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Disney Wins, Eldred (and everyone else) Loses 1292

Posted by michael
from the copyright-is-permanent dept.
hondo77 writes "In a 7-2 decision, The Supreme Court gave Disney what they wanted. Story just broke, no details yet." They're talking about the Eldred case, recently argued before the Supreme Court and mentioned on Slashdot many times. The upshot is that no works produced in the United States after the 1920's will ever go out of copyright. Opinions: Majority opinion, Stevens' dissent, Breyer's dissent.
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Disney Wins, Eldred (and everyone else) Loses

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  • by DrSkwid (118965) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:33AM (#5087738) Homepage Journal
    who needs derivative stuff anyway

    sing your own songs

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:53AM (#5087978) Homepage Journal
      Can't sing "Happy Birthday" in public. It's still under copyright and you need it licensed from the man who wrote it, now deceased.

      All current works are derivitive of other works. You should read Lawrence Lessig's latest book on this topic. He's the lawyer who argued this case for Eldred in front of the Supreme Court. All musicians are at least slightly influenced by music they've heard throughout their life. How else could there be generations of bands of a genre? Or bands who all play similar music? It's because everything is based on what came before. If Jimi Hendrix didn't allow Eric Clapton to learn and adapt from his songs we'd be without a great set of songs to listen to. He didn't copy Jimi, but if just one part of one solo has the same 3 notes, he could be guilty of copyright infringement. Do you see where all of this is leading and why the framers of the constitution left it open to interpretation, so long as the duration is limited?
      • The Crow and the Owl (Score:5, Interesting)

        by oliverthered (187439) <oliverthered@hotm a i l . c om> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:07PM (#5088137) Journal
        One of the winning wipout storys [uea.ac.uk] makes this point very well.

        I'm sure Louise Szente won't mind ;->

        THE CROW AND THE OWL

        Louise Szente

        The glow of the fire against the night sky was comforting. A smell of roasting meat permeated the air. The family sat quietly watching the fire and listening to the night sounds.

        A morose old man sat to one side poking the fire with a twig. His thoughts were lost in yesteryear when such an occasion would have been noisy and full of laughter. Stories would have been told and lessons would have been learnt. But, now... now they cannot tell stories anymore. Now tradition is lost.

        "Tata" said one of the children "please tell us about the times when you were young."

        "Oh my boy" lamented the old man "those days are gone, I am not allowed to tell the tales that I heard from my grandfather, but I have been thinking. I can tell you the story about the Owl and the Crow, because I have just made it up. Listen and listen well."

        Once a long long time ago, the Owl was the custodian of all the stories of the land. Every night all the animals would gather around the Owl and listen to the stories. And oh, what wonderful stories the Owl told. He passed on all the knowledge of the world.

        Every night the Crow sat with all the other animals listening to the Owl. But, Crow grew jealous. "Why should Owl have the right to tell the stories, I am sure I can do a better job and makes lots of money."

        Crow spent his days thinking of a way to take away the right of the Owl to tell the stories. He craved the power to have all the animals listen to him. He thought and thought because he knew that he could get very rich if he had the right to all the knowledge of the land.

        One day Crow went to the Owl and very politely asked Owl if he could write down the stories that the Owl told each night. "Just think" said Crow "if I write down the stories, the children can read it during the day and never forget the lessons all the stories teach. The animals could use the stories to gather plants for healing purposes. Why they could even learn how to live peacefully together.:

        The Owl spent days pondering Crows' request. He admired the cleverness of Crow. To think that the children would be able to learn during the day as well, maybe then he would be able to appoint a successor much sooner than tradition dictates. This made the Owl very happy, because it always took a long time to train somebody to take over the position of Custodian of Tradition.

        Every day Crow would go to the Owl and in a smooth voice tell Owl of all the benefits the land could reap by having its tradition in writing. The purpose of all the medicinal plants would forever be available. The way children should be brought up traditionally would forever be there for parents to follow. Why, it would make the land a better place to live in because all the knowledge of the land would be saved for prosperity.

        As Owl sat and listened to Crow each day, he wondered at the plan of Crow. He never for one moment thought about what Crow would benefit by such an idea. Oh, he knew very well that Crow was a sly and devious creature, but he thought Crow had changed. Perhaps Crow was getting old and was afraid that he would be forgotten. Be that as it may, the Owl thought about the idea and eventually said to Crow that he may write down all the stories.

        This made Crow very happy. He rushed off and prepared a document for the Owl to sign. "Why should I sign this document?" asked the Owl.

        Crow went into a long explanation about how some of the animals to not trust him and if he had this document, he could proved that he had the Owl's permission to record all the stories. Pleased with the foresight of Crow Owls signed the document that he did not really understand. He knew the animals did not trust Crow and he knew that they would query the fact that Crow is recording all the traditions of the land.

        For years Crow sat at the feet of the Owl every night recording the stories. During the day Crow would ask the Owl how many stories he still has to tell and Owl would reply that there are many stories to be told and many lessons to be learnt.

        One night a new generation of animals gathered to listen to the stories of the Owl. It so happened that the Owl decided to repeat a story. Immediately Crow jumped up and stopped Owl.

        "You are not allowed to repeat that story," said Crow, "that story belongs to me"

        "No Crow, you are wrong, that story belongs to all the animals of the land. It is my duty to tell this story. All the animals need to know everything about the land," replied the Owl.

        "That story belongs to me," replied Crow " you gave me the right to that story, so you have to ask my permission to repeat that story. Come to think of it, I think that all the stories have been told. Now, all the stories are mine. If you want to tell the stories you will have to pay me"

        "But,,, But what is this" stuttered the Owl "since the beginning of time the stories of the land have been told to the children every night. We always sat around the fire and the Custodian of Knowledge would tell stories. That is how the children learnt!"

        "Not anymore." replied the Crow "from now on there will be no stories at night anymore. If you want to continue with the stories you will have to pay me. And, I am going to charge entrance fee from each and every animal attending the story time. Nothing comes free in this life Owl."

        "What is this?" cried all the animals.

        With an evil grin on his face Crow replied:

        "THIS IS CALLED COPYRIGHT"

        "You see children," said the old man "that is why I cannot tell you the stories of the times past. All the stories have been told. I can only tell you new stories that I had just made up and then I must be very careful that the Crow does not hear me, otherwise he would take my stories, sell it, and nobody would benefit from it. If the Owl had not given away our tradition to the unscrupulous crow, night times would have been the happy times it was.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:23PM (#5088261)
          A recent interpretation of Aesop's fables have both an Owl /and/ a Crow. This is obviously derived from those characters, and you, sir, are in copyright violation.
          • by Renraku (518261) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @04:29PM (#5089808) Homepage
            From the legal representatives of 'Aesop' to 'Slashdot' and 'oliverthered' You are hereby ordered to remove the post and to cease and desist any further activities regarding owls and crows. We feel that we are representing the true intentions of the late Aesop. If you do not comply, you will be charged US$20,000,000, plus any fees incurred by your litigation. While our late client has no copyright on his work, we feel that if he were still alive, he would have extended his copyright well past this day. Thank you for your compliance. Sincerely,
  • The last chance... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:35AM (#5087748) Homepage Journal
    Well, OK, so Mickey Mouse (tm) wins and the american consumers lose. Big time.

    But if enough people break the copyright, will the other courts of the land (not to mention the law enforcement agencies) really apply the law? That seems doubtful. Any thoughts on that?

    Score another win for Corporate America.
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:35AM (#5087751) Journal
    Goverment of the Corp, by the Corp, for the Corp?
    • by helix400 (558178) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:37PM (#5088370) Journal
      Goverment of the Corp, by the Corp, for the Corp?

      What, are Corporations not allowed any rights, because public opinion says they're evil?

      Executive #1: Sir, Congress and the President just passed a law stripping every right corporations had. We no longer own any properties, patents, and copyrights that we used to own.
      Executive #2: Well, so how do we make a profit now?
      Executive #1: We can't sir, we charged money for our products. Now they're free.
      Executive #2: Well, lets close down the corporation then. Inform the employees that they no longer have a job.
      10,000 employees: What? We're getting laid off? Stupid system....

      In this Disney case, the judicial branch said a particular law applies in Disney's favor. Its not because the Supreme Court is biased towards corporations. To claim that one Supreme Court decision means the entire US government panders to big business is ignorant and ridiculous.

    • by radicalsubversiv (558571) <[michael] [at] [sherrards.org]> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:17PM (#5088614) Homepage Journal
      It is, as Mary Lease (a Kansas Populist) said in 1890:

      "Wall street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street and for Wall Street."

      Take hope, however. In time, most of the Populist reforms were enacted. Which leads me to another quote, better known, from Mother Jones:

      "Don't mourn, organize!"
  • Illegal Art (Score:4, Informative)

    by renard (94190) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:36AM (#5087759)
    Got yer CD of Illegal Art [illegal-art.org], yet?

    Gotta figger time's running out.

    -renard

  • by MPolo (129811) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:36AM (#5087761)
    Unfortunately, the Constitution left this point quite vague. It does say a "limited" time, but doesn't indicate anything about how long that might be. Since every extension is going to set a (theoretical) expiration date, the multimedia conglomerates can always argue that the law is constitutional.

    This is awful for fair use, obviously. We've got to somehow get Congressmen elected who can see the folly of the current path, and who are immune to the ideal-destroying effects of large campaign donations. Doesn't look like we'll be reading Faulkner on line anytime soon...

    • by lutzomania (139132) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:48AM (#5087912)
      Yes, but the full clause in Article I, Section 8, states that the legislature's power is: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;"

      Authors and inventors, which I interpret to mean the actual author or inventor, not the great-grandchildren of the author or inventor, or future sharholders in a corporation that descended from the author or inventor or purchased the rights from the author or inventor.

      Am I misinterpreting the scope here??
      • by Ami Ganguli (921) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:00PM (#5088071) Homepage

        I'm niether a lawyer or American, but...

        I believe that companies in the U.S. (and to varying degrees elsewhere) have most of the rights of human beings. I think there are even people who consider that a 'feature', not a bug in the legal system.

        Anyway, for the purposes of copyright, the author can be a company.

        • by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:17PM (#5088219) Homepage Journal

          I believe the worlds oldest company would be Stora (From Falun, Sweden), which was founded about 1000 years ago, I also believe you'll find very few people that have reached 1000 years.

          Point is, Companies/Corporations don't have a limited lifespan, they can live for nearly forever and keep trying to change legislation for a very very long time, that's one reason I think that businesses should not be considered to be individuals/humans/persons.

          • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:00PM (#5088541) Homepage Journal
            I believe the worlds oldest company would be Stora (From Falun, Sweden), which was founded about 1000 years ago, I also believe you'll find very few people that have reached 1000 years.
            Stora dates back to at least 1288 [storaenso.com]. I think there are some companies in the Netherlands which are fourteenth century in date. It would not surprise me if there were companies in the far east which were older.

            The Aberdeen Shore Porters Society [shoreporters.com] was founded in 1498 and is still trading - and, indeed, is still in the same business it was in 500 years ago, which says something for consistency. It is reputedly the oldest company in Britain.

            There are four companies in the United States [businesshistory.net], even, which date back to before independence.

            Point is, Companies/Corporations don't have a limited lifespan, they can live for nearly forever and keep trying to change legislation for a very very long time, that's one reason I think that businesses should not be considered to be individuals/humans/persons.

            Absolutely agreed.

      • by automandc (196618) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:41PM (#5089483)
        Authors and inventors, which I interpret to mean the actual author or inventor, not the great-grandchildren of the author or inventor, or future sharholders in a corporation that descended from the author or inventor or purchased the rights from the author or inventor.

        Yes and No. You are not misinterpreting it in the sense that the right initially attaches to an individual (the author/inventor). The question is whether that right should be alienable, i.e. can it be sold. Some rights in society are deemed to be inalienable, like Jefferson supposedly touted on about in the Declaration of Independence. For instance, you have a right not to be murdered, but you cannot sell someone the right to murder you. Other rights are alienable. You have the right to own land and quietly enjoy it, but you can sell that right to a buyer.

        So, you are correct in thinking that the Constitution authorizes Congress to grant certain rights to individuals; however, the Constitution does not require that those rights be inalienable, and in fact, to do so would make no sense in the context of what the framers were trying to accomplish. An author has a right to his work, but even Jefferson et al. knew that he would have to license (i.e. sell) that right to a publisher to have it actually provide benefit to society.

        The Constitution generally provides for the creation of alienable rights. Congress can make no law abridging the freedom of speech (meaning you have a right to speak your mind), but you can sign a contract with a private party agreeing to say only certain things, or refrain from saying other things (e.g. a confidentiality agreement).

    • by nanojath (265940) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:58AM (#5088050) Homepage Journal
      I agree. The problem here is not the Supreme COurt but Congress, and the problem with Congress is that like idiots we continue to vote for lizards to rule us - because otherwise the wrong lizard might wind up in charge.


      Every year more money is spent on elections - and we all know where that money is coming from. I heard a lobbyist on public radio a few days ago say outright that their goal is to either make a representative feel beholden to them or else afraid of them. They didn't even bother to spin it at all or try to make it sound remotely democratic, that is how confident these people are, and why not?


      And the supreme irony is that the majority of people seem oblivious to the reality that the partisan divide is one hundred percent in favor of this situation. The electorate in the USA has been divided and conquered. Libertarians are out there fighting for the Republican side, while the Republicans are busy fighting abortion on every available front to satisfy their Christian Right pro-life contingent. Drug law reform advocates back the Democrats, who have been responsible for some of the most draconian, insane, prison-filling mandatory minimum drug laws on the books -all so they could prop up a "tough on crime" image. Above all, everybody studiously ignores the fact that nearly every member of Congress is busy producing two products: payback legislation for their special interest funders and bullshit rhetoric to keep their apparently braindead supporters on the hook. And year after year after year after year the issue of campaign finance legislation gets floated - and then all but the most minimal provisions get shot down, and what's left gets busily sued to smithereens.


      And still you can log onto slashdot every day of the week and watch the spectacle of Republicans bickering with Democrats, liberals having it out with conservatives. Well here's the news of the day, sheep: the people who can afford real influence are laughing all the way to the bank. Democracy is an experiment that's failing because an informed, committed, active voting public is not something you can build into a constitution - and without that people get exactly the government they deserve.

      • by cryofan2 (243723) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:31PM (#5088322) Homepage
        The problem is that our huge market and advancing technology has made us pretty damn comfortable. And our public "servants" know that as long as the vast majority are comfortable, and hungry, and relatively healthy, we will not enforce our right to actually govern ourselves. And, BTW, you must know that there is really one way to enforce our constitutional right to govern, and that way is to march on Washington and the state capitals, grab up a bunch of crooked politicians and execute them. This is literally the tried and true method of grass roots political action, and until we take such actions, things will continue to go downhill.


        The only thing that may be able stop the slide is advancing technology that eventually acts as some sort of deus ex machina.

      • Very well said. Very well said.

        I think you can add The White House, and pretty much every other aspect of governement to this list.

        I've been arguing for years that the government has failed to represent the public interest, or the interests of the people who are supposed give it power.

        We must realize that this government doesn't work for us, but actively against us, and throw them all out.

      • by nanojath (265940) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:53PM (#5088482) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, okay - so some people agree with me and I get to have my comment float to the top for a few hours. The question now, is - can we do any better? So here is a challenge. I challenge y'all to copy the following, change it however you want (I'll whomp up a quick open source license, ummm... okey dokey, free my mind... okay, the following text as protected by copyright (I command you to visualize a little c in a circle) copyright Jonathan Hamlow 2002 all rights reserved and so forth - is all completely open to reuse, revision, and any use whatsoever by anyone although at the point you alter it I lay no claim to it... have at it).


        TO BE USED TO INNUNDATE SLASHDOT EDITORS WITH REQUESTS FOR POSTING TO ASK SLASHDOT


        Why can't we accomplish anything? The Slashdot community is fair sized and to me seems more intelligent than most. So why is the biggest and best thing we can accomplish shutting down any misbegotten website that has the misfortune to put up something interesting without having industrial-strength bandwidth?


        What would your top issues be if you could REALLY organize this and other online communities? A candidate for president? Maybe a mutual fund - we could work out several dozen tech stocks that we think deserve support and agree to put in money, grit our teeth, and keep it there for the longer haul - say three years? What else? How would YOU organize the support? What would the system be for input, dissent, advice, decisionmaking? Would we ever be able to agreee on a sufficiently common groung? If we really put our better than average minds to it, could we actually DO something?


        Okay, so get posting. For my part, I will post this myself, and if it actually gets up there I will participate in the discussion, and participate in anything that comes of it. Go on, why not? Waste another five minutes, it's just work. Stop talking and give anarchy by collective agreement a try...

    • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:04PM (#5088110) Homepage
      I've read just a couple days ago a very long legal analysis of this issue through the history of English law on which the American Constitutional law was based.

      The point is that copyright is INTENDED TO END in order to put works in the public domain AS SOON AS the public has learned the art (or invention, in the case of patents), and that the artist is intended to monopoly profit ONLY until he has recouped his development costs and a "reasonable" profit.

      The problem is that the history is only partly clear on WHICH function of copyright (and patent) is more important. Most private statements on this by English and American statesmen indicate the former, but most legal statements indicate the latter.

      The primary point is that both English and American law disdain monopolies of ANY kind, and consider copyright to be intended to be a LIMITED monopoly. Extending copyrights past the life of the artist is NOT limiting the monopoly.

      A rigorous economic analysis of this needs to be done to establish that copyright and patents, like ANY coercive intervention in the free market, INEVITABLY affects the economic behavior of people in a negative way.

      Until this is done, and the concept of intellectual property is proven to be fraudulent, we MUST LOSE this fight. You CANNOT win, as Lessig tries, by supporting the notion of copyright but trying to limit it. You're fighting with one hand tied behind your back...

  • Other nations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tar-Palantir (590548) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:36AM (#5087765)
    The upshot is that no works produced in the United States after the 1920's will ever go out of copyright. ... in the United States. Fortunately, Europe and the rest of the world is not encumbered by the bought laws of the US. Once Mickey Mouse's copyright expires in, say, Britain, what's to stop someone there from distributing it online? Any lawyers know?
  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:38AM (#5087787) Homepage Journal
    But it is my guess that this won't stop, or change, anything.

    For example, much of the music I listen to is old 80s death metal or thrash metal. All of it is out of print, yet the firms holding the music (and presumably the copyrights as well) won't re-release it onto cd.

    No matter, many high quality bootlegs can be found from overseas. And by bootlegs I mean small no-name record companies that have re-mastered the originals onto cd, added lyric sheets, some band photos, etc.

    This will continue, the material we want will be available, just not in the US.
    • by Sabalon (1684) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:49AM (#5087936)
      At one point I had posted something about a "use it or loose it" copyright policy. copyright would then expire 10 years from last use (ie. release/publication) That way you would hopefully be able to find your Hallows Eve and other 80's thrash on CD, DVD Audio, or whatever the format for that decade is.

      Yeah...there are some problems with it, but at least that would keep the works available one way or another. At least it would help seed ebay, used stores, or whatever...you'd be more likely to find something released in the last 10 years than 20+ ago.
  • by Microsift (223381) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:39AM (#5087796)
    then Congress should enact a law that makes people pay royalties to use public domain works. Disney takes a public domain story (Alladin, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White etc...) makes a movie, and makes a bundle. If Congress wants to encourage Disney to create new stories, there should be a cost for using old stories.
    • by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:46AM (#5087888)
      Bad example as Disney can't copyright the story of Alladin, Beauty, etc, they can only copyright their version of it. Fact is that ANYONE can make a version of these stories, so to spite the big boys you want to force the elementary school to have to pay a royalty to do a production of Alladin?
      • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:41PM (#5088400)
        Bad example as Disney can't copyright the story of Alladin, Beauty, etc, they can only copyright their version of it. Fact is that ANYONE can make a version of these stories, so to spite the big boys you want to force the elementary school to have to pay a royalty to do a production of Alladin?

        Yes, and why can't they copyright them? Because they are in the public demain. Disney is happy to exploit other people's works that have become public domain, but doesn't want any of it's works to ever enter the public domain. That isn't fair.
  • by plopez (54068) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:39AM (#5087805) Journal
    Entertainment is probably the only thing making money for exports for the US anymore. The US is rapidly becoming a country that produces little more than marketing and car chase movies. Letting those copyrights go free would destabilise corporate America. And we can't have that, now can we?
  • by Twylite (234238) <twylite AT crypt DOT co DOT za> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:40AM (#5087812) Homepage

    The upshot of this is that no work produced in the United States since the 1920s will ever pass out of Copyright ... in the United States. Many of these movies, books and songs are already in the public domain in other nations, even those who are party to the Berne Convention (which mandates a minimum term of 50 years for most works).

  • by stealie72 (246899) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:41AM (#5087818)
    Has anyone ever explored a sort of "salvage use" copyright? In other words, I don't have a huge problem with Disney wanting to control a copyright on Mickey, because they're still actively using him in their business.

    But what about something like the Katzenjammer Kids (for a comic from about the same time as the first mickey shorts) that aren't being actively used by anyone. No real reason for something like that to not be in the public domain.

    In other words, don't extend copyright for everything, but give extensions for things that are still being actively used (and no, I don't have the time to work out a legal definition of "actively used").
  • by autopr0n (534291) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:41AM (#5087819) Homepage Journal
    The average voter couldn't give a shit about copyrighted works created 120 years ago or whatever, and even if they did understand the issues involved they couldn't be pissed to write their representative or whatever.

    I can see why Leasing is so pessimistic...
  • by DAldredge (2353) <SlashdotEmail@GMail.Com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:42AM (#5087835) Journal
    What happend to conflict of interest?

    "Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas will receive more than $1 million for his memoirs from publisher HarperCollins.

    Multiple publishers vied for the rights to Thomas' autobiography, which he started writing in 2001, but Thomas liked the package offered by the New York-based HarperCollins, including the editor assigned to work with him, people in the publishing industry with knowledge of the deal said Thursday.

    The amount of the deal was not revealed, except that it was in seven figures. "

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ ne ws/archive/2003/01/09/financial1022EST0075.DTL&typ e=books

  • Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rand Race (110288) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:45AM (#5087867) Homepage
    Disney has now succeeded in preventing anyone from doing to Mickey Mouse what Disney did to Quasimodo. Way to go dickheads.

  • by ByTor-2112 (313205) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:46AM (#5087885)
    A contrary ruling would have cost entertainment giants like The Walt Disney Co. and AOL Time Warner Inc. hundreds of millions of dollars. AOL Time Warner had said that would threaten copyrights for such movies as "Casablanca," "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind."

    Excuse me, but when the money was invested in these movies in the 1920's, 1930's, etc., it was done with full knowledge that eventually the copyright would expire and revenue from these works would dwindle. The same thing holds true for Mickey Mouse and every other work made. Just because it still has value even today does not change that fact. The whole thing is ridiculous.

    I can understand how extending the copyright on new works could be considered constitutional -- this is a case where that great document was far too vague, unfortunately -- but retroactively extending them surely is unconstitutional. When you acquire that copyright and publish your work, it is like entering into an irrevocable contract with society that you will release this to the public domain in X years (at least, that is how I see it). There should be no whining about past works that will fall out of protection. Create more works under the new, longer protection if you want, but don't extend all existing works.
  • by aengblom (123492) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:47AM (#5087896) Homepage
    The upshot is that no works produced in the United States after the 1920's will ever go out of copyright.

    Some wrongs can not be resolved by the courts. I think the most poignant quote during the hearing of the case was from Sandra Day O'Connor.
    "I can find a lot of fault with what Congress did," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said. "This flies directly in the face of what the framers of the Constitution had in mind. But is it unconstitutional?"
    Time to educate the public--and change Congress's mind. Hard, but not impossible.

    P.S. Washington Post has an AP article [washingtonpost.com] up and some links to background on the case.
  • Death of culture. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Unknown Poltroon (31628) <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:51AM (#5087951)
    Spider robinson has a short story based around this. When you can perpetually copyright an idea, not just a particular sequencing of words or notes, you run into trouble. FOr instance, patenting the song happy birthday, versus patenting the IDEA of singing a song for someones birthday, which is sort of what we are doing now. When that copyright is preserved in perpetuity, then no one can ever use that idea again. THe same is true of individual songs and artwork. Eventually, you will run out of non copyrighted sequences of notes and words, and then people are unable to produce art anymore, and the culture dies, stagnating. I think this is what we are facing. We are strangling our own culture and art in laws that stifle creation, and therefore, we are going to fall behind other cultures that dont have such a thing. That is what the U.S. is founded on, seeing something, coming up with a better way of doing it, improving it, and doing it again. This process of stifiling forever copyrigting is killing off innovation, and its only going to get worse. If we keep doing this, we will be destroyed from within. If the US controlls all other countries copyrights, then the entire world is going to stagnante and die.
  • by binaryDigit (557647) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:52AM (#5087969)
    I'm tired of hearing whiners (whah whah, someone created something and they won't let me use it, whah) who are decidely one sided without a hint of actually talking about the issue but instead just want to mount their podiums.

    I would like the hear the opinions of those out there who create copyrighted content, and prefereably those who generate some revenue from this content. I say generate revenue because it's not to difficult to see how someone who creates works but them puts them pd might have a negative opinion. Instead, does anyone who actually makes a living (or some part of one) from creating copyrighted content think that this is a GOOD thing?
    • by Arthur Dent (76567) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:10PM (#5088162)
      Here's one opinion from Spider Robinson: Melancholy Elephants [baen.com].
    • by mouthbeef (35097) <doctorow@craphound.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:32PM (#5088675) Homepage
      I prefer to think of myself as a science fiction writer, not a content creator. As John Gilmore says [well.com], "Since nobody knows a definition for 'content,' you can say the most outrageous things about it and get away with it."

      I work for a nonprofit [eff.org], so my science fiction writing income actually accounts for a substantial chunk of my living.

      I have never written an "original" word in my life. Every idea I've had has been inspired by those who came before me. I just released my first novel [craphound.com], both as a hardcover book [tor.com] and an ebook under the terms of a Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] license. The novel is set in Walt Disney World, and revolves around the efforts of preservationists in a transhuman future who strive to keep the rides true to the original Imagineers' intent.

      I take a lot of flak for my genuine admiration for the Disney Parks and films -- people want to know why I've thrown my lot in with the corporate crooks who've stolen the public domain out from under us. The fact of the matter is that Walt Disney is the poster child for the public domain. Walt's greatest works were built by taking off-the-shelf parts and stories and remixing them in novel and useful ways. Lessig notes that Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey cartoon, was a remix of a popular film called "Steamboat Bill." Exploring the bonus material on the latest DVD release of the cartoon shows that not only did Walt thrive on the public domain, but that the Disney Company's interest is in closing off that domain [stanford.edu] to everyone else:

      "Orchestra starts playing opening verses of 'Steamboat Bill.' Try doing a cartoon take-off of one of Disney, Inc.'s latest films with an opening that copies the music, and see how far your Walt Empire gets."

      Any artist who claims that her work is 100% original is lying or self-deluded. Art is embedded in culture. Art is a web, and it is enmeshed with the art that came before it and comes after it. Deriding the public domain as the refuge of the unimaginative makes about as much sense as pissing on coders who don't write their own OSes (or invent their own non-Turing, non-Von Neumann, non-non-Von Neumann computing engines, for that matter).

  • by tacocat (527354) <tallison1@NOspam.twmi.rr.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @11:56AM (#5088025)

    I know it sounds so 60's, or was it 70's or 80's? I don't know but the point is that it's high time we took this to the streets.

    Don't discuss this on the level of some tech-geek thing. People glaze over and go stupid real fast.

    This needs to be presented plain and simple. Disney is stealing from the past and locking it up for themselves (Grimm for example).

    It's time to actively boycott Mickey Mouse. Does anyone know where I can get a bumper sticker with a Mickey Mouse outline and a bit red circle+slash?

  • by pjones (10800) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:02PM (#5088090) Homepage
    this is a better article -- at least with more detail [yahoo.com]. Keep an eye out for the dissent; sometimes dissents are as important in future rulings as supporting opinions are in the current ruling.
  • Links to opinions (Score:5, Informative)

    by watchful.babbler (621535) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:10PM (#5088158) Homepage Journal
    Larry's put the opinions up: Ginsburg's majority opinion [stanford.edu], Stevens' dissent [stanford.edu], and Breyer's dissent [stanford.edu].

    To be honest, two Justices is more than I thought the Eldred side could get. While I sympathize with their intent, it would have been a remarkable abrogation of Congressional power for the Court to have struck down the SBCTEA. "Ill-advised and stupid" does not, unfortunately, mean "unconstitutional."

  • by FunkyRat (36011) <funkyrat@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:12PM (#5088173) Journal

    Would I be right in assuming that this basically means that all composers who sign contracts with U.S. companies are now no more than indentured servants who will never be able to own the rights to their own creations unless they become rich enough to buy back the copyright on their work from the record companies? I realize that it was basically this way before, but now it seems the record companies have unlimited control.

    Would any artist in their right mind ever sign with a U.S. label again? Why not just find a label in a country with much saner copyright laws, say... Canada [justice.gc.ca]? Seriously, if enough artists get pissed and just bypass American media corporations altogether, this could be the beginning of the downfall of the U.S. corporations control of the music industry. This idea could work for other types of artists as well, such as screenwriters.

    Then again, musicians could just self-publish their work and retain their copyright fromt he beginning.

    Is this idea naive? Yes. Is it unrealistic? Yes. Could it ever work? Probably not, but I'm not quite so jaded as to give up hope.

  • by jvmatthe (116058) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:15PM (#5088208) Homepage
    From the majority opinion:

    there is no cause to suspect that a purpose to evade the "limited Times" prescription prompted Congress to adopt the CTEA

    Now, from a Lessig interview:

    when Mary Bono introduced the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, she said we should perhaps consider -- because her lawyers told her perpetual terms would be illegal under the Constitution -- we should consider forever minus a day.
  • by Carl (12719) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:29PM (#5088309) Homepage
    Just read the opinion of the dissenting judges. It is really sad that the other judges could not see this the same way.

    Bryer:

    This statute will cause serious expression-related harm. It will likely restrict traditional dissemination of copy-righted works. It will likely inhibit new forms of dissemination through the use of new technology. It threatens to interfere with efforts to preserve our Nation's historical and cultural heritage and efforts to use that heritage, say, to educate our Nation's children. It is easy to understand how the statute might benefit the private financial interests of corporations or heirs who own existing copyrights. But I cannot find any constitutionally legitimate, copyright-related way in which the statute will benefit the public. Indeed, in respect to existing works, the serious public harm and the virtually nonexistent public benefit could not be more clear.

    I have set forth the analysis upon which I rest these judgments. This analysis leads inexorably to the conclusion that the statute cannot be understood rationally to advance a constitutionally legitimate interest. The statute falls outside the scope of legislative power that the Copyright Clause, read in light of the First Amendment, grants to Congress. I would hold the statute unconstitutional.

    I respectfully dissent.

    Stevens:

    By failing to protect the public interest in free access to the products of inventive and artistic genius indeed, by virtually ignoring the central purpose of the Copyright/Patent Clause the Court has quitclaimed to Con gress its principal responsibility in this area of the law. Fairly read, the Court has stated that Congress actions under the Copyright/Patent Clause are, for all intents and purposes, judicially unreviewable. That result cannot be squared with the basic tenets of our constitutional structure. It is not hyperbole to recall the trenchant words of Chief Justice John Marshall: It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). We should discharge that responsibility as we did in Chadha.

    I respectfully dissent.

    Full text can be found on Lawrence Lessig his Blog [stanford.edu].
  • Why I Care (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cerebusk (641397) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @12:32PM (#5088332)
    I am really disappointed with this decision, but not because Disney gets to keep Mickey locked up.

    In the past, copyroghts had to be renewed in order to get the full term. The American people would have really benefitted from the requirement to renew copyrights.

    The main advantage this would give us is that people or corporations that really want to protect their IP can protect it, but the stuff that is no longer widely marketable would end up being freed.

    In my opinion, this would have given us the best of both worlds: companies or people who can make money off their property are allowed to, while the rest of us would be allowed to mine the rich layers of no longer commercially viable material.

    As one poster pointed out already, what happens to the Katzenjammer Kids?

    I have always been fascinated by early films and cartoons, for example, and I hate to think that we might lose many of these films because our government will not allow the the type of low-budget or even volunteer effort that would be needed to make this happen!

    I think that the preservationists of "Old Time Radio" are a great example of how this would work. Radio plays were not protected by copyright until the 1960s. Because of this, there is a ton of public domain material available from the "Golden Age of Radio" that provides a lot of insight into US culture at that time. Broadcasts from the years of WWII are particularly interesting because the entertainment itself was often part of the war effort. If these works were still protected under copyright, it is likely that no one would be able to profit from them reasonably, and therefore the public probably wouldn't have access.

    I'm not worried about Mickey, because Disney will take care of him, at least as long as they can keep squeezing dimes out of him. But there is a lot of stuff out there that should be protected (from decay, that is), and the copyright holders may not care enough (or be financially able) to save them! I think that's the real problem, and we might have been able to fix it if the Supreme Court had ruled differently.
  • A better solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by An Onerous Coward (222037) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:25PM (#5088654) Homepage
    The Yahoo story seemed to grant the assumption that old, popular works like "Casablanca" and "The Wizard of Oz" need continued copyright protection. Now, I would normally argue even this point, but let's accept it. After all, these works are still valuable to their current owners.

    The question is, how valuable?

    For every work of art from the 20's and 30's that is still a major money maker, there are probably a thousand works which have already exhausted their value to the copyright holder. There's not sufficient interest to make it worthwhile to market it. But these works could still be valuable sources for new ideas and inspirations, historical research, and what not.

    Is it worth locking up these thousands of works, making republication illegal even as the originals are ravaged by time, just to protect the few works which still provide a revenue stream?

    Hell no. But if we have to strike a compromise in order to enrich the public domain and save the vast majority of our cultural heritage, then I propose this:

    Repeal the CTEA. In its place, set up a system where the original copyright term applies to every work, but that term can be extended for any given work.

    Since I believe in the importance of the public domain, extending the copyright on a work shouldn't be a trivial proposition. Copyright holders should be charged a fee that mirrors its value to the public; say, 1-2% of all profits attributable to the work in question over its lifetime. My reasoning is, if a copyright holder doesn't expect to make even that much from the work over the next twenty years, then revoking the copyright doesn't significantly hurt the copyright holder.

    If an all-or-nothing approach ends up getting us nothing, then we have to find some sort of middle ground. This strikes me as a reasonable way to protect the interests of the public. Copyright holders can still hold onto those works they deem valuable, while denying them the ability to sit on works they have no interest in actively maintaining.

  • by Chrimble (7748) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:25PM (#5088657) Homepage
    It seems to me that the biggest problem behind copyright extension is that it is handled in a one-size fits all system that means that if one piece of work falls into the public domain after a certain amount of time, all pieces of work fall into the public domain after a certain amount of time. It is a non-negotiable proposition, unless you happen to be Disney and can pay off the appropriate people to increase its duration.

    Obviously, this is detrimental to the amount of material entering the public domain, especially when you consider quite how much material that encompasses.

    Yet, the grasp of copyright is only being increased to protect certain, individual pieces of material from ever entering the public domain.

    Which is really short-sighted, as I'm sure most people would agree.

    If you applied a system such that all pieces of work fall into the public domain after say, 50 years, but the copyright owner is granted the ability to extend the copyright license based on a scheme of graduated taxation (or some other significant fee, for example) for a period of time on an individual property then, in my opinion, a better system emerges.

    In the case of "The Mouse", Disney Corporation would pay a fee that guarantees protection beyond the standard copyright terms, but other, less high-profile (and uneconomic) works get released into the wild. As time goes on, it may become uneconomical to continue to extend the license, and so that property would enter the public domain.

    I realise that in an ideal world, copyrights would expire and that would be that. But this isn't the world we live in. Any taxation raised in doing this could be fed back into restoring/preserving original work that has expired. As well as buying bombs and votes and suchlike, but I digress. ;-)

    It's a compromise and a kludge, but it might just work?
  • by Badgerman (19207) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:26PM (#5088661)
    A Supreme Court (that I wouldn't trust to fill out tax forms) rules for Disney.

    So, we try again.
    And again.
    And again.
    Until we win.

    People for keeping copyright sane can change tactics, get more funding, find new arguments, wait for justices to change, etc. They can adapt.

    Disney can't change the fact that it's basically trying to extent copyright indefinitely. They can't adapt.

    So, time to gear up for the next fight.

  • Civil Disobediance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:35PM (#5088684) Homepage
    I think It's just about time for civil disobediance. Treat all works published more than fourteen years ago as if they were in the public domain. Do so openly and publically.
  • Thanks (Score:5, Informative)

    by EricEldred (175470) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @01:56PM (#5088791) Homepage
    The plaintiffs in the case Eldred v. Ashcroft are very grateful to all who supported us in this long process. Naturally we are disappointed in the decision.

    Especially we would like to thank Larry Lessig, the lead attorney, along with Kathleen Sullivan, Jonathan Zittrain, William Fisher, Charles Fried, Charles Nesson, Geoffrey Stewart, Edward Lee, and the law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis, Pogue, all of whom worked tirelessly to try this case. We also thank those who contributed to the Eldred Defense Fund to make it possible.

    What next? It seems that the decision gives a license to Congress to extend copyright term indefinitely, so there will be an effort within the next 20 years to make another extension. We can oppose that politically. We can also oppose efforts by the media giants to embed DRM in electronic devices, and other such legislation.

    Also there will be efforts in other countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and so on, to extend copyright from the present 50 years after author's death, especially for music and movies. We can support efforts to oppose that.

    Our case was built on the notion that copyright, as the Framers of the Constitution envisioned it, was a proper foundation for creativity and innovation in the Internet age. Now copyright will be used to lock up works instead. If the only way to access one of these works is to use illegal means, then some will turn to that. Peer-to-peer networks such as Freenet will be the only alternative for many.

    The page turns. But the effort was worthwhile. The level of discussion has advanced considerably and citizens are better informed because of this case. Let's hope the next decisions will be better.

  • by gerddie (173963) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:06PM (#5088847)
    Let's see: The Little Mermaid was initially released in 1989. H.C. Andersen died in 1875, plus 95 years this makes 1980. If the extend the copyright for another 20 years, then the heirs of Andersen should be able to sue Disney for copyright infringtion, or will the infringtion be time-barred?
  • by squarooticus (5092) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:10PM (#5088864) Homepage
    I wrote this just a few days ago. Looks like I spoke too soon, but I thought some of you might find it interesting. It's linked from my blog page, also (http://www.krose.org/~krose/blogs/).

    Most of the public doesn't understand exactly what their rights are regarding pre-recorded media, such as DVD movies and music CD's. I suspect a large part of this stems from the fact that most people don't understand why they are given legal protection.

    That legal protection stems entirely from a choice made by the Founders to protect creative works from unauthorized use. The constitution says that

    To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries

    which led to the development of patents, copyrights, and trademarks. Thus, you, as one of The People, are the source of this protection; and the reason you should support that protection is that it promotes the progress of science and useful arts by encouraging innovation.

    As a result, there needs to be some balance in the enforcement of copyright. As copyright was intended primarily to increase the size of the public domain---the potential to make profit is merely an incentive to this end---it must be the case that copyright be enforced in a way that does not injure the public for the benefit of a few.

    This balance has, over the past century, been tipped in favor of the content producers and owners and against The People little by little. Among the most recent and egregious examples are the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, which retroactively increased the term of copyrights to the lifetime of the author plus seventy years, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which makes it a felony to bypass technological protections to view content in a way not authorized by the content owner, to provide access to the disabled, or even to access public domain content!

    As a result of the slowly changing laws regarding copyright, people have begun to believe that protected works are property in the traditional sense; hence, the appearance of the phrase "intellectual property" to describe copyrighted works. This, I believe, is the most poignant reason why there has been little public outcry against the erosion of the Founders' intended protection of the public interest.

    Creative works are not property. A CD (the disc itself), a car, a piece of land, a pair of socks, your toenail clippings---these are property. A band's recording of Smoke on the Water, the musical description of Smoke on the Water---these are creative works and therefore not property. The difference is a very clear and natural one: property consists of tangible things, i.e., those made of matter, which are naturally defensible since the owner would need to be deprived of their use for another to take them, while creative works are those things that have a zero marginal cost of reproduction, i.e., ideas, which are not naturally defensible since someone can take them without in any way reducing the creator's ability to continue using them.

    The Founders did not intend for creative works to be "owned" in perpetuity by an individual's family or a corporation; rather, they intended for these works to pass into the public domain after a short period of time (originally 20 years), whereupon they would benefit all of The People. It is arguable (and, in fact, such a case contending so is before the federal courts) that a copyright term of lifetime plus seventy years goes far beyond Congress's constitutional ability to provide protection for creative works for "limited times" in order "to promote the progress of science and the useful arts" by their granting a copyright term that denies the public the benefit of these works for a virtually unlimited period for the sole purpose of enriching well-connected corporate interests, while simultaneously effecting no incentive for the heirs of successful individual creators to do any creating themselves.

    The aforementioned corporate interests, as embodied in the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), have in turn promoted a mindset that any use not explicitly authorized by the content owners is not only immoral but illegal: this includes ripping CD's you own and encoding them as MP3's to your own hard drive and copying them to your iPod or Rio to listen to while on the subway; viewing DVD's under Linux using an "unauthorized" player; and burning a mix CD for one of your friends. Despite what the RIAA, MPAA, and their ilk might tell you, such activities are clearly "fair use" as defined by the courts, and are protected rights; however, under the DMCA, these acts are likely to be de-facto illegal due to the need for users to bypass technological protections to get at the actual content (although the courts have not yet ruled on these points).

    I am not arguing that giving a CD to 250,000 of your "closest friends" on Kazaa is fair use; however, I would argue that the mere act of downloading a couple of songs from the internet (no matter the source) in order to sample them before buying the CD is fair use and therefore protected.

    The Congress appears to be split on this issue. While they passed the DMCA in 1998, recent attempts to pass even more restrictive business-model protection acts such as Senator Fritz Hollings' (D-Disney) CBDTPA have been stalled, due in large measure to the opposition of Rick Boucher (D-VA) and the work of groups such as DigitalConsumer and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, all of whom are worthy of your support.

    It is time that the balance was tipped back toward The People. Given the nearly unlimited power of our national government and the increasing unlikelihood that the courts and the Congress will begin to again follow the original intent of our constitution, this will take education and effort. You can begin by signalling your support to the groups above and by calling your representatives and telling them that you support fair use instead and oppose government protection of outdated business models. Yet there is no substitute for spreading the word: only when our representatives encounter widespread opposition from the public will the blood money of the content owners pale in comparison to the wrath of the voters.

    Andy Grove of Intel best summed up the desires of the media giants when he asked:

    Is it the responsibility of the world at large to protect an industry whose business model is facing a strategic challenge? Or is it up to the entertainment industry to adapt to a new technical reality and a new set of consumers who want to take advantage of it?
  • by angle_slam (623817) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @02:18PM (#5088936)
    SCOTUSBlog has an analysis [goldsteinhowe.com] of the decision. To prevent /.ing, here is the text:

    Today's Opinions. Today, the Supreme Court delivered the opinion in Eldred v. Ashcroft. This case concerns the Copyright and Patent Clause of the Constitution, Art. I, 8, cl. 8, which empowers Congress to "[t]o promote the Progress of Science ... by securing [to Authors] for limited Times ... the exclusive Right to their ... Writings." Pursuant to this authority, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) in 1998 which extended the duration of all copyrights, both existing and future, by 20 years. Petitioner claimed that Congress exceeded their authority under the Constitution's Copyright Clause by applying it retroactively to already existing copyrights. Further, petitioner claimed that the Act violates First Amendment free speech protections. Both the district court and the circuit court rejected petitioner's claims.

    The 7-2 majority opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, here, upheld the CTEA against both the Copyright Clause and the First Amendment claims. As per the Copyright Clause, Ginsburg wrote that the text, history, and Supreme Court precedent all confirmed that Congress is empowered to prescribe "limited times" for copyright protections and "to secure the same level and duration of protection for all copyright holders, present and future." Accordingly, the Court concluded that the CTEA, which continues "the unbroken congressional practice of treating future and existing copyrights" equally, is a permissible exercise of Congress' power under the Copyright Clause.

    Turning to the First Amendment claim, Justice Ginsburg wrote that the proximity in time of the enactment of both the Copyright Clause and the First Amendment suggests that the Framers viewed copyright's limited monopolies to be consistent with free speech principles. Additionally, the Copyright Clause has "built-in First Amendment accommodations," by protecting "expressions" but not "ideas." Further, the "fair use" defense even allows the public to use copyrighted "expressions" in limited circumstances. Accordingly, Ginsburg wrote that, because Congress has not "altered the traditional contours of copyright protection" with the CTEA, further First Amendment scrutiny was not necessary.

    Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that the CTEA's extension of existing copyrights, as opposed to future copyrights, was invalid. Stevens based this opinion on Supreme Court precedent holding that Congress may not extend the life of a patent beyond its expiration date. In Stevens's view, the same restrictions should apply to copyrights as well. Justice Breyer also wrote a dissenting opinion. He argued that the CTEA 20-year extension does not make the copyright term limited, as is required by the Copyright Clause, but instead "virtually perpetual." Further, Breyer argued that the CTEA's primary effect is not to promote science, but to inhibit it. Conceding that the Copyright Clause grants broad legislative power, Breyer nonetheless concluded that the CTEA falls outside that grant, thereby making it unconstitutional.

  • by Etrigan_696 (192479) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:10PM (#5089253)
    Another reason Disney CAN'T lose their copyrights quite a few people are unaware of is alot more immediately more important to the Disney corporation: They can be quickly ruined by things they published in the 20s 30s and 40s.

    Here's a fairly tame example [sickopath.com] of Disney's fears. They produced piles upon piles of literature that - while not meant to be degrading at the time - would be a serious embarassment if they were made widely known today.
    My grandfather has a few of the Donald Duck comics he used to get at his gas station in 1940s Dayton, Ohio. In these, Donald refers to various and sundry brown people as "porch monkeys" and "cotton pickin tar babies" - let alone the dozens of people of color portrayed in pitiful stereotype. Native Americans, negros, hispanics, etc. etc. all shown as lazy, drunken, slobs or as murderous psychopaths.

    The least of Disney's worries is their animated/live action film "Song of the South" - which they have pulled from shelves. This movie actually celebrated the rich culture of blacks in the 19th century south and in treated the subject with respect.
    With the works I'm talking about, there was no respect present. Such as that shown in the example - the stereotyped character was put on display as an oddity.

    that, I think, is Disney's major motivation for keeping an iron grip on copyright.
  • The system worked (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Badger (1280) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:25PM (#5089386)
    Once again, it would seem that even the (supposedly) brightest among us cannot distinguish between "I won/lost" and "the system worked/failed."

    Today, my side lost, but the system worked. A large majority of justices, from across the political spectrum, came together to decide that they would not second-guess Congress. Checks and balances were applied, and the court decided that Congress could pass such an extension within the Constitution. That is an example of the system working, not the system failing. Instead of trying to push a policy from the bench, the court erred on the side of caution. When campaign finance reform comes before the court, and when (I hope) the court again defers to Congress, remember that consistency is a virtue.

    For those of you who commented before reading the decisions (and I suspect that would be the majority), go back and go over all the opinions. Don't read it to rip every sentence that you don't like; read it to understand the logic behind it. If you still disagree, that's fine.

    Whining about corrupt judges and evil conspiracies, however, will not serve you. Constructive action, like joining the EFF, writing to your Congressmen, and voting, will serve you.
  • Quote of the day (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ajs (35943) <<moc.sja> <ta> <sja>> on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @03:51PM (#5089529) Homepage Journal
    By failing to protect the public interest in free access to the products of the inventive and artistic genius -- indeed, by virtually ignoring the central purpose of the Copyright/Patent Clause [in the Constitution] -- the Court has quitclaimed to Congress its principal responsibility in this area of the law."
    Justice Stevens, J., dissenting
    "Eldred v. Ashcroft"

    Need more be said?
  • Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Simon Garlick (104721) on Wednesday January 15, 2003 @07:45PM (#5091024)
    OUR EVOLVING CONSTITUTION
    Imagine that you live in Plum Creek, a fictitious, medium size town somewhere in the United States. It has two high schools, East High and West High. The rivalry between the two schools' football teams has been a major feature of local culture for decades. Last year, a boy living next door to your home was playing on the West High team. He invited you to attend the season finale, the game against East High. It began with the usual rules; however, East High couldn't seem to move the ball. The team had big, strong players but they were slow, and they had no passing game.

    The referees reacted by announcing some rule changes. From now on, a team only needed thirty-nine and one half inches for a first down. And it had five attempts rather than four, but only if it didn't try a pass play. Any forward pass would end a series of downs.

    People sitting near you in the stands were quite upset about the changes. They were aware that two of the three referees were uncles, and the third a next door neighbor, of East High players. A committee elected by all the high school coaches in the state had hired the referees. But they had long term contracts, and it was almost impossible to get rid of one who was biased, corrupt, or incompetent.

    Many years ago, the coaches committee had also written a rule book, and all the coaches had then voted to adopt it. It stated that no rule could be changed without the written approval of three-fourths of the coaches. It also said, "A first down requires an advance of ten yards or more in no more than four plays." It didn't say anything about special limits on pass plays.

    When irate fans complained about the clearly fraudulent rule changes, the referees brushed them off. "You don't understand the rule book," they said, "it's a living document which evolves to meet the needs of changing times. And we have the authority to guide that evolution."

    You have just read a rough description of modern U. S. Supreme Court jurisprudence.

    (copied from http://ttokarnak.home.att.net/Evolution.html)

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