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Court Takes Away Some of the Public Domain 431

Posted by kdawson
from the congress-shall-make-no-law dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In yet another bad ruling concerning copyright, a federal appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling, and said that it's okay for Congress retroactively to remove works from the public domain, even if publishers are already making use of those public-domain works. The lower court had said this was a First Amendment violation, but the appeals court said that if Congress felt taking away from the public domain was in its best interests, then there was no First Amendment violation at all. The ruling effectively says that Congress can violate the First Amendment, so long as it feels it has heard from enough people (in this case, RIAA and MPAA execs) to convince it that it needs to do what it has done." TechDirt notes that the case will almost certainly be appealed.
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Court Takes Away Some of the Public Domain

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  • by cdpage (1172729) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:31PM (#32655434)
    The RIAA are not 'people'
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:35PM (#32655482)

      Too bad. I was hoping to pick up some Soylent Recording Execs at the store later today.

    • You are right, they are first class corporate citizens.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by networkBoy (774728)

      correct.
      They are more closely related to kimono dragons and pit vipers. I hereby move that we strip serpent people of their rights as citizens of the US.

      In an aside, if there is a work in the PD and I am using it right now, then congress removes it from the public domain, how does that shake out?
      Is it like when a GPL project goes closed source, where I can continue with the fork I've made, or is it as I expect (all fscked up) and I immediately am infringing and can be sued?
      -nB

      • by Golddess (1361003)

        how does that shake out?

        I suspect it will go in whatever manner the RIAA instructs their puppet congresscritters to make it go.

        • by Cwix (1671282)

          Which means instant infringing.

      • Is this Disney's successor trick to the stunt they pulled for the Mouse Act? "Pretty good trick" he says cynically, before they take away the Tom Swift rights.

        I want to toss an Unidentified Legal Object to the IAAL crowd. Can full Public Domain be considered a "contract with the people" such that removing something from it then becomes a breach of contract? All the following stuff sounds like it makes sense - "reasonably relied upon", etc.

        • Interesting dystopian thought experiment:

          If copyright is considered an asset can it be confiscated by the government under any circumstances?
          Say you wrote some disruptive application.

          You get arrested for something else, not really important what since just about everyone breaks the law in some way most days.

          Could the government make part of the penalty for whatever they've arrested you for confiscation/transference of certain assets you control such as IP rights?

          Could the new holders of those IP rights then

      • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:58PM (#32655876)
        I guess that would depend on what you mean by "using it". The ruling itself appears to be mostly concerned with people who have produced derivative works (e.g. performances, recordings, etc.) of items that are in the public domain in the US but were originally produced and are still under copyright in their country of origin. As far as what will happen, I'll let this excerpt from ruling speak for itself:

        "a reliance party may continue to exploit that derivative work for the duration of the restored copyright if the reliance party pays to the owner of the restored copyright reasonable compensation . . . ." If the parties are unable to agree on reasonable compensation, a federal court will determine the amount of compensation

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by spun (1352)

        Dragons wearing kimonos? [wikipedia.org] Or did you mean Komodo Dragons? [wikipedia.org]

      • I don't think that word [google.ca] means what you think [google.ca] it means

      • Is it like when a GPL project goes closed source, where I can continue with the fork I've made, ...

        Ya, I'm sure the government can figure *that* out.
        The only "fork" you're going to get will be in your ass. :-)

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        They are more closely related to kimono dragons

        Komodo. Definitely Komodo. If someone offers to show you their "kimono dragon [wikipedia.org]", they have naughty intentions. ;-)

    • by Moryath (553296)

      And the brand new swimming pools in the judges' backyards have absolutely nothing at all to do with how they ruled... nothing to see here, move along.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Thundersnatch (671481)

      Yes they are, in the way Greenpeace, the American Red Cross, or the FSF are "people". Corporations are simply groups of people acting together. Why should one group of people be allowed to pool their resources and influence, but not others?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by h4rr4r (612664)

        Some are out for an ideal the others for profit. Changing laws to increase someone's profits is nuts.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by clarkkent09 (1104833)
          And what makes political interest morally superior to economic interest?
      • Yes they are, in the way Greenpeace, the American Red Cross, or the FSF are "people". Corporations are simply groups of people acting together. Why should one group of people be allowed to pool their resources and influence, but not others?

        Perhaps because the intended purpose of all the groups you've cited is to improve society while the official purpose of the typical corporation is to shield the individuals running it from the repercussions of being purely amoral profit generators?

      • by cdpage (1172729) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:34PM (#32656398)
        A Corporation [if you classify it as a person] would be defined as sociopath. Would you ask a sociopath what is best for you or for the people?

        really? would you?
    • by rnturn (11092)

      are people. And, since this ruling was from a Federal appeals court, the next appeal would be to the Supreme Court. Anyone want to place a bet on which side of this argument Roberts, Scalia, and Alito will take?

  • by schon (31600) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:33PM (#32655456)

    Copyright is, at it's core, the government-enforced ability for a private entity to say "you're not allowed to say that, because I said it first". This is by definition an impingement on free speech.

    Free speech != original speech.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by morphotomy (1655417)
      No, copyright at its core is a system to ensure those who spent months writing books didnt get fucked just cause the guy next door has a printing press and could, hypothetically make and sell as many copies as possible. Thats not to say the system hasnt been corrupted in such a way that allows it to be abused in the way you described.
      • by skywire (469351) * on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:48PM (#32655686)

        The fugitive slave laws are a system to ensure that those who have spent good money buying and training Africans don't get screwed just cause some abolitionist runs an underground railroad and could, hypothetically, free as many slaves as possible.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Did you just honestly compare the ownership of a person to the ownership of a work that conceivably took weeks, months or years to complete that resulted from the work of an individual, or a group of individuals? That is such a ridiculous, absurd comparison that I don't even know where to begin.

          When people compare things like this to slavery and Nazism, they either look like idiots, or if taken seriously degrade what happened during those events.

          I am unaware of any books that were offered up by their fello

          • When people compare things like this to slavery and Nazism, they either look like idiots, or if taken seriously degrade what happened during those events.

            He's just obeying the Goodwin's law [wikipedia.org]
          • by Beardydog (716221)
            It wasn't a direct comparison of morality. The argument was that it is not necessarily illegal or immoral for someone to freely copy or distribute something that someone else has made valuable through a large investment of time, money, or effort. The slave example was used, not because copyright is comparably immoral to slavery, but because slavery is such a clearly recognized example that no one could possibly quibble over the actual morality of the thing.
            The phonebook example could have been used. Phoneb
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kappa962 (1583621)

            Absurd. At no point did his comparison imply that problems with copyright are as significant as the problem of slavery.

            What is the problem with comparing things with other things of a much greater magnitude? When people compare electrons to planets, do you object because planets are obviously much, much larger and clearly must have nothing at all in common with something with such a far removed size?

            His sentence was clearly saying that not screwing specific people over is not always the most important thing

        • The fugitive slave laws are a system to ensure that those who have spent good money buying and training Africans don't get screwed just cause some abolitionist runs an underground railroad and could, hypothetically, free as many slaves as possible

          Wow, that was fairly obnoxious. You may have missed the part where slaves were people, and content isn't.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        > No, copyright at its core is a system to ensure those who spent months writing books didnt get fucked ...because the first genuine literary expert to examine the work declares it rediculously derivative.

        Copyright doesn't exist to "protect authors". It never did. This is just the "Big Lie" perpetrated by corporate sock puppets.

        Oddly enough, this ruling will just make it easier for the estates of long dead authors to shake down newer writers that "spend months writing a book".

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773)

        No, copyright at its core is a system to ensure those who spent months writing books didnt get fucked just cause the guy next door has a printing press and could, hypothetically make and sell as many copies as possible.

        No, copyright at its core is a system to increase the public benefit: The public benefits when works are created and published that otherwise would not have been, and the public benefits when works are unprotected, so that they can be used most productively (e.g. enjoyed, copied and distribu

    • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:41PM (#32655576) Homepage Journal

      Copyright applies to a great deal more than speech.

      But yes, that ruling stinks. It basically says someone with lobbying dollars can buy exceptions to the first amendment. And at the same time it reinforces the eagerness of the courts (federal in this case) to sell out to big business/groups whom they are trying to fool us into believing are somehow representing "the people". If you want to be making that sort of comparison, "big business" is pretty much the polar opposite of "the people".

      • But yes, that ruling stinks. It basically says someone with lobbying dollars can buy exceptions to the first amendment.

        (Cough)Disney(Cough)

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:43PM (#32655606)

      Copyright was in the original constitution, free speech was not:
      "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."

      However, unlike what this ruling seems to say, the Constitution gives congress no authority to reassign ownership of works and I'm pretty sure "limited time" is now is nowhere near what the founders had in mind.

      As far as I'm concerned, what should be focused on here is the ban on passing Ex Post Facto laws in the Constitition:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_post_facto_law#United_States [wikipedia.org]

      This seems like such a breach.

      • by shogarth (668598)
        I tend to agree. Challenging this as a 1st Amendment issue is probably the weakest legal argument. It seems that the ex post facto violation would be stronger. Even more powerful would be to challenge this under the 5th amendment (unlawful taking) since property (in the form of legal, derivative works based on the public domain materials) is being rendered valueless.
    • by jabbathewocket (1601791) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#32655664)

      Wrong because "free" speech has nothing to do with copyright or vice versa.

      Free speech means you can say unpopular things, things that disagree with the "establishment", things that are inflammatory, things that are downright disgusting (in some segment of the populations opinion)..

      Free speech does not mean you can copy things either privately or for profit.. it never has and it never will. Fair Use/Copyright/Public Domain are all interrelated with only each other.

      There are times when Free speech and Copyright may cross paths.. (such as I dunno.. someone putting out a scathing unauthorized biography of a political figure.. and selling that book/movie.. and then suing someone else for trying to copy his or her work and sell it)

      I really wish that people who are so into constitutional/bill of rights issues would at least do the rest of the world a favor and get a passing knowledge of the subject first.

      This misunderstanding of Free Speech comes up nearly as often as the complete and utter confusion over "the right to keep and bear arms" clause.. not to mention the strict constitutional interpretations that conveniently (much like religious zealots) ignore the parts that they do not like or agree with.

      • >>>I really wish that people who are so into constitutional/bill of rights issues would at least do the rest of the world a favor and get a passing knowledge of the subject first.

        Says the person who doesn't understand this is really a TENTH amendment issue from the Bill of Rights. Does Congress have the power to take public domain works like Tom Sawyer and move it back into copyright?

        No.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jedidiah (1196)

          What about the 4th?

          A ruling like this is basically taking the work of some author "that spend months of labor" writing something and gives it to someone else.

          All of the shills shedding crocodile tears really should be harping on this point more.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        There are times when Free speech and Copyright may cross paths.. (such as I dunno.. someone putting out a scathing unauthorized biography of a political figure.. and selling that book/movie.. and then suing someone else for trying to copy his or her work and sell it)

        Uh, like for example most of fair use?

        Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. 106 and 17 U.S.C. 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

        This section largely exists because of the first amendment, without it you'd be almost unable to talk about a work because you'd be infringing copyright. It's funny how you talk about others getting passing knowledge but yourself seem clueless.

    • >>>Copyright... "you're not allowed to say that, because I said it first"

      True. However per usual the Courts are blind and do not see the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. Congress was never granted the power to take public domain art or writings and convert them into copyrighted art/writing. They may not take the Venus de Milo and copyright it to MGM. Congress may not use power it was never given.

      Such powers are reserved to the Member State governments, or the People.

    • by ghrucla (1392521) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:59PM (#32655894)

      There are two legal issues here:
      1) This is a straightforward application of the Supreme Court precedent in Eldred v Ashcroft. Lower courts are bound by SCOTUS precedent and so this is an easy call in terms of case law even if you think (as I do) that it's bad policy and Eldred was wrongly decided.
      2) It's not a First Amendment issue but an Article I, Section 8 issue and in particular if you read the clause "to promote the progress of science and useful arts" as meaning that Congress can only grant IP rights when such rights are likely to incentivize creativity (which would exclude retroactive grants).

    • by Itninja (937614)
      OT but it warms my heart to see the word "impingement" used. It's one of my favorite words :) I first heard it going to a chiropractor.
    • by Kjella (173770)

      Copyright is, at it's core, the government-enforced ability for a private entity to say "you're not allowed to say that, because I said it first". This is by definition an impingement on free speech.

      Which is why unfortunately I don't think this is any more or less of a violation of the first amendment than copyright itself is. If you say copyright for 50 years is constitutional and 70 years is constitutional, then I don't see how copyright for years 1-50 and 60-70 can be unconstitutional. Some people would say the deal is whatever copyright was when the work was made, but if you look at other laws Congress might very well decide to allow something for ten years then forbid it again. When it comes to pr

    • As much as we may dislike the ruling, there is no inherent conflict between copyright and free speech. Both are clearly represented in the Constitution:

      Article 1, Section 8:

      The Congress shall have Power...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;

      Amendment 1:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
      prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging th

    • by srleffler (721400)

      Good thing the Founders wrote Copyright into the Constitution, so it is on an equal footing with Free Speech, then. This is not an accident. Copyright is an intentional restriction of the public's rights to communicate and express themselves.

  • by drumcat (1659893) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:38PM (#32655520)
    If the Public Domain erodes, so too does our cultural identity. Sounds hyperbolic, but it is true. How far back do you want to go? Shall we just end the PD as a possibility, and all things are owned for all time? Who does that benefit, outside those whose items would be escheated to?
    • by euxneks (516538)

      If the Public Domain erodes, so too does our cultural identity. Sounds hyperbolic, but it is true. How far back do you want to go? Shall we just end the PD as a possibility, and all things are owned for all time? Who does that benefit, outside those whose items would be escheated to?

      Lawyers.

    • It benefits the people that you pay off to change the rules. ( ie,congress/judges/attorneys )

  • Disney just lost the rights to winnie the pooh?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:42PM (#32655588)

    This is absolutely the correct conclusion to the Golan case. As someone who wrote a 20 page term paper on this case for an International Intellectual Property class in law school, I understand the OP's concern, but this decision will have far narrower application than imagined. It is absolutely ESSENTIAL if we are going to meet our obligations under TRIPs in order to avoid WTO sanctions, and it will apply only to a small subset of authors who utilized a small subset of works that fell into the public domain because the US /wasn't/ following its treaty obligations for a number of years.

    Important decision this is, but the sky ain't falling yet.

    • by PRMan (959735)
      Death by a thousand cuts is still death.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by MWoody (222806)

        I can imagine you getting a papercut and going to the emergency room, screaming "it's the beginning of the end!"

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Then maybe we should not be entering into such treaties?
      Why in the world did the copyright on M go back into place? Oh yeah a treaty that decided a 1931 work somehow still needs protection. Everyone involved in the film is dead, no amount of money will incentivize zombie Fritz Lang to make further works.

    • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:23PM (#32656240) Homepage

      First, our treaty obligations do not override the limits on the federal government imposed by the Constitution, either as a matter of law, or, frankly, proper policy. If the political branches enter into a treaty that requires the US to act unconstitutionally, then we will unavoidably have to violate the treaty until we can fix it, or get out of it. If TRIPS requires this, then we cannot comply with TRIPS.

      Second, you're assuming that we need to even participate in TRIPS; we don't. The US has a strong enough position that we don't need to enter into any copyright treaties, quite frankly. Our relevant industries are quite capable of dealing with that, just as they dealt with the US not being in Berne until 1989. Our copyright law has become bad enough due to domestic actors, but the 'back door' created by treaty obligations is completely abysmal. It helps to get laws pushed through Congress without debate or the opportunity to amend them, lest we be in violation of yet another foolish treaty.

      The US should immediately withdraw from all copyright treaties, amend its copyright law to best serve the domestic interests of all Americans (not merely creators and publishers), should unilaterally offer national treatment to foreign authors, provided their works are published in the US and otherwise comply with the formalities we need to re-establish and strengthen, and should limit its international involvement in copyright matters to informal cooperation with other states to ensure that their copyright laws do not in some way become mutually incompatible with ours (typically due to formalities). In this way, we would not only improve things for ourselves, while not materially harming our own copyright-related industries, but we would be reigning things in, and once again provide guidance to the rest of the world as to how copyright laws can work sensibly. That's something we haven't done a good job of in the 20th and 21st centuries, particularly since we enacted the disasterous 1976 Act.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        The US should immediately withdraw from all copyright treaties, amend its copyright law to best serve the domestic interests of all Americans

        Except, you forget that it's US politicians cramming these copyright laws down the rest of the world's collective throat, under the guise of protecting US interests. Heck, the *AA's help their equivalent group in various countries lobby the government to get your DMCA passed. So much so, that, they'll just re-use the document [michaelgeist.ca] in another country.

        TFA points out that Co

  • Heh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dremth (1440207)
    I was under the impression that it was the government's job to protect our rights. I guess the joke is on me.
    • The "job" of any long term organization is to grow so that it will be around tomorrow. (There were a few Utopian societies that didn't get this, they're no longer around.)

      Apply this to Government, Church, and Universities. There's a Darwinian evolution going on here, organizations that adapt and grow survive and out compete the ones that don't.
    • I was under the impression that it was the government's job to protect our rights.

      If that were the case, no one would have ever thought we needed a Constitution. Or a Bill or Rights.

      Government provides services: defense, build roads, educate, explore space, etc.

      We in this case means Americans, i.e. U.S. Citizens.

      • Huh? The whole purpose of the Constitution is to protect rights. The whole idea of the Bill of Rights was to restrict the powers of government. Today, the government gives rights, and what the government giveth, government can taketh away. But don't confuse current situation from the original intent. If you go back and read the Bill of Rights, they are very carefully worded. "Congress shall make no law" or something like that. Not "you have the right to do this and that." Huge difference, but unfort
  • While I think removing works from the Public Domain was a bad idea, I'm a little fuzzy as to what on earth that has to do with the 1st amendment. I can understand why removing say, the law or official publications from the public domain would be bad and stifle free speech, but I'm not sure how removing private works from public domain would rise to the level of a constitutional violation.

    I'm not trying to be combative here... I genuinely want to know!

  • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:45PM (#32655638) Homepage

    For anyone here who promotes the expansion of copyright law I ask a question:
    What if Shakespeare was still in copyright? Or Beethoven, or Bach or Chaucer or Gilbert and Sullivan.
    Would society be better if such intellectual legacies were allowed? Without a constant updated public domain isn't society suffering?

    • What if Shakespeare was still in copyright? Or Beethoven, or Bach or Chaucer or Gilbert and Sullivan.

      While I think we are on the same side of the copyright issue, I think your argument isn't really a strong one. I mean, what would happen if Shakespeare's work was still under copyright? Books of his collected works would cost about the same (supply/demand would be about the same). I don't see a lot of obviously derivative work that isn't parody, which is allowed under copyright law. Academic analysis is a
      • Re:Why not? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lockejaw (955650) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:15PM (#32656134)

        Books of his collected works would cost about the same (supply/demand would be about the same).

        Having a monopoly on publications of Shakespeare's works would probably affect the supply.

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        If Shakespeare was still under copyright then every little pissant group that wanted to put on a play would have to pay a heft license to some organization like ASCAP.

        HELL, ASCAP is already doing all it can to destroy small local venues. If you allowed the same with the theatre, you would end up with similar results.

        What little high culture exists in America would be quickly priced out of existence.

  • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:46PM (#32655660) Journal

    I don't like the ruling, but it's probably correct. Congress has the Constitutional authority to institute copyright laws and there is no particular legal reason to presume that once something is in the public domain, it can never be returned to being copyrighted. Not liking it is not a legal reason.

    However, after skimming over the decision I see no mention of the issue of this being an ex post facto law w.r.t. using things that were in the public domain, but suddenly weren't. I believe that under a reasonable interpretation of that clause you can not touch those people, and it is not Constitutional to ask them to pony up any money, "reasonable" amounts or otherwise. Liabilities should only be incurred based on the copyrighted status of the used works at the time of use, not at the whim of any future Congressional acts. Unlike "not liking retroactive extension", this point is actually a Constitution-based argument.

    • by TomXP411 (860000) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:58PM (#32655866)

      I think you nailed it.

      People claim this is a First Amendment issue, but I can't see how. Free Speech isn't about publishing other people's works; it's about protecting people's right to disagree with the government.

      More to the point, though: Copyright law is not part of the Constitution, so Congress has every right to change it as they see fit.

      I don't like it. I don't like how Copyright has become a way to protect big companies at the expense of the little guy. But I can't see any way to interpret the First Amendment so that it conflicts with Copyright and Congress's right to extend it.

      • Free Speech isn't about publishing other people's works; it's about protecting people's right to disagree with the government.

        Bullshit. Free speech is about protecting people's rights to speak, period. This "disagree with the government" qualification is your own invention and has no basis in law.

        Copyright law is not part of the Constitution, so Congress has every right to change it as they see fit.

        Wrong again [wikipedia.org].

      • >People claim this is a First Amendment issue, but I can't see how. Free Speech isn't about publishing other people's works; it's about protecting people's right to disagree with the government.

        1. "publishing other people's works" - nope - if it's in the public domain it belongs to no one and everyone.

        2. "protecting people's right to disagree with the government." - if the public domain work is a screed of political speech and people are using that to criticise the government, then taking ownership and p

      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:28PM (#32656318) Homepage

        People claim this is a First Amendment issue, but I can't see how. Free Speech isn't about publishing other people's works; it's about protecting people's right to disagree with the government.

        Well that's just completely wrong. You are saying, for example, that if I wanted to stage a performance of Romeo and Juliet, which was wholly apolitical, the government could arbitrarily choose to shut me down, because I am not Shakespeare, and I am not criticizing them? That's absurd.

        The First Amendment protects speech, period. Political speech is of particular concern, but it protects artistic speech, commercial speech, etc. just as well. It also protects people when they repeat the speech of someone else, rather than create their own. We temporarily limit that last part with copyright, but the underlying right doesn't discriminate. That's why when copyright expires on a work, there is no affirmative grant to the public to use that work; instead the restriction is lifted, and the previously-dormant free speech right can finally be exercised.

        Copyright law is not part of the Constitution, so Congress has every right to change it as they see fit.

        Only within Constitutional bounds. And the Constitution does set some limits and requirements on what Congress may do.

    • "no particular legal reason to presume that once something is in the public domain, it can never be returned to being copyrighted."

      When some publisher type with enough money to grease the palms of the "Copyright Committee" in Congress for the rights to, say, Plato's Republic (although why some one would want the rights to that is beyond me, but just sayin') and then you come up with a really insanely great ((c) Apple Computer, Inc.) advertising campaign that uses passages from said work, well, you're screwed.

    • ... there is no particular legal reason to presume that once something is in the public domain, it can never be returned to being copyrighted.

      Sure there is. It says so right in the US Constitution: "... by securing, for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries".

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:48PM (#32655678) Homepage

    They all want to argue the First Amendment, like it's some Holy Scripture and they get bonus karma for it in a future life.

    Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution: "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."

    Taking things out of the public domain that were already there is the opposite of progressing Science and (the) useful Arts. That's the pertinent Constitutional issue, not some bullshit Amendment-of-last-resort argument.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      The problem of free speech is WHY that part of the Constitution is worded the way it is to begin with.

      One problem is that the SCOTUS has already rejected the idea that repeated retroactive term increases don't contradict the notion of "limited".

    • Not to mention that the concept of "limited" that Congress is operating under is just a farce. Current copyright terms are well in excess of a human lifetime - using the reasoning that Congress continues to put forth when extending terms, it's perfectly legal to permanently assign copyright since the U.S. won't last forever, thus making the new extended term a "limited" time. I'm quite sure that when the idea of copyright was put forth, it wasn't the intent to make society wait in excess of four generatio
  • I like that story. I think I'll own it.

    Seriously - this is about as far as you can get from "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" as you can get, taking from the public domain and making a private monopoly.

    Perhaps the argument would be that classically nobles and aristocrats funded science, so by funneling more monopolies and money engines to the super-elite, you might get more 'trickle down' arts and sciences. However, looking to corporations, the trend is for less actual science to get do

  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by citylivin (1250770) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:55PM (#32655826)

    Why bother following any laws anymore? So many unjust laws on the books it almost undermines the validity of any sane laws that are left.

  • by SunSpot505 (1356127) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @01:57PM (#32655844)
    Disney has already been doing this much more effectively for years. You would think that Mickey Mouse would be public domain, but every time he gets close to the public, there is a nice bill through congress that extends the expiration date. You can look at Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] for more on the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act", but it's hardly a surprise that corporations are attempting to circumvent limitations to IP ownership.

    What worries me the most is that, if Mickey can get his rat ass protected, what will Congress see fit to remove from the Public Domain, and just how much of a campaign donation does it take to do it?
  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @02:03PM (#32655946) Homepage Journal
    that patents and copyrights are harmful and detrimental ? and they are going towards intellectual feudalism ?
  • Supreme Court will overturn this.
  • I don't see a first amendment issue here. I find the notion of removing works from the public domain (for any reason) to be abhorrent, but the court is correct when it says there are no first amendment issues.

  • So, if the public domain is taken away from people who are using it in their business, isn't that a taking ? Since my company uses public domain videos, who do I apply to for money to compensate me ? (This would fit right in with recent Supreme Court rulings concerning takings.)

  • by TheABomb (180342) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:57PM (#32657412)

    No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

    I know the whole "for limited times" provision was held by the Supreme Court to mean "for unlimited time", but c'mon? What part of "No" don't they understand? For that matter, where is the "just compensation" without which "nor shall private property be taken for public use" according to the Fifth Amendment?

  • Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DrugCheese (266151) on Tuesday June 22, 2010 @03:58PM (#32657438)

    This is nothing less than theft. Once in the public domain, I own it. You own it, we all own it. It's literally stealing from everyone and giving to few.

Save the whales. Collect the whole set.

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