How Much We're Missing From The Public Domain
from the the-public-domain-ain't-so-public dept
Rather than 19% of all books being in the public domain -- as the situation is today -- we'd have 52% of books being in the public domain under the 14+14 scenario and 75% of works being in the public domain under the 15 yr copyright scenario. As he notes, that latter number is comparable to the percentage of works in the public domain in 1795, in the early days of copyright law in the US. This is important to note, because if you actually understand the history of copyright law, you would know that it's true purpose was to expand the public domain, and thus it seems worthy to look at how it may be doing the exact opposite of that. In the past century, copyright law in the US has only expanded -- with the single exception of recognizing that federal documents (mostly) don't deserve copyright. Nothing new has entered the public domain through copyright expiring in quite some time, and nothing new will do so for many years as well (and don't be surprised if we get another attempt at copyright extension soon...).
|Today||1795 (14+14)||Today (14+14)||Today (15y)|
|No. Public Domain||657k||140k||1.2m||2.59m|
|%tage Public Domain||19||78||52||75|
After all, authors would still want to write, and most would still get the same overall benefit -- since very, very, very, very few books have much of an economic life past their 15th year. In fact, if you look at the numbers back in the pre-1976 Copyright Act world, where copyright holders had to renew their works, when it came to books only 8% (according to Posner & Landes -- another study found the number closer to 11% -- still quite low) did so, suggesting that most authors got the monopoly rents out of copyright in the first few years. On top of that, it would enable people to build on works in the public domain, potentially inspiring interesting new and different works that aren't possible with works in copyright today. Either way, it's interesting to see how little of our culture's books are found in the public domain today.