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What Would Have Entered the Public Domain Tomorrow? 331

Posted by timothy
from the alas-'twas-not-to-be dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain about items that would enter the public domain starting on January 1, 2010, if not for copyright extenions: "'Casino Royale, Marilyn Monroe's Playboy cover, The Adventures of Augie March, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Crick & Watson's Nature article decoding the double helix, Disney's Peter Pan, The Crucible'... 'How ironic that Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, with its book burning firemen, was published in 1953 and would once have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2010. To quote James Boyle, "Bradbury's firemen at least set fire to their own culture out of deep ideological commitment, vile though it may have been. We have set fire to our cultural record for no reason; even if we had wanted retrospectively to enrich the tiny number of beneficiaries whose work keeps commercial value beyond 56 years, we could have done so without these effects. The ironies are almost too painful to contemplate.""
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What Would Have Entered the Public Domain Tomorrow?

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  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:08PM (#30610808) Homepage Journal

    These copyright "extensions" are nothing more than another government bailout.

    Any legislator that voted for these extensions should be voted out of office, no matter their party affiliation. There wasn't even the possibility that they'd put the good of the citizens above the good of corporations.

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:15PM (#30610836) Homepage

      We need to start an anti-corporate welfare lobby.

    • by Reason58 (775044) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:17PM (#30610854)

      Any legislator that voted for these extensions should be voted out of office, no matter their party affiliation.

      Or run into a pine tree at high rates of speed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:25PM (#30610910)

      Any legislator that voted for these retroactive extensions should be arrested.

      Fixed that.

      US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, paragraph 3:

      "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."

      Congress broke the biggest law.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JWSmythe (446288)

            You should already be aware that most of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights has already been undermined, so I don't know how you'd be surprised that a few other words have been ignored. They have become a historic relic, not a guide to the modern legal system.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Rob the Bold (788862)

          You should already be aware that most of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights has already been undermined, so I don't know how you'd be surprised that a few other words have been ignored. They have become a historic relic, not a guide to the modern legal system.

          "Quaint" is the operative word, I believe.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nmb3000 (741169)

          You should already be aware that most of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights has already been undermined, so I don't know how you'd be surprised that a few other words have been ignored. They have become a historic relic, not a guide to the modern legal system.

          If enough people truly believe that, then it's already game over (man).

          [...] Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these end

          • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:41PM (#30611942) Homepage Journal

            You very carefully (or tactfully) left out the "R" word. When the people have suffered enough under the current law, they can and as history has shown will, stand up against what they despise most.

                I had said a few years ago, the people here had tolerated almost everything they could. We've come down a few notches from the beginning of a civil war. We aren't very far from it though. I have some faith in our new leadership, but so much has gone wrong with American since those documents were written, that I'm not sure we can get back to a point where the people are truly happy. Commercial interests have taken such control over the way we live, that they will drive us over the edge sooner than later.

                It would take a serious level of insanity for one person to stand up against it. If one person did, that person wouldn't be free for very long. When the people, with a unified front, stand up against what we all have become, then and only then, will things change. History has shown that it can, and will happen. Lately, I haven't met many people who aren't on the brink. They are homeless, living with friends or family. They are barely working, if at all. People are surviving through the little bit that they have left, or not at all [youtube.com].

                This is no longer America, land of hope and freedom.

            [/soapbox]

      • by ConceptJunkie (24823) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:17PM (#30611226) Homepage Journal

        No one cares about the U.S. Constitution any more... it fell out of copyright.

      • by spottedkangaroo (451692) * on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:29PM (#30611312) Homepage
        AFAIK, that section is interpreted (sadly SCOTUS has more of a say in this than you do) to mean criminal law and has no bearing in civil law -- which is what we're talking about here.
      • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @09:29PM (#30611648)

        Any legislator that voted for these retroactive extensions should be arrested.

        Fixed that.

        US Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, paragraph 3:

        "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."

        Congress broke the biggest law.

        Not to mention making a mockery or the "limited time" phrase in Art. I, Sect. 8.

      • by westlake (615356) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:12PM (#30612088)

        Fixed that.
        "No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed."

        This is the classic exposition of what "ex post facto" means in in America law and it has held for 212 years.

        I will state what laws I consider ex post facto laws, within the words and the intent of the prohibition. 1st. Every law that makes an action , done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2nd. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3rd. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offence, in order to convict the offender. All these, and similar laws, are manifestly unjust and oppressive. In my opinion, the true distinction is between ex post facto laws, and retrospective laws. Every ex post facto law must necessarily be retrospective; but every retrospective law is not an ex post facto law: The former, only, are prohibited. Every law that takes away, or impairs, rights vested, agreeably to existing laws, is retrospective, and is generally unjust; and may be oppressive; and it is a good general rule, that a law should have no retrospect: but there are cases in which laws may justly, and for the benefit of the community, and also of individuals, relate to a time antecedent to their commencement; as statutes of oblivion, or of pardon.

        The expressions 'ex post facto laws,' are technical, they had been in use long before the Revolution, and had acquired an appropriate meaning, by Legislators, Lawyers, and Authors. The celebrated and judicious Sir William Blackstone, in his commentaries, considers an ex post facto law precisely in the same light I have done. His opinion is confirmed by his successor, Mr. Wooddeson; and by the author of the Federalist, who I esteem superior to both, for his extensive and accurate knowledge of the true principles of Government. Calder v. Bull, 3 Dall. 386 (1798) [michaelariens.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Stolovaya (1019922)
      Any idea when the latest copyright law/extensions were voted in and who voted for what? I would like to see if anyone I can make a vote for/against was part of them.
      • Voice vote (Score:3, Informative)

        by tepples (727027)
        The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 passed in both houses by voice vote. Under the U.S. Constitution, it takes either one-fifth of either house or a presidential veto in order to force a roll-call vote. So I guess you have to vote against anyone who served in the 105th Congress.
    • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:37PM (#30610986) Homepage

      Here we go, the whining and complaining from people who are too cheap or too poor to buy a Congressman. Congress works fantastically well if you're willing to invest in it. The return on a few hundred thousand bucks can reach into the billions, as the entertainment, weaponry, and banking/gambling industries have shown -- go find any other investment with that sort of ROI. Stop yer socialist whining -- Congress does a fantastic job when it's made worth its while.

      • Where's the +1, True mod?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        Here we go, the whining and complaining from people who are too cheap or too poor to buy a Congressman.

        I wonder if anyone who listens to talk radio would realize that your post was satirical.

        It sounds exactly like something a certain radio host who was rushed to the hospital yesterday with "chest pains" from an oxycontin overdose would say.

  • by Andorin (1624303) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:13PM (#30610826)
    The Copyright Act of 1976 did away with the "x years, with an additional x years on renewal" clause of copyright law; nowadays you just have one option, which is the length of the copyright term. Allowing authors and artists to renew their copyrights if they so choose keeps commercially viable works protected (which is arguably good), as it will be worth it to pay the fee to renew the copyright, but it also lets works that aren't commercially viable (and in many cases, not even commercially available) fall into the public domain much sooner. Since copyright encompasses all works, not simply those that the entertainment industry promotes and sells and makes huge profits from, it needs a sort of balance and the return of copyright renewal could be a step along that path.

    I mean, there are lots of creative works out there that are still under copyright, but because there's no central registry of copyright holders (which is another advantage that copyright renewal could bring, as it would require registration), it's difficult, expensive, or just plain impossible to find out who the rights holders are. These are works that are decades old and haven't brought in any profit in years and years- and yet it's still illegal to use them because of copyright law.

    Thanks a lot, Mickey.
    • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:43PM (#30611012)
      Thinking about this, suppose a good compromise is to allow unlimited extensions but to charge higher and higher prices as the length increases.

      Perhaps 7 years automatic for free, with the next 7 years costing $1,000, and the next costing $10,000, and the next costing $100,000, then $1,000,000, and so forth. A 10x increase for each extension.

      ..with the proceeds of extensions going towards public education.
      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:57PM (#30611096)
        It would thus cost $1000 to get the original unextended 14 years.

        It would cost $111,000 to attain the 28 years "legacy length"

        49 years would cost $111,111,000.. and some copyrights would be extended this long.

        only a couple would ever be extended to 63 years ($11,111,111,000)

        It is unlikely that any would be extended to 77 years (over a trillion dollars)
      • ..with the proceeds of extensions going towards public education.

        For U.S. in particular, the Constitution could be followed to the letter here - spend the money thus acquired "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

        Otherwise, I agree, except that I think that 7 years for free is actually too long, but the grades should be finer. E.g. 1 year free, 5 more years $100 each, then 10 more years $1000 each, etc.

      • by shark72 (702619)

        I like your idea, but Congress won't enact it because the government gets the money anyway.

        The zeitgeist is that in the post-industrial age, protecting the interests of the large-scale copyright holders is in the best interest of the US economy. Microsoft, Disney, and countless smaller companies like them bring a metric buttload of cash into the economy; revenues that will become even more important as more and more manufacturing moves to China. Our government is funded by the taxes paid by US-based copyrig

        • Most people, if it was explained to them, would agree that copyright right now is excessive. Saying it is necessary for government is a strawman, what are our principles if they are not even good enough to live by? What does it say about our foundations when we cheat ourselves? Change it, find revenue elsewhere, if your principles themselves cannot support your nation then maybe its time for your nation to dissolve.
      • by westlake (615356) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:47PM (#30612210)

        Perhaps 7 years automatic for free, with the next 7 years costing $1,000, and the next costing $10,000, and the next costing $100,000, then $1,000,000, and so forth. A 10x increase for each extension

        This is so ridiculously biased towards big media and against the little guy that the geek ought to be ashamed for ever having posted it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by T Murphy (1054674)
          If the point of copyright is to let people make money, and the point of big media is to make money, it makes sense big media will try to acquire all of the money-making works and therefore hold most long-term copyrights. They would be bad at their job if that wasn't the case. As much as I support the little guy, it isn't very likely the little guy will have millions to gain from media he creates without being picked up by a big media company.

          To swing this back to the little guy, the problem lies in the o
    • Berne Convention (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:48PM (#30611028) Homepage Journal

      the return of copyright renewal could be a step along that path.

      One condition of joining the World Trade Organization is joining the Berne Convention, which appears to ban countries from requiring a renewal or any other formality from a copyright owner. Reintroducing copyright renewal might require the United States to withdraw from the WTO.

      • by Andorin (1624303)

        One condition of joining the World Trade Organization is joining the Berne Convention, which appears to ban countries from requiring a renewal or any other formality from a copyright owner.

        Well, that's something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?

        • by tepples (727027)

          Well, that's something we shall have to remedy, isn't it?

          There are more industries than the copyright industry that would oppose the United States' withdrawal from the WTO and other bilateral or regional trade treaties.

          • by Andorin (1624303)
            No, no, my point was that the WTO might need to look into this "no formalities" policy and maybe, possibly, chuck it out the window. I mean, is there a reason for this policy? Formalities such as registration and renewal are arguably good for society for reasons I've mentioned elsewhere in this thread: a registry of copyright owners with contact information, plus a healthier public domain that results from copyright renewal (the logic is that rightsholders won't bother renewing works they aren't profiting o
      • by EzInKy (115248)

        Does the Berne Convention say that the penalty for violating a non-registered copyright has to be the same as violating a registered one?

  • the next step (Score:5, Informative)

    by Speare (84249) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:14PM (#30610832) Homepage Journal

    This is an excellent idea, to continually point out what we're losing out in the reneged Copyright bargain. The next step, for those with far less imagination than our own, is to point out the kinds of successful artistic endeavors can stand on the shoulders of the culture that has entered public domain. Point out that if powerful Copyright had prevailed earlier, then without heirs' approval, we would not have such works as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The West Side Story (adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette), and many adaptations of The Raven including The Simpsons. What kind of legal pain happens when protected works stifle creative adaptation? Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was retold from the slaves' point of view in The Wind Done Gone, long after Mitchell died; the heirs sued over its publication and finally took a payoff to allow an 'unauthorized parody' label on it (which is ironic, as 'parody' is one of the four valid branches of copyright infringement defense).

    • Re:the next step (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:22PM (#30610882) Homepage Journal

      The problem for me is that there are a lot of books I would love to buy except they are out of print and second hand books are not available. So why can't I just go and download them? I assume the profit isn't there to go through the whole publishing thing, or the copyright holder can't be located.

      If copyrights are not being used there should be a way to make the content available in digital form. I don't necessarily want it to be free.

      • The forgettery (Score:5, Insightful)

        by symbolset (646467) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:31PM (#30611902) Journal

        It's important to the copyright lobby that old works become locked away, inaccessible to anyone. If you're reading Watership Down then you're not reading Harry Potter and the Basket of Radishes. The more historical culture is available to us the more we tend to stay with the stuff that's stood the test of time and less of today's releases which frankly have never been more good than bad.

        This is probably a bigger motivator for endless copyrights than being able to milk a few additional dollars a year out of 20 year old works.

        It's a huge loss because it's the remixing of the old with the new that allows us to find new heights of imagination and build identification with our culture. Very few people can build a solid attachment to a culture that's perpetually two years old. The net result of this is that of course we become less interested in civics and nationalism - at our peril. Unrestrained nationalism is a bad thing of course, but the complete lack of national identity leads people to the necessary conclusion that their nation lacks redeeming values worth preserving.

  • by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:15PM (#30610838)

    I've been wanting to read J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories. It would have been lovely to find it on Project Gutenberg.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume (22995)

      You can buy it for a good deal less than a politician, so I'm not sure you want to read it all that badly:

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0316769509/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used [amazon.com]

    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

      Let me tell you of a magical place where one can borrow and read a book. It is called a Library.

      • by Dun Malg (230075)
        Yes, because every book you'd ever want to read, no matter how obscure, is going to be available at every library.
      • My library doesn't have access to every work ever made. Neither does the Internet but that comes closer. And if I copyrighted my name which perhaps is the same as yours you'd better not give it to your kid or I'll sue you and put you into a re-instated debtor's prison. Forever.
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      You could just make a statement about these copyright extensions and pirate an etext off the Net.
      How likely do you think it is someone would actually come looking for you?

  • One hour to go (UTC) (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:18PM (#30610856) Homepage

    The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.

    ...at the beginning of the decade I believed this, but turns out it doesn't if the damage is sufficient.

    To sum up this decade: We marvelled upon the freedoms that networked computers promised; not merely electronic versions of existing media, but a whole new frontier, only to watch it be crushed for the most trivial of reasons.

    1. Protectionism in the popular music and film industry. All that is trivial, frivolous yet mildly entertaining in our culture.
    2. The completely non-existent, child predator moral-panic, boogeyman.
    3. Security theatre and the statistically vanishing threat of global terrorism.

    Out of a comprehensive list of possible reasons, those have to right at the bottom of the list, scraping the barrel of pathetic excuses.

  • by voss (52565) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:23PM (#30610886)

    Copyright extension- ok BUT

    1) Copyright extension renewal required. If you or your heirs dont care enough about your copyright to file paperwork and send in a check to cover the costs
    of copyright preservation then you dont get one.

    2) All copyrights from this point on come with a set date of copyright expiration at filing that cannot be lengthened beyond that date.

  • Do they care? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grey Loki (1427603) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:24PM (#30610900)
    I wonder if the people who actually created the work care that after five decades they may not be able to make a miniscule amount of income from it - personally, I would be fairly embarrassed if I made one 'great work' and then ended up desperately lobbying governments to protect my one meagre source of income, instead of continuing my artistic development and releasing new material that consumers value enough to buy (while getting a kick out of the fact that someone's rewritten a story that I wrote decades ago, and is now making their own name).
  • Greedy note aside (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:24PM (#30610902) Homepage

    One thing that people do not seem to understand is that if works were entering public domain this does not mean that there would be huge numbers of things suddenly available for free. What it likely means is that some mega-distributor (think WalMart or Sony) would snap up materials that no longer had an "owner" and they would publish and distribute them.

    Now some people might laugh at a book on the shelf at WalMart that was simply a reprint of something that had entered public domain. Alternatively, there are many that would buy it. Printing books is cheap, promoting them is not. If WalMart had zero cost other than simply putting the book on the shelf, would they print lots of books?

    Would Sony make them available "exclusively" for the Sony Reader? Wouldn't it be fun to see Amazon and Sony both declaring that they exclusively were making Gone With the Wind available to for their devices? And then Barnes and Nobel coming along with "their" version for their device.

    Free stuff isn't interesting to people with large distribution channels. Stuff you can charge for, even just 1% over the cost of production, is much more interesting. Stuff you can charge 200% over the cost of production is even more interesting. As long as most of the world doesn't have access to high-speed Internet connections or have the knowledge to make use of them distribution is going to be where the big bucks are.

    • Re:Greedy note aside (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:38PM (#30610992) Journal

      But the fact is that, once a work is in the public domain, you are free to distribute it any way you please. So yes, so big chain could print off a ton of copies and profit from them (and in a way that happens, Shakespeare's been in the public domain for over four hundred years, and yet publishers still put out copies of everything from single plays to whole the damned Folio). But even if one can publish and sell for profit these books, at that same time I can go to Project Gutenberg and download my own copy, and it's perfectly legitimate.

      However, I'm thinking of writing a speculative fiction story where big publishing houses and media firms convince Congress to allow them to buy up public domain works, and then go after anyone who has an illegitimate copy of Henry V. What scares me is maybe it'll come true.

    • Re:Greedy note aside (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aynoknman (1071612) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:49PM (#30611034)

      Free stuff isn't interesting to people with large distribution channels. Stuff you can charge for, even just 1% over the cost of production, is much more interesting. Stuff you can charge 200% over the cost of production is even more interesting. As long as most of the world doesn't have access to high-speed Internet connections or have the knowledge to make use of them distribution is going to be where the big bucks are.

      The most important lesson here is that small distribution channels are becoming more important. As is voluntary production. Without the unjust copyright monopoly that steals from the public, these items would be available.

      High-speed internet is not universally available, but is still following a law similar to Moore's law. A personal anecdote:
      I lived in a rural African village in 1991 when my father died in Canada. I had to travel four hours to reach a telephone. Today that village has cell phone coverage and not-very-high-speed internet. Cell phones are revolutionizing the third world and will soon be their libraries.

  • 14+14 years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pydev (1683904) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:26PM (#30610912)

    The original copyright term was 14 years, with another 14 years if you bothered to renew. That's the maximum copyright any work should get. Anything longer than that is grossly unfair.

    • by EzInKy (115248)

      Though I agree with you on principle the reality is there isn't a chance in hell that would come to pass anytime soon. However a compromise might be reached by giving the mafia the "forever minus a day" that they want contingent on yearly renewal fees and the removal of derivative rights.

    • Dude. in 1789 people lived to be 35 on average. So yeah writing a book when you were 30, meant that your kids and grandkids could be rich too. Life expectancy has grown and so should the 14+14 artifact.

  • by chrisgeleven (514645) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:51PM (#30611052) Homepage

    My great-great grandmother wrote a book in the late 1960s just before she died. It is long ago out of print, but we luckily have a copy thanks to someone who had a used copy for sale on Amazon.com and our luck of happening to look for it right when it was for sale.

    I would love to make a PDF copy and put it up on my genealogy site as a free download, however from my reading of copyright laws it appears it is still under copyright. No one knows who is the owner of the copyright is at this point, we have no idea if the publisher is still around, and I doubt it sold more than a few hundred copies back when it was released in the first place. No way it would make any money at this point even if it came back into print. In short, the best place for this book is the public domain.

    A perfect example of what a smartly written copyright law could do. This book should have long ago been in the public domain and even if it was copyrighted thanks to a renewal, there should be clear information on who the owner is.

    • by SEE (7681) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:14PM (#30611208) Homepage

      Who's printed as the copyright holder in the book itself?

    • by broken_chaos (1188549) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:45PM (#30611402)

      Most authors retain the copyright to their own works (unlike anyone involved with music or movies). Chances are your great-great grandmother held the original copyright, and it's now held by her estate or a descendant. I'm not very familiar with how wills work, but, if it wasn't explicitly mentioned, it probably passed to her husband or child(ren) when she died. It's likely still in your family, somewhere.

      If you can track down your great-great grandmother's will (and possibly the wills of those who her possessions went to, you can probably figure it out with a little work.

  • by DaveV1.0 (203135)

    James Boyle, "Bradbury's firemen at least set fire to their own culture out of deep ideological commitment, vile though it may have been. We have set fire to our cultural record for no reason;

    We have not "set fire to our cultural record". The firemen in Bradbury's story systematically destroyed works to remove them from the culture. There is no such destruction and/or removal of works from our culture. There is a limiting of the works for the benefit of the copyright holders, but the works still exist and a

    • by Andorin (1624303) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:17PM (#30611228)

      There is a limiting of the works for the benefit of the copyright holders, but the works still exist and are accessible. The works are even available at lending libraries.

      Do you really think that every creative work produced since the 1920s or so is easily available today? And even if there is a copy in some library, that copy is still bound to physical limitations- just because the one copy exists doesn't mean anyone can access it. Not so online, and if these works were in the public domain, they could be legally and freely available online. But since some insanely low number (something like 6%) of works created in the 1920s era are commercially viable and therefore commercially available, a vast majority of that 94% of "non-viable" works are pretty much nonexistent.

      Big Content opposes proposed laws that enrich the public domain, even if said laws have little to no effect on their own IP. What else could they be besides usurpers of the public domain and, by extension, our culture?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrnobo1024 (464702)

      For old obscure out-of-print books, it's often effectively impossible to access them because no bookstore or library has them. For all practical purposes, they have been destroyed from the cultural record.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:20PM (#30611252)

      Speak for yourself. Works still exist. Three years ago at the university, I tried to get my hands on a couple of papers in my field. They exist. Barely. At less than a dozen libraries in the United States. Sorry--I didn't want to check on what I had to do to get a European intralibrary loan. The publisher long ago went out of business. Nobody knows where they are or can be found--and just because it shows in a catalog doesn't mean the first two places I contacted could locate it. Or would have sent it to me even if they could. I'm not talking about some rare original copy of some book by Chaucer here--but papers published in actual academic journals. My professor had some 40 year old yellowed mimeograph (I think) he refused to let students see for fear it would crumble to dust. They weren't in books, they weren't aggregated in later volumes--the author was long dead, the publisher out of business or purchased--google could find me some citations but no sources. Yes--I could have read it--if I'd traveled to Boston. Maybe. Even then, I'd half wonder if it was actually in the stacks of the library or not.

      It's not an outright lie--copyright destroys our culture by making it impossible to lawfully propagate and reproduce materials that are unnaturally scarce to the point of unavailability. What happens as those 50 year old out of print journal articles fade to the point of being illegible? When you take something, make it unnaturally scarce, and make it illegal to replenish it--eventually it decays to the point of nothing.

      Just because fireman don't burn them doesn't mean copyright doesn't have the same effect when spread out over something first printed in the early 30's. 80 years later--I really can't get a copy without traveling. And soon those will turn to dust, or only be available with white gloves in some obscure room. If the university libraries don't pitch them.

      Sorry--copyright is a fire--and it needs to be put out. Any work that has more than 90% of its original publications lost/destroyed should be immediately opened to the public domain.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Velodra (1443121)

      His statement is not a fallacy. It is an outright lie.

      It is something known as a metaphor. Copyright makes many works unavailable to lots of people, just like burning works would.

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Informative)

    by headkase (533448) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:10PM (#30611178)
    Late to the thread, anyway here is the obligatory read concerning copyrights (short read, 1.5 pages): Melancholy Elephants [spiderrobinson.com] by Spider Robinson. Basically, to protect all the artists some must be disadvantaged. The some fight tooth and nail to prevent this. Being disadvantaged is having your work enter the public domain. The "all" who are protected are the artists of today, tomorrow, and forever who get to use ideas to resurrect, reinvent, or just plain re-do. Give all artists these protections and all of us in the wider society benefit, thrive, and grow.
    • As an addition you are only disadvantaged if you are not flexible enough to take advantage of the markets in a reasonable time. If you don't do this then it is not our problem, go stick your head in the sand somewhere else.
  • I've been thinking about a moral thought game. What if someone made a free iPhone game that was rather good, and set it out for free? Technically, you'll be taking the jobs of a lot of people--often independent developers--who won't get a sale. As far as I know, nobody has done this--ever, in the entire world.

  • by cybergremlin (136962) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:32PM (#30611330)

    Mickey Mouse will never enter the public domain. Disney will always get a retroactive extension to copyright that includes it through congress before that happens. You can argue that this is bad/unfair/unconstitutional/great/etc but that is the practical reality. Any practical proposal for a reform of the copyright system has to take this into account.

    Under the current system this means that anything from that era forward also stays out of the public domain forever, including “orphan works”. The loss of these “orphan works” that are long out of print and with no clear owner is the one thing that (almost) everyone can agree is a Bad Thing. So, any reform that has any chance of passing must improve the situation with those items while preserving the interests of politically powerful copyright holders (Disney, Sony, etc). I can see some options that could do it, though in any real world implementations would reveal some flaws.

    Opt-in renewal is the one we hear tossed around the most. This sets forgotten material into the public domain but preserves the copyright on anything the owner finds worthy of a nominal renewal fee. It has the added bonus of registering who you can license the publishing rights from.

    Letting works fall into the public domain after being out of print for X years could also accomplish the above goals. It would also have the added bonus of encouraging publishers to keep a work available/in-print to preserve their rights.

    Lastly we could instead create a special extension for trademarks, franchises, and corporate identifiers. Things strongly associated with an ongoing business could be protected for a longer period. DC would keep Superman and Disney would keep Mickey, but an out of print science article would not get the new extension and would eventually enter the public domain.

    None of these proposals would satisfy copyleft purists or “hands off my copyright!” paranoids but they could be a reasonable starting point for compromise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by westlake (615356)

      Mickey Mouse will never enter the public domain.

      Steamboat Willie is eight minutes of silent era sight gags with a synchronized audio track.

      Nitrate stock.

      Phonographic disk with mechanical synchronization. That's a problem for MoMA and The Library of Congress.

      Entry into the public domain doesn't mean you have legal or physical access to primary sources.

      It doesn't fund conservation. Restoration.

      The Disney archives remain intact not only because the studio values its history - and not only because it uses thes

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:26PM (#30612130) Journal

    Copyright on scientific articles is the most evil of all, in my opinion as a researcher. I, and most other fellow scientists don't get paid by the publisher for our works. In fact, the salary of a scientist in general is meager. But we find pleasure in what we do, and in sharing our science with humankind. What we do is intended for everybody, and not to perpetually keep money flowing into the coffins of the Elseviers, the IOPs, Wileys of this world. I am astonished sometimes, to see that a lot of fundamental articles, published decades ago (in the 60's, or even earlier) is still not freely accessible by the public. I can't help but think "what douchebags, profiting like leeches from the work of scientists, many now defunct, whereas the work was intended for the whole world".

  • by Requiem18th (742389) on Friday January 01, 2010 @06:09AM (#30613162)

    Several people have come here insisting that public domain is not about getting free stuff but accumulating a cultural context to build upon it and create new stuff, it is true but. what if I want to rip or redistribute the original work? is it inherently wrong?

    Not long ago, the only way to transfer the experience of traveling to another country was narrating it, repetitively. If you were really good describing scenery with words you could write it down. If you were good at drawing you could try to make some sketches.

    Not anymore, now we take pictures and video, we are the multimedia generation. Even better, we can transmit this data to anywhere in the planet almost for free almost instantaneously.

    We could understand this as an example of human evolution, as if our sensory organs, mental retention and expressive abilities were directly evolved.

    Not long ago, if you saw a play on the theater and wanted to transmit the experience you'd have to reinterpret every character and dialog as best as you could.

    Nowadays, if you do the equivalent of going to the theater, going to the movie theater, and wanted transmit this experience to someone all you have to do is give them a torrent of the movie you saw.

    Except you aren't allowed to do that.

    The same technological evolution that upgraded you from human to super human a second ago is outlawed when it comes to copyright. In fact you can't even remember it for yourself with technology, you have to rely in your biological memory.

    Access to the information, each access to the information is now owned by someone.

    The typical rebuttal/mockery of this line of thought is that you could access to this information for a modicum price, to call you a cheapo who wouldn't pay for a movie ticket and such.

    But if you saw digital recording/replay/transmission as an extension of your own being, as I do, you'd understand that you are basically asking me to accept an intermediary between me and my brain. An intermediary with the capacity to both, impose control or charge for use, any use, every use.

    This is particularly obvious to me with things like classical music. The music itself is public domain but the interpretation is not. If I want to remember a piece -legally- my only options are to either only rely on my biological memory or accept a gatekeeper.

    That I'm not allowed to digitally store everything I see and hear seems like a horrible intrusion from the government and a obstacle for our evolution.

    I know some will find this a delusional rant, but I really fear that unless there is a shift in political power, the first full brain machine interface we'll see will also be the first DRM'ed brain.

  • Why Not Ask Them? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Friday January 01, 2010 @09:56AM (#30613816) Journal

    Some questions for thought with regards to the issues of rights and ownership. The readership here is big on rights. Where's consideration for these peoples' rights? Pretending the issue is between the public (ie. domain) and governmental control is overly simplistic. The rights of the owners get devalued in such discussions and the owners are relegated to the ping pong ball treatment. Try to read through and think on them before responding. This is not intended as flamebait, but as an opening of awareness to include a class of rights holders not as often considered here as others. So please do read through all the way to the bottom, there are important points there too.

    So, reconsider this as "Whose Property Would You Have Taken Away Tomorrow"?

    Why not contact some of the authors/owners for things that would have gone PD and ask them to sign their rights over to PD? Seems to me to be more fair to have the owners sign them over at a time of their choosing than forcing them to relinquish according to a calendar.

    Why not require authors to include a 'convert to PD' statement in their new application for copyright, which gives them up to a mandated maximum, but for which they can specify a lesser amount?

    For that matter, why not have every application for copyright have a question on it, asking the applicant for their opinion on future changes to the law, asking what time span would be fair to use as the maximum before requiring conversion to PD? Non-binding certainly, but at least it takes the opinions of those most affected into account.

    While in force copyright acts much like other rights of ownership. How many other laws covering protection of owners' rights require the owner to give their property away after a certain period? No matter how rightly this is required, as has always been the intention of copyright laws, it still is a case of mandated relinquishing of ownership.

    Turn it around and look at it. Let's say you buy a brand new house. In the deed is a statement that in let's say 50 years, it becomes property of the state and will be given over to the homeless, under control of the same agency that protects your ownership in the mean time. You can still live there, but so can anyone else. Oh, and selling the house doesn't change that date. Consider what that's going to do to your property value over time. If that was the law and you wanted a house, of course you'd have to go along. But as time went on the implications would start to matter more. Now imaging that the government comes along and says they're going to change all existing contracts saying 50 years to 75 years. Will you, as owner, have a problem with that? Theoretically the law also protected the homeless by providing them a place to live. They have rights too, and it's beneficial for society to have its members caring for each other rather than have one class left to go without since that causes all sorts of other problems like crime. Will you tell the government that you'd just as soon keep your 50 year limit and allow your ownership to expire? And you people in the market for a house that can't afford a new one but are willing to fix up and old one to maker it worth more, will you buy a used house? How old?

    That's simply property. Copyright covers things that usually produce income for the owner, sometimes for an extended period. So let's change the above from owning a home to owning a business (owning, selling and speculation of copyrights are part of the business of authorship and publishing, after all). Will you start a business if you know that after 50 years it will be turned over to public trust and all income derived diverted to public funds? What will you do as the time approaches? Will you stick to your original contract or will you accept the government's extension?

    Society needs responsible and stable owners of both homes and businesses to maintain what they own for the duration of their ownership. The alternative is their neglect as the value to them draws down. The result would be that t

  • by zuki (845560) on Friday January 01, 2010 @11:24AM (#30614182) Journal
    Looks like Robert Heinlein wrote this, and it does feel fairly applicable to this situation:

    "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped or turned back, for their private benefit."

    Hope no one else posted this.... apologies if this is a duplicate post.

    Obviously, what he failed to foresee is that corporations could in fact have the government change common law, by employing the services of enough lobbyists.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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