Denying The Public Domain Has A Very Real Cost

from the which-should-not-be-ignored dept

One of the problems with copyright extension is that there’s rarely anyone to take up the public’s side of the argument. After all, in theory, copyright is supposed to be a bargain between the public and content creators, where the creators get a limited monopoly, and the public gets more content added to the public domain in the long run (increasingly getting longer). But, when it comes time for copyright extension debates, the only people heard from tend to be the content creators. The main assumption is often that there’s no “cost” to keeping works protected by copyright. In fact politicians have, at times, even argued that copyright doesn’t have an impact on price of works, as they argued in favor of copyright extension.

Rufus Pollock has now released two new studies on the size and value of the public domain in the EU, which shows that this argument is false. The public domain creates plenty of value and extending copyright does have a very real cost. It’s not easy to calculate the specific cost, because the data necessary is not always available, but in areas where Pollock and his collaborators were able to get the necessary data, they showed that there’s clearly value created by the public domain — and we should not ignore that in copyright debates. Separately, the paper on valuing the public domain seems like an excellent one for use in the future in setting up a clear methodology for calculating “value” (as opposed to price) for works under copyright vs. the public domain. Most of the paper is really about the methodology of trying to figure out something that is not easily calculated (value).

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Comments on “Denying The Public Domain Has A Very Real Cost”

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cc (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Worthless junk such as the works of Homer, Shakespeare, the bible, Poe, Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Austen, Wilde, Carrol, A.C. Doyle, Verne, H.G. Wells, Victor Hugo and countless others that clearly have no value next to the mass-marketed shite pumped out by the Disney channel today.

And let’s not forget that there’d be a LOT more stuff in the public domain had copyright not been extended in the ridiculous and unfair ways it has been.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“the works of Homer, Shakespeare, the bible, Poe, Kipling, Kafka, Dickens, Austen, Wilde, Carrol, A.C. Doyle, Verne, H.G. Wells, Victor Hugo”

I wonder how much current work would have been made impossible had the above been subject to copyright. A great deal, I would guess – including several major box office successes of recent years.

…and that’s just books, of course. Public domain includes everything from every major classical composer and many other musicians, along with movies ranging from Phantom of The Opera and Nosferatu to Night Of The Living Dead and His Girl Friday.

“Worthless junk” compared to Twilight, Battlefield Earth and Gigli? Please…

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

sure, there is value in the aggregate of worthless junk in the public domain which nobody wants to bother to protect with copyright. minuscule compared to the value of copyrighted material worth protecting.

You clearly don’t know the first thing about what you’re talking about.

Last time I looked the copyright status of a work depended only on when it was created or when the creator died. Whether anyone values the work has had no bearing on it’s copyright status for many years (since the abolition of the registration and renewal requirements in the US back in the 70’s and since the 19th century in Europe).

Anonymous Coward says:

Present Copyright Law Is Unconstitutional

The US Constitution says, “… by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors …”. By “limited” is meant limited in relation to a normal human lifetime. If some work is under copyright for a period longer than some person’s expected remaining life span, then that work is effectively under unlimited copyright as far as that person is concerned. Seventy years was considered a lifetime, as in the biblical “three score years and ten”. The founding fathers picked 20% of that, namely 14 years. So for a new work, 80% of the people would live long enough to see it fall into the public domain (assuming roughly constant population and average 70 year lifespan). For 28 year copyright, only 60% will live long enough. For over 70 year copyright, close enough to 0% of the people can live long enough. So any copyright over 70 years is effectively unlimited, which is contrary to the constitution.

Setting copyright to 35 years means a bare majority of the people can live long enough to see a new work enter the public domain. So any copyright term over 35 years is unconscionable.

Shadow Six (profile) says:

Re: Present Copyright Law Is Unconstitutional

I delivered a lecture regarding this very subject recently. There are several areas where I suspect a violation of rights. One of which, is so obvious and so many frustrated justices ruling in favor of big content, hinted at this defense, that I suspect it’s use is eminent… can anyone guess what I’m talking about?

out_of_the_blue says:

"content creators" unilaterally *change* the bargain,

and are thereby *stealing* from the public domain. It’s the old story of focused commercial interest versus diffuse public interest. The public should be livid about the *changed* terms of the last few decades, but long dry economics studies aren’t going to convince them. Simplify your message: just point out the one-sided violation of the previous bargain and the greed behind it.

Shadow Six says:

Re: "content creators" unilaterally *change* the bargain,

The other day I uploaded video that I got from NASA, under the public domain. I Uploaded it to Youtube and it blocked it claiming it was owned by Universal… That’s because THEY USED it in their copyrighted documentaries no doubt, but I’m not about to invite trouble by contesting the take down.

Theft, and intimidation. They can ruin the little guy just by taking him to court. Tell me that’s not F*cked up?

Anonymous Coward says:


commercial interest is hte public domain , when i do not have to spend on your music thats 100years old i can spend that money on somehting more relevant to local economy or somehting like saving for i dunno a home?

This too is a lie they perpetuate that piracy or file sharing harms the economy, no it moves the economic wealth from tiny few to more people thus expanding an economy rather then putting wealth in peoples hands that seem to just want to hoard that wealth.

IF terms were ten years we would see a HUGE growth world wide and economic return. IF the usa thinks it can control all the IP and the rest of the world get taxed and have a vibrant economy its sorely mistaken, were already starting now to see the cracks in the world and if this egg cracks its gonna be ruff.

Alex Daniels (user link) says:

They don't understand creativity

The thing that bothers me the most is that the people trying to extend the duration of copyright have no idea of how creativity works.
You don’t just invent a new idea out of thin air, you’re always standing on the shoulders of those that came before.

Probably this talk should be compulsory for people making legislation that regulates creativity:

There is a reason why Mozart, definitively one of the greatest musicians ever, and probably the most mind-boggling example of human creativity, started his musical career by being a copycat.

All that is new in culture is remix, it has always been.

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