Since When Has Copyright Become Life Plus 343 Years?

from the perpetual-copyright dept

If you follow copyright issues at all, you know that the length of copyright has been extended time and time again, mostly at the behest of entertainment industry interests who are fearful of their content falling into the public domain (even if they used public domain material to create their own content in the first place). However, copyrights do eventually expire, but it seems like fewer and fewer people recognize that. Jim writes in to point out the unfortunate example an IP lawyer discovered recently upon visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Despite the fact that the museum normally allows photographs (as long as there's no flash), it would not allow them in a display of artwork by Nicholas Poussin, who died in 1665. When questioned why the "no photography" rule was in place, he was told that it was because of the "copyright" on the artwork. While this is obviously a minor slip-up by a museum guard, it does show that people are becoming accustomed to the idea that copyright lasts forever, which is a serious problem. The more people understand copyright, and why limits on copyright are important, the more likely we are to start to shift the system away from the ridiculous levels it's reached.

Filed Under: copyright, metropolitan museum of art, nicholas poussin

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  1. identicon
    Ven'Tatsu, 14 Apr 2008 @ 9:37am

    Re: Access to Copyright Work

    It is totally legitimate that a gallery charge for access to an original that has passed into the public domain. Public domain only means that the painting can be reproduced without requiring the permission of the works owner, it does not ever, under any circumstances, remove the physical ownership of a work. Copyright is about the right to reproduce a work, it is not (or should not, depending on jurisdiction, be) about what can and can't be done with the physical embodiment of that work.
    The physical right to a painting includes the right to charge to view that physical painting but does not cover preventing any one from making copies of the painting, or demanding payment to view the copies.

    A "pay wall" in front of an original of an original painting is quite different than DRM. Assuming all sides honor the law, after I have passed the pay wall once and have made a legal copy of the painting (a photograph) I can legally view it my self and after the painting is in the public domain I can show it to anyone and make as many copies as I desire. DRM is the equivalent of putting a screen in front of the painting that blocks all photographs preventing me from ever producing a copy of the painting. To equate pay walls with DRM trivializes the insidious effects DRM has on fair use and the eventual transition to the public domain of a work.

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