The Grinch Who Stole The Public Domain

from the we-need-more-than-12-angry-men dept

As they do every year, unfortunately, the good folks at the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke have put together a depressing list of what should have entered the public domain yesterday. As you hopefully know, until 1978, the maximum amount of time that work in the US could be covered by copyright was 56 years (you initially received a 28 year copyright term, which could be renewed for another 28 years). That means, back in 1957, everyone who created the works in that list knew absolutely, and without a doubt that their works would be given back to the public to share, to perform, to build on and more… on January 1, 2014 at the very latest. And they all still created their works, making clear that the incentive of a 56 year monopoly was absolutely more than enough incentive to create.

And yet, for reasons that still no one has made clear, Congress unilaterally changed the terms of the deal, took these works away from the public, without any compensation at all, and will keep them locked up for at least another 40 years. At least.

The website lists out books, movies, music and much more that is locked up away from the public for no good reason at all. In the books, there are works such as:

  • Jack Kerouac, On the Road (completed 1951, published 1957)
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
  • Margret Rey and H.A. Rey, Curious George Gets a Medal
  • Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat
  • Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, The Untouchables
  • Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz
  • Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, The Three Faces of Eve
  • Ian Fleming, From Russia, with Love

The list of movies is quite impressive as well. Imagine the kind of creativity that would be unleashed if people could take clips from the following list of films and mash them up into something new and wonderful. While I’m sure some folks (including, perhaps, folks reading this right now) could make something amazing out of mashing up clips from many of these works, you’d be making a very risky bet on fair use protecting you — and even if it did, you might still have to face an insanely costly lawsuit first.

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (Based on Richard Matheson’s 1956 book The Shrinking Man)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (Best Picture, Best Director (David Lean), Best Actor (Alec Guinness); also starring William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa)
  • A Farewell to Arms (Rock Hudson and Jennifer Jones)
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas)
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957 original starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin)
  • Island in the Sun (James Mason, Joan Fontaine, Dorothy Dandridge, and introducing Harry Belafonte)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester)
  • 12 Angry Men (Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Ed Begley, and more)
  • Sweet Smell of Success (Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis)
  • Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley)
  • The Prince and the Showgirl (Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe)
  • Funny Face (Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire . . . and Paris as only Hollywood can imagine it)
  • An Affair to Remember (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr . . . and the Empire State Building)
  • Nights of Cabiria (written and directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina)
  • The Seventh Seal (written and directed by Ingmar Bergman and starring Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot)
  • What’s Opera, Doc? (Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd do Wagner)
  • The first episodes of Leave It to Beaver and Perry Mason
  • Elvis Presley’s third and final appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on January 6, 1957

There’s plenty of some of the most influential American music from the early days of rock and roll as well.

If you wanted to find guitar tabs or sheet music and freely record your own version of some of the influential music of the 1950s, January 1, 2014, might have been a booming day for you under earlier copyright laws – “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue” (Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, and Norman Petty), “Great Balls of Fire” (Otis Blackwell and Jack Hammer), and “Wake Up, Little Susie” (Felice and Boudleaux Bryant) would all be available. You could score a short film with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 in G minor (Opus 103; subtitled The Year 1905). Or you could stage your own performances of some of Elvis Presley’s hits: “All Shook Up” (Otis Blackwell and Elvis Presley) and “Jailhouse Rock” (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller). Today, these musical works remain copyrighted until 2053.

They further note that the classic musical West Side Story came out in 1957 as well. It should be in the public domain. But it’s not.

And it’s not just arts and entertainment. The post points out plenty of science and technology is still locked up thanks to all of this.

1957 was a noteworthy year for science: the USSR launched Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, IBM released the first FORTRAN compiler, and the UK’s Medical Research Council published an early report linking smoking and lung cancer. There were groundbreaking publications in the fields of superconductivity and astrophysics such as “Theory of Superconductivity” by John Bardeen, L.N. Cooper, and J.R. Schrieffer and “Synthesis of the Elements in Stars… ” by Geofrey Burbidge, Margaret Burbidge, William Fowler, and Fred Hoyle.

They further make an important point that while the works listed above grab all the attention, because they were so successful, the real shame is in lots of other works that are simply not available at all any more. And this would likely include all sorts of works from 1985. After all, works created in 1985, if created under the old law, would have been given an initial 28 year copyright term, which would also be expiring, and if history is any guide, the vast majority of those would not have their copyrights renewed. Instead, they’re locked up… and quite frequently completely unavailable, with a very real risk of being lost to history.

The really crazy part about all of this is that it’s the exact opposite of the entire original purpose of copyright. Copyright law was put in place specifically to encourage the creation of works that would be put into the public domain to promote learning, knowledge and understanding. Yet, instead, it’s been distorted, twisted and misrepresented into a system that is used solely to lock stuff up, make it less accessible and less available, limiting the ability to promote knowledge and learning. What a shame.

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Comments on “The Grinch Who Stole The Public Domain”

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Just Sayin' says:

Re: Best legislation money can buy

I don’t think anyone thinks that. They think “damn, we have spent a ton of money to preserve this and re-issue it from time to time, it is likely we would just toss it out and get rid of it if there wasn’t any value it in for us”.

The internet isn’t any better, forget 56year old movies, try to find a copy of a 10 year old TV Show. Apparently people pirate EVERYTHING, and yet shows that are only a couple of years old are gone, hidden from public view. You can find millions of examples of dead torrents with no seeders and no leachers out there. We aren’t talking older stuff, we are talking fairly current stuff.

Extending copyright also extends the motivations to maintain, and to make available. I was astounded when I read about how much of the pre-20th century works have been entirely lost due to lack of a curator of sorts, the public domain didn’t do them any good.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Best legislation money can buy

Wait, what?

Extending copyright also extends the motivations to maintain, and to make available. I was astounded when I read about how much of the pre-20th century works have been entirely lost due to lack of a curator of sorts, the public domain didn’t do them any good.

As a matter of fact, piracy does all that, since there’s usually no profit in maintaining and making available those works that aren’t very popular. Small cult followings tend to be ignored by the legacy players. It’s the fans that preserve works, not the corporations. Lurk more, please. You may learn something.

Just Sayin' says:

Re: Re: Re: Best legislation money can buy

I understand your point of view, but there is a real problem here.

A small cult following maintaining something but never sharing it isn’t any better than the rights holder keeping it in the vault. The result is the same. It’s almost impossible to go onto a major torrent tracker and find TV shows that are even a couple of years old. Forget trying to find anything from the 90s… it’s almost all gone.

Fans preserve works as long as they are interested, and when they aren’t interesting anymore they stop. I manage to doubt that most fans stay big enough fans of something to absolutely preserve it for 75 years.

The lack of availability of shows in general is proof that piracy is mostly hit it while it’s hot, not any long term preservation goal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As a lot of the works still under copyright are unavailable, and in some cases rotted away and lost to culture, making money from old works is not the reason for long copyrights. it is as That One Guy said above, a matter of reducing competition for the works that they decide to publish.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Copyright length

What I want to see is the sales curves for books, films, and recordings. My suspicion is that upon first release there is spike in sales with a decrease in sales until a very low rate of sales is reached. For the statistically inclined I wonder if a Weibull distribution would fit the typical sales curve. Also, at what point in time have 95% and 99% of the total sales have been reached.

For example if the 99% sales figure is reached within 5 years I would set the maximum copyright length at 10 years with no renewal. My argument is that you have made virtually all the money from the vast majority of works so there is no reason to extend the copyright period for the very few works the retain some popularity.

Another way to look at this issue is how many very popular works does one remember for 10 years or 15 years ago? Of all the works produced, there may be a couple hundred that still have any popularity today. And thousands were produced?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Copyright length

This is especially true when speaking of, say, math textbooks. The next edition is almost exactly the same as the last with a few problems flipped around, a few pages and chapters flipped around, but otherwise they are nearly identical. It’s not like the content changed any, math all through calculus and even well above hasn’t changed in the last century or more at least.

Yet the publishers keep coming up with new editions and as the old editions run out new students are forced to buy new editions since the school can’t simply reprint old editions to sell to students at a cheaper price and the school and students can’t simply put the old editions online or something for people to download. The laws serve absolutely no socially beneficial purpose in this context, their only purpose is purely to artificially maintain the profit margins of a publisher that continues to profit for doing something they have been fully compensated for decades ago and is otherwise worse than a deadweight to others.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Copyright length

This is especially true when speaking of, say, math textbooks.

That’s not even the half of it. Publishers have known for years that they need to continuously come out with “new” editions, solely to prevent students from buying used textbooks and avoid the publishers’ insane monopoly prices.

The new trick is to move everything online, and lock it up behind non-transferable accounts that can only be accessed with codes from a specific book.

I have three different versions of exactly the same calculus book (at $150-$200 each) for exactly that reason. My calculus courses had a online components, and I needed to buy a different version of the book to access them. I literally could not take the course without re-buying the book. And, of course, I can never resell any of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Copyright length

My favorite professors from college didn’t care what version of the book we used, and even went out of their way to list separate homework assignments depending on which version you had (since there are never any new problems, just rearranged or slightly changed).

My least favorite professors made us buy spiral bound copies of their course notes that they “changed” every year and just read straight from in class. Of course being spiral bound there was no option to sell them back to the bookstore.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Copyright length

That’s actually has been looked at a bit, and covered, in an older article.

Short answer: evidence seems to suggest that the majority of the commercial worth of most works lasts only a handful of years, after which sales drop significantly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Copyright length

Curves can vary significantly.

The vast majority of curves slowly climb to a level, hover around that level for a bit, and then decline to a level that stabilizes (there are abundant examples, such as “The Fountainhead,” “Tom Sawyer,” etc.), or drops to zero. However, other curves exist.

One curve of interest to authors is the effect that occurs when an author has a “best seller,” or something that approximates a best seller, or a successful film tie-in. A book that sells well can easily pump the sales of previously published books as readers “discover” an author. Authors such as Dean Koontz and Stephen King benefited tremendously from this effect as their career developed. I recall King talking about the success of his earlier books, and how each new book gave sales of earlier books a significant jolt as new readers “discovered” him. Many other authors have made the same discovery, and many authors who have published multiple books have the endless hope that one of their books will eventually pull the others along in sales.

Perhaps one of the better-known examples is the case of James Bond novels. James Bond novels were not selling very well in the U.S. until John F. Kennedy advised that he was reading Ian Fleming, and sales of Fleming books spiked in 1961-62. While Kennedy put Fleming into the public’s eye, the film “Goldfinger” truly brought James Bond into the mainstream, and sales of James Bond books hit new heights after 1964, which was a decade after the original release of the first Bond book.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright length

Unfortunately, copyright law is set for whatever item can continue to make a profit decades after it’s created, and everything else adheres to the same timescale, even though 99% of all materials lose their market value in just a few years.

That’s why we need short copyright terms, renewable copyright, and an easy to access government database of copyrighted materials.

mudlock (profile) says:

Re: Re: Copyright length

“…and sales of James Bond books hit new heights after 1964, which was a decade after the original release of the first Bond book.”

Oh, a whole DECADE. Yeah. Wow. Well, since that’s such an exceptional case, we’ll take that as a base and, oh, let’s multiply it by FIVE or SIX–no, how about 5.6. Yeah, that should more than enough for any artists (or their corporate owner) to recoup the overwhelming majority of the spoils. Sounds fair.

Alfred Marzipan Bar says:

Rights in Property

This is a specious argument. The limitation upon the duration of copyright is a restraint upon an owner’s rights in his property.

Tell me, when exactly are you going to be willing to give up rights in your house or your car or any other property, real or personal, to the public domain?

Surely you will agree, that it is just as right and necessary to compel the transfer of ownership to the public of your grandmama’s wedding ring or your collection of 19th century coins, in which you have rights of ownership, after a certain years in which they’ve been in your hands, to benefit the economy by encouraging trade?

If not, why not?

jameshogg says:

Re: Rights in Property

Derivative artists have their rights to property too.

If the property were treated as services instead of products, we would not have this kind of irreconcilable overlap between an original artist’s rights and derivative artists’ rights.

And bear in mind, there are far more potential derivative arts than there are from the single original art.

Copyright philosophy makes the claim that creative property somehow must be treated as a product instead of a service because of the supposed “free-rider problem”, but I do not accept this implication because a) the free-rider problem can not be solved by copyright, neither theoretically nor practically and b) the free-rider problem can be solved just fine with the property as a service by using assurance contracts.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Rights in Property

If you’re going to go with the ‘copyright should be treated as any other property’ argument, I take it then that you agree it should be taxed like any other form of property?

After all, you pay taxes on your house, your car, and other property, it’s only fair you pay taxes on your copyrights, which are, according to you, just as much ‘property’ as those other things, right?

Of course, that rather misses the point, which is that copyright law does not give any rights to the creator that they didn’t already have, rather it only takes rights away from the public, so lessening or weakening copyright law would not take a single ‘right’ from creators, it would only return rights to the public that they would have otherwise had.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Rights in Property

Tell me, when exactly are you going to be willing to give up rights in your house or your car or any other property, real or personal, to the public domain?

Intellectual property is not the same as physical property. We can’t have a serious discussion about the things you listed above until IP is more like physical property.

So, when you are willing to sell me the book you authored or the song you wrote and I am free to do what I please with it, like copy it, or publish it or rewrite portions and resell it, like I can change the fabric on a chair I purchase and sell it to someone else, this discussion it moot.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rights in Property

Even if someone is financially gaining through their piracy, that doesn’t necessarily represent a loss to the copyright holder.

If a pirate is actually interfering with the ability of a copyright holder to make money from his work, that’s a legitimate issue indeed. It’s pretty hard to find cases where this is clearly happening, though.

(Obligatory note: I am opposed to piracy, however, I am even more opposed to the harm that the copyright lobby is willing to cause on innocent people in their quest to combat piracy.)

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rights in Property

“I disagree. When someone infringes on a song generally they are financially exploiting it or interfering with the copyright holders ability to do so.”

There’s a third possibility you ignored there. That there is no harm or interference to the copyright holder at all.
I’ve torrented games before that I have since bought. If the copyright holders had gone the extreme route of online only DRM (think of the latest Sim City game), I would never have even bothered with it at all.
I pay for a subscription to Crunchyroll (a streaming service not unlike Netflix but dedicated to anime). One of the series I’m watching went on a hiatus for 20 days between seasons. I torrented what episodes had already been released, mainly so I wouldn’t suffer from bandwidth issues.

As an aside, LAB, can I ask your opinion? I log into a US VPN in order to get Crunchyroll’s full catalogue. Technically, that is copyright infringement, even though I’m a paying customer. I’m violating the anime studio’s geographical distribution rights inherent to copyright. I soothe my conscience by saying that I am still paying anyway and that (hopefully) Crunchyroll execs can tell the studios that a significant percentage of their customers connect via VPN, in the hopes that the studios will eventually learn to ditch geo-restrictions.

LAB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rights in Property

I’ve torrented games before that I have since bought.

That is an interesting statement, as if you were not required to so. And I guess after you already had the product, the only motivation for you to pay was because you wanted to. What of the games you did not buy? Did they cost any less to produce? Would you agree a business set up where the customer only pays when they want to would have a tenuous existence? In addition, because you paid is no guarantee anyone else did or will. Your behavior has some predictive value as to the behavior of others but only as far as those that share your same values. I

“I’m violating the anime studio’s geographical distribution rights inherent to copyright. I soothe my conscience by saying that I am still paying anyway.”

I think they value you as a paying customer. I agree that many geo restrictions are tiresome. As content becomes available globally, better methods must be developed. However, copyright allows a holder to stop another from commercially exploiting the work. If I write and record a song and make a CD should another company be entitled to duplicate it and sell it an keep all of the profits? Should a company be able to play the song in an advertisement without licensing it? Those are some examples of infringement.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Rights in Property

” And I guess after you already had the product, the only motivation for you to pay was because you wanted to.”

Well, yes, you can say that, but look at it from my point of view. I don’t give a damn as to the production costs. About the only time I do is when I hear Call of Grand Theft Battlefield Tits n Ass 9 has spent the GDP of a small nation to develop itself. Beyond that, I cannot care. I am not a part of the production process (unless you’re talking Steam Early Access or a crowdfunded game).
What I am is the end consumer. I am interested in a quality game. If I torrent a game and like it, I will more than likely pay to get it in my Steam library. If I don’t like it, I won’t pay for it. Why should I reward the developers of a crappy game? Why should I plonk money down sight unseen? What if there isn’t a demo (which is frequent these days).
I am only obeying the laws of capitalism here. I am being economical with my money and I am acting in my own best interests. Last I checked, video games are a free market. I no longer just torrent and never pay, I instead pay when I can. Companies that embrace the consumer get rewarded by me: I bought Witcher 2 from CD Projekt Red on launch day for full price because they ditched DRM. Sure, I could have easily torrented it, but my money was not just for the game: it was also to help Red confirm to the gaming media that the days of DRM are numbered.

“Would you agree a business set up where the customer only pays when they want to would have a tenuous existence?”
Since Steam, GOG, iTunes et al are still going strong, despite the fact that the very content they sell can easily be obtained via P2P, this belies your question.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Rights in Property

Would you agree a business set up where the customer only pays when they want to would have a tenuous existence?

There have been a sizable number of “pay what you want” ventures that have been very successful, so no, I wouldn’t agree with that blanket statement. Of course, as with any business model, there are good and bad ways of doing it.

LAB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Rights in Property

“There have been a sizable number of ‘pay what you want’ ventures that have been very successful.”

If this was the preferred and most profitable way to do business then the majority of businesses would operate in this fashion.
If you believe this is the best way for you to do business, I encourage you to tell whoever you interact with to earn a living, that they can pay you if they want to.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Business R Us

It’s a way to create a business and not piss off customers.

The other ways include intrusive DRM policies, copyright enforcement against legal consumers, and crappy service for inferior products.

That said, it quickly becomes apparent that piracy has, and always be, a service issue, not one of morality.

But to try the old “pay for everything” model when it doesn’t apply aptly to digital goods kind of tells how people will pay for good service, not moral preachers of doom and gloom.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Rights in Property

The limitation upon the duration of copyright is a restraint upon an owner’s rights in his property.

You have this exactly backwards. The rights granted under copyright are nothing other than statutory monopoly rights. Their limited duration is not a “restraint upon an owner’s rights in his property,” it is the expiration of a government-granted monopoly.

As with all monopolies, it is a limitation on other people’s property rights. It regulates, by law, what other people can do with their own property: the works that they bought, the raw materials that they could use to produce other works, and so forth. If I legally bought a book, then copyright law says that if I create copies of it, with my own labor and raw materials, I am a criminal. If I bought a phone, then copyright law says I cannot modify my own property in order to “root” the phone, or switch to a new carrier. And so on.

That monopoly is usually treated as if it were property under the law, in the sense that the exploitation rights can be exclusively held and transferred. (This is practical, as the goal is to create rights that are marketable.) But this is not even universally true under the law. As one example, under statutory royalty laws, I do not have the right to exclude others from exploiting the work so long as they pay those royalties. As another example, the “attribution and integrity” rights granted in 17 USC 106a are not transferable.

And, under the law, infringing upon a copyright is not infringing upon the same rights one has in common property. It is not “theft” or “conversion.” This was decided uniquivocably by the Supreme Court in Dowling vs. U.S.

…And that’s just approaching the issue from a “property rights” perspective. Another issue (and one that I think is far more serious) is the free speech issue. Since the copyright “property” is expression, it is also infringing upon the rights of the public to express themselves as they will. This is especially apparent when you consider derivative works. It is why copyright requires fair use in order to be constitutional under the First Amendment.

Claiming that copyright is “property,” in anything other than a purely statutory sense, is a mistake. Private property rights exist in order to allocate scarce resources – resources that are rivalrous and exclusive. We own a piece land because two people cannot equally exploit the same piece of land at the same time; whatever one takes, there will be less for the other. If that were not true, then land wouldn’t be property – and shouldn’t be property.

In contrast, copyright’s purpose is to “Promote the Progress of … Science” (here, “science” means “learning”). It exists solely to benefit the general public, not to privatize scarce resources. Its ultimate goal is “promoting broad public availability of literature, music, and the other arts” (Twentieth Century Music Corp. v. Aiken).

So, no, it is not a “specious” argument. It is right at the heart of the matter. Copyright must ultimately provide the public with access to artworks. If it does not, it is an evil that must be reigned in or done away with. (I’m of the opinion that the former is the way to go.)

Regarding term lengths, the only question is this. Did the extension of copyright terms actually result in more works being available to the public? If not, that extension should never have happened.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Rights in Property

So tell me, after how many years ought the rights in your condo escheat (borrowing the polite lingo of confiscation) to the general public?

If you mean the “right” to own the actual condo in which I am living, then the answer is “never” (or near enough).

But if you mean the “right” to own another condo that is like mine, then the answer is “right now.”

In fact, I would question my right to be the only person in the nation who can own a condo that is like mine. Which is good, because I never held that right in the first place.

And that’s the point. Copyright grants rights that nobody has ever held in real property. It creates “property” rights over other people’s property, not my own.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Rights in Property

Copyright grants rights that nobody has ever held in real property. It creates “property” rights over other people’s property, not my own.

Actually, let’s expand on this a little bit.

Let’s say I have a condo, and I invite you over to it for dinner. You really like my condo: the way the furniture is laid out, the color scheme I chose, my choice in furnishings, and so on. (Yes, I know, I’m asking for a huge suspension of disbelief.)

In a month or two, you decide to invite me to a moving-in party at your new condo. To my chagrin, I discover that you’ve simply copied my condo – the furniture layout, color scheme, choice of furnishings, and so on.

Here’s the question. Do I have a property right to your new condo? Can I claim that I am the rightful owner of your condo, and you must pay me rent? If you refuse, can I have the government seize your condo and destroy it?

No, of course not. Any defender of private property rights would find such a situation offensive. Yet these are exactly the rights that copyright grants.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Rights in Property

Because intellectual “property” is not property, and to treat it as such horribly distorts the law in such a way as to cause serious problems for both actual property ownership and freedom of speech.

You should check out the debates the founders had over this issue. They discussed all of this at length. The Constitutional language is what it is because they were trying to strike a compromise that would allow copyright protection without creating a new class of property rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Rights in Property

If IP is property, where can I sell the MP3s, eBooks, downloaded games and movies that I have purchased?

All products in Australia MUST have a 1 year warranty, are you going to provide a warranty that the quality of the product meets my requirements and provide a refund if I do not find it satisfactory?

Are you going to start paying property tax on your property?

Are you willing to give up all control of what I can do with your product once I have paid for it?

if not, why not?

Sunhawk (profile) says:

Re: Rights in Property

Yeah, no – nobody owns a creative work; after all, they make money by duplicating the original in some medium and selling the copies. You could argue that something with a single copy is indeed owned just like anything else.

Instead, copyright was an effort to encourage trends perceived as beneficial in those early days of the US over the much more traditional “patronage” model. Terms of the rights given have been limited from the first; you can hardly argue that duration is a restraint when (a) before copyright there was no such ownership and (b) from the very first copyright was limited in duration.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Rights in Property

Your ownership of real property is not absolute either. Apart from taxation, if you do not maintain control of your land, it can either revert to the state or be taken over by those who will make use of it (i.e. squatters). If your property contains culturally or aesthetically valuable buildings, landscape features, or sometimes even plants, if you do not take adequate care to preserve it the government can maintain it against your will and charger you for the expense.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

Goes back to the question of the corporation...

… is it a ‘living entity’ on par with a human being. As long as there is presidence saying they are (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission), there are going to be issues like this. To borrow and paraphrase a few lines from the movie Bicentennial Man, it appears that we have accepted the idea of a ‘human’ living forever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The section quoted in the article refers to the original purpose of copyright law (progress, btw, was roughly translated to teach/educate), but that purpose was not to place something in the public domain as that term is used in copyright law. The purpose was meant to encourage publication (communicating to the public) of books, charts and maps, for without publication progress was hindered.

Public domain in its legal sense under copyright law is nothing more than a work being free of a claim to copyright.

Kyle Reynolds Conway (profile) says:

And this would likely include all sorts of works from 1985.

You know, out of everything in this post that fact zoinks! me the most because I just realized that part of my childhood should now be freely available to share with my children and re-imagine with/for them. How different the world would be if everyone my age could reinvent and rework their childhoods for their children and share those creations with everyone else.

We’ve lost a lot more than I ever realized.

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