beyond the realm of possibility.

    The only reason I can see to apply a trade mark to it or some similar protection is to prevent someone else from doing so and misusing it.

     

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  21.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 8:38am

    Re: Marks & marks

    Oh gosh, another meaningless set of letters following someone's name as the credits roll by?

    Lord, save us all!

    As for the PD mark, all Mike's saying is that it's sad that this needed to come in today's litigious world.

     

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  22.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Oct 14th, 2010 @ 9:06am

    Re: public domain should not be the rule

    "Ignorance has taken over and that's why we need to take the power back!"

    In the future please address things in a semi-logical manner if you wish to be taken seriously:
    "Mike you are just wrong, again. It is not sad."

    The problem here is emotions are personal and can never be judged by another individual to be right or wrong because you have an inherently different perspective based simply on the fact that you are someone else.

    "Mike, I don't think it's sad and I believe you are wrong in this case."

    See how that works? Now you are describing your own emotion and opinion which is really the only one you'll have available to you from the source.

    Here's a paper towel...you can use it to wipe your face off when you pull your head out. Enjoy!

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: public domain should not be the rule

    Im pretty sure Mike is not an attorney.

     

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  24.  
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    MrWilson, Oct 14th, 2010 @ 9:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: public domain should not be the rule

    I'm pretty sure I was responding to Bruce E. Burdick, Managing Attorney of the Burdick Law Firm.

    Are you viewing the comments in threaded view?

     

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