A Politician Supporting The Public Domain?

from the stunning dept

These days, when it seems like most politicians have decided that the public domain is something that needs to be stamped out, rather than supported, it’s almost amazing to a politician come up with legislation defending the public domain, let alone enhancing it. It looks like Rep. Zoe Lofgren is still going to try again with her Lawrence Lessig-inspired Public Domain Enhancement Act, which appears to have a very simple premise. With all of the efforts to extend copyrights forever from the folks like Disney, plenty of properties out in “the long tail” that have no commercial viability by themselves get completely locked up and hidden away. No one will do anything with them, but they’re still valuable to a much smaller audience. It seems unfair that these works should be locked up as well, just because Disney can’t stand to see some other entity do the same thing with Disney characters that Disney did with so many public domain characters. So, Lofgren’s bill would simply require that anyone who wants to keep a copyright for longer than 50 years pay a $1 maintenance fee. The tiny fee is basically just for copyright owners to show that they actually value the copyright enough to keep protecting it. If not, why not let it just go into the public domain? Of course, Lofgren has introduced a similar bill before only to see it go nowhere, so it seems unlikely that the bill will get any traction this go around either — but it’s still worth pointing out.

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