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What Could Have Been In the Public Domain Today, But Isn't 412

Posted by timothy
from the happy-new-year dept.
SgtChaireBourne writes "Many works published in 1955 would have entered the public domain this year. Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain has an overview of the movies, books, songs and historical works that are kept out of the public domain by changes to copyright law since 1978. Instead of seeing these enter the public domain in 2012, we will have to wait until 2051 before being able to use these works without restriction."
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What Could Have Been In the Public Domain Today, But Isn't

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  • by BeerCat (685972) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:34AM (#38556134) Homepage

    So... is the Study of the Public Domain itself in the public domain (through Creative Commons licencing), or is it copyright too?

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:36AM (#38556154) Homepage

      public domain (through Creative Commons licencing)

      Creative Commons isn't the public domain. The term "licencing" is enough to make it clear copyright applies, though CC tries to be generous.

      • by butalearner (1235200) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:11PM (#38556392)
        Check out Creative Commons Zero [creativecommons.org].
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:47PM (#38557412)

          No. ALL works are automatically under copyright under the laws of most countries. What CC0 does is attempt to waive the rights under copyright law permanently. It is not actually releasing it into the public domain. The result is _extremely_ similar but not exactly coextensive. The most telling difference is that if you read the information, they specifically state that you cannot mark PD material as being CC0 and you cannot mark CC0 material as PD.

          Personally, I think that groups that like CC should start challenging them in lawsuits. Just to cement their position in the law and take away a lot of the problems involving the uncertainty. Especially with CC0, because copyright law does not really contemplate people doing that (which should be pretty obvious when you realize who is actually writing those laws).

    • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:16PM (#38556418)
      You could not scroll down?

      "The Public Domain Day 2012 web pages by Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. "
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You could not scroll down?

        "The Public Domain Day 2012 web pages by Duke University's Center for the Study of the Public Domain are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. "

        Nobody cares about the IP of Duke's CSOPD. If they charged $9.99 for it on Amazon.com, it would get approximately three sales (and all those to people who would then blog about having paid money for it).

        OTOH, some of the works cited people *do* care about -- that's why the study cited them in the first place.

        Same is true with the Techdirt blog and others who say "look, my stuff is free, why isn't yours?". That's like a weekend golfer offering to let anyone see them play for free, and arguing he should ge

  • Brought to you by: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gsNO@SPAMovi.com> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:35AM (#38556142) Homepage

    The Sonny Bono copyright extension act, and the DMCA are brought to you be the same greedy evil fucks that are now serving up SOPA / Protect IP.

    Looks like the same Capitalism that ended Communism in the 90's will end Democracy in 2012!

    It's for your protection.

    Think of the children.

    Ugh!

    • by assertation (1255714) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:46AM (#38556222)

      Eh, maybe he was working out repressed jealously that no one would ever want to use his work.

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:51AM (#38556256)

      The Sonny Bono copyright extension act...

      At least that "tree hugger" checked out before he could do more damage to global progress. To paraphrase the lyrics to "George of the Jungle", (bite my ass copyright thugs): "...look out for that tree!"

    • by dbet (1607261) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:52AM (#38556258)
      Blame the people who keep electing them. Maybe it's you. Maybe it's people you know.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:04PM (#38556340)

        Well WHO THE HELL are we supposed to elect? when they are ALL GREEDY FUCKWITS!!!

        • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:17PM (#38556440)
          Start early, before the primaries. Then you might have a chance of getting a real person on the ballot. If you just show up late to vote and bitch, it is STILL your fault.
          • by bfandreas (603438)
            Honstly,the primaries would be a good moment to break out the old lantern and search for a honest man.
            Sadly, it's quite pointless..Spineless offers of easy answers for the punters is all I can see.
            The good thing about the primaries is you get to vote for the lesser of a couple of evils. Whereas later you basically only get to choose between two lesser evils.
            • by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:34PM (#38556562)
              Before... BEFORE... B 4

              When there are a hand full of people just starting out, find one you like. One not completely in the machine. Contact them, and offer help. Offer to set up the office network, and give desktop support. Offer to set up an Asterisk phone system. Offer to do a web page. Make a difference early when you still can.
              • by next_ghost (1868792) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:17PM (#38556782)
                It doesn't matter that they are not in the machine before elections. They will be five minutes after they say their inauguration pledge. Stop wasting time on looking for the non-existent perfect politician for the office and use that free time on making sure that those imperfect politicians who got elected do their job properly.
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:20PM (#38556798)

            Wow, you are so quick to blame everyone. So lets just say I bust my butt getting someone I agree with elected, and it actually works out somehow. Well, I can do this at most 2 times. I can get 1 out 100 senatorsand 1 out of 435 congressmen. What exactly is that going to get for me? Not much. So while I wait for hell to freeze over...I mean for enough other people to try to vote in agreeable candidates, my representives are sitting there in congress, and more than likely 1 of 2 things are going to happen. Either they are going to not play ball and get run out of town when the the donors they won't cozy up to pile all their money behind another candidate, or they are going to realize they like their job there in congress and learn to play nice with the donors just like the last guy I worked so hard to vote out.

            • If 10% of the people who bitch and do nothing suddenly showed up a precinct meetings for the primaries, they system would be rocked like never before. Sense less than .001% of the public actually get involved before the primary, you are actually bringing 10 thousand people with you, statistically.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:10PM (#38556384)

        There is no difference who gets elected, as long as companies can "donate" to politicians during their campaign, then they lobby and create laws as these companies want them to be.

        The only solution would be to forbid such donations and treat them as corruption, and all the elections to be sponsored only by the state equally for all the candidates that participate in the election.

        Also, any officials that come from big companies should be monitored for conflict of interests during their term and punished if they are proved to serve their company's interests instead of the state's.

        • by desdinova 216 (2000908) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:29PM (#38556514)
          But sadly that will never happen because the people who are affected by election rules make them.
        • by next_ghost (1868792) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:25PM (#38556828)

          That's pretty much how it works here in Czech republic. I'll let you in on a secret: It makes no difference.

          The only thing that can make a difference is people taking active part in politics in between elections. If you think that some "perfect" political system will do your hard work for you, you're looking in the wrong direction.

          • by shentino (1139071)

            I think the OWS protests getting shut down by cops only proves how desperate the elite are to keep their claws tightly gripped on their scepters of power.

            It's time for the ammo box.

      • by towermac (752159) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:00PM (#38557066)

        Bah. As we see from this latest primary, each candidate is destroyed in turn as the public begins to consider them. Apparently, our "choice" was Romney all along, and we'll get to "choose" between him and a guy I can't tell a difference from Bush. Well, except there were jobs in the first half of Bush at least.

        I love the gp's "capitalism" remark up there. People fall for that shit; that capitalism is some real thing. "Capitalism", is simply free people, and their money. Take away either freedom or money from the people, and that by definition destroys capitalism. That doesn't destroy the rich of course. Oh, you'll get a few; widows and others who didn't earn the money; you can soak them for 50% tax rates. But most of the rich are good with money, and you're not going to trick them out of it. Not with taxes or surcharges or estate taxes... There is a way to take the rich's money. Look to the French and Bolshevik revolutions for recent examples.

        TLDR, they killed them all, and their families. It was bad. Counterproductive for the working class you might say. Short of drastic shit like that, you're never going to take enough from the rich to satisfy you.

        The best thing for us working stiffs, is to get them to spend it. Generates taxes all along the way, opportunity is spread, wealth is spread, stuff is made, wealth is then created out of sunshine, dirt, and time... yada. Sure, suckers like you and I have to work for a tiny piece of it, by selling our labor; but it's been that way for 10,000 years at least, and we are not going to see the end of that. I work for someone richer than me, as do you (if you work) and the others here. When the working class is deprived of the opportunity to labor for the rich in relative freedom; well North Korea is a solid example. There are other, less extreme examples.

        What we finally have in this country, or are pretty close to, is a truly level playing field; where all it takes to be the rich and powerful, is the money itself. Gone are hereditary rulers, racial qualifications, whatever; all you need is the money. That's as fair as it gets. So stop with this class warfare crap.

        It is true that rich recently are not spending their money. They are hoarding it. Can't imagine a different outcome, when you threaten to raise taxes (a lot) for 3 years, but then never actually fucking raise taxes. I mean, what do you expect? At least if you had actually raised them; the rich would know how much they have to hide and what they can spend, and get on with things. But they're not spending crap right now; thus getting richer. Now, if you could do the opposite; raise taxes, but don't talk about taxes, and nobody really even notices you raised them, so they go on spending about the same as they did before... Well that would be best, wouldn't it?

        I loved the recent ads the Dems ran against tax cutters. They say: Reagan may have cut taxes twice; but he raised them nine times. I was there, and I felt that second tax cut in my minimum-wage paycheck. I never felt or even knew about the 9 increases. I don't remember him talking about that. Funny that, I remember: across the board tax cuts, closing loopholes for the rich, evil empire, jellybeans... Never a word about, 'I'm raising taxes nine times'...

        Brilliant! Fucking genius. So let me get this straight: You promise them something good, give them some pittance of deliverance on said promise; and then go do your fucking job, and do what you need to do to run the country. Without scaring anybody. Good job, Reagan.

        • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:46PM (#38560346) Journal

          But most of the rich are good with money, and you're not going to trick them out of it. Not with taxes or surcharges or estate taxes...

          Nonsense. You can tax the rich very easily. You just have to start by removing the need for every politician to be rich. As long as the politicians protect their own, you won't ever be able to tax the rich usefully. If there weren't so much money in politics, this wouldn't be as much of a problem.

          Once you have political bodies that are going for fairness instead of giving favors to the people who paid to get them elected, you can create a system of taxation in which there are damn near zero tax deductions. Allow a deduction for charitable donations. Allow a deduction for taxes paid at the state or local level. Tax all income at 40%, regardless of how that money was made—wages, tips, capital gains, whatever. You might also want to provide an exemption or lower tax rate for the first $30k of income, give or take. And then boom. You now have a tax system in which no one can avoid the tax.

          While you're at it, tax corporate distributions to and U.S. stock market gains by anyone who doesn't pay U.S. income tax, then eliminate all corporate income taxes. Set those taxes so that you make up for those people's portion of each corporation's income (on average), and make up the rest of the corporate income tax reduction by taxing the capital gains of U.S. investors at the same 40% as ordinary income.

          So you see, it's not hard at all to tax the rich fairly. What's hard is getting honest politicians in office who are wiling to make it happen. As the old joke went, a guy was walking through a cemetery and stumbled across a grave marker that read, "Here lies John Smith, a politician and an honest man." Upon reading it, the guy said, "Wow. Three people in one grave."

    • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:13PM (#38556410)

      "Looks like the same Capitalism that ended Communism in the 90's will end Democracy in 2012!"

      The American public are lazy slugs and deserve to suffer a lot more than they already do. If they haven't suffered enough to collectively wake up, add more suffering.

      Too bad for those of us who are awake and caught in the blast radius, but I understand WHY corporate interests fuck over stupid people. They are just too tempting a target and they don't exactly command respect.

      • by MountainLogic (92466) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:09PM (#38556738) Homepage
        The problem from corporate personhood is unlimited money in elections. The supreme court effectively killed campaign finance reform by declaring corporations as having free speech rights. In legal speak this is known as corporate personhood. There are a couple of very simple changes that can happen at the state level to put a leash on corporate influence in government:

        1) Change state corporation law giving for profit limited liability to companies that have full personhood. The argument the supreme court uses for defending corporate personhood is that the constitution supports "the the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” So you allow people the right of free association so long as they do not hide under the shield of limited liability. One weird bit of law in all states is that you can not usually sue the owners of a company. The company yes, the owners, no. If I buy shares in MegaEvilChemCorp and one of their factories blows up and kills half a city the worst that can happen to me is that MegaEvilChemCorp could go bankrupt and I'm out what I paid for the stock. Even though I am an owner of MegaEvilChemCorp no one can sue me or put me in jail for the damages MegaEvilChemCorp may do even if they blow up or poison half a state. The result of this is that no large company would be an unlimited liability company and they would not have personhood rights.

        2) Pass meaningful finance reform. $200 limit per person. Open up the books fully of any entity lobbying or campaigning. No PACS, no bundling, no "issue ads," no corporate or union money. (A union and corporate money ban needs to be bound together or it favors one side or the other).

        3) Allow corporations to do the right thing. In most states if you run a company and do anything other than maximize profits you can get sued by any share holder. There is a movement to create corporations that are allowed to take other consideration into account beyond just short term economic gain such as the environment and their community. See http://www.bcorporation.net/ [bcorporation.net] for more information. Very few companies are likely to do this in the near term, but lets at least allow the experiment for those who are interested in doing the right thing.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by julesh (229690)

          One weird bit of law in all states is that you can not usually sue the owners of a company. The company yes, the owners, no.

          That's not weird at all. It's practically necessary. The problem is that the owners of a company have little or no direct control over that company's actions. They merely provide the money that is used by the company's board to finance the company's operations, in exchange for which the company periodically pays them a dividend. The limit of their control over the company is that if enough of them agree they can hire and fire members of the board. They have no right to directly supervise the company's a

        • by shentino (1139071)

          I'd agree

          Corporate person hood just lets stockholders stay greedy and relatively insulated from the negative side effects of what their company is doing.

          When all you see are dividends, it's hard to care how you get them.

        • by julesh (229690) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:47PM (#38557410)

          3) Allow corporations to do the right thing. In most states if you run a company and do anything other than maximize profits you can get sued by any share holder.

          This notion is based on a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the fiduciary responsibility of the board of a company. You are not legally required to maximize profits. In general, the law does not involve itself in the minutiae of which decisions the directors should make. The requirements are simple:

          1. That they act in good faith towards the shareholders
          2. That they exercise reasonable care
          3. That they have a reasonable belief that the decisions they make are in the best interest of the company

          The "best interest of the company" is not solely maximizing profit, and courts will allow directors to make any decision that they have reasonable grounds for (e.g. improving public perception of the company), whether the decision is good or not.

          There are a few exceptions to this, but generally they only apply to companies in severe financial trouble where the directors should be anticipating that the company will be declared bankrupt in the near future (at which point they do, in some cases, have a strict duty to maximize profits, as for a company due to be wound up in the near future there are few other considerations that are in the interests of the company).

          Typically, directors are only successfully sued when they have acted fraudulently for personal gain or for gain of their associates at the expense of the shareholders.

          IANAL, but I have researched this in depth due to getting pissed off with the constant anti-corporate propaganda you get in places like this.

        • That really isn't the problem of corporate personhood, it's a problem of personal apathy. How much did you donate during the last election? Probably none.

          Look at what happened in Obama's election campaign......he made over half a billion from individual donors. That is not easy for corporations to match. In politics, the reason corporations have so much power is because people complain about money, but they don't care enough to actually donate to the person of their choice. Corporations win because of apa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's not Capitalism. Capitalism is about equality of opportunity like Socialism and Communism are about equality of results. What we currently have is more along the lines of selling two flavors of lies about equality for an office and then selling that office for cash.
    • by darjen (879890) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @03:13PM (#38557584)

      1. Capitalism did not end communism. Communism collapsed under its own weight, because central planning is inherently unstable as a means of organizing society's productive capacity.

      2. Copyright laws are entirely a creation of government, not capitalism. Our democratically elected congress people are the ones who extended length of copyright.

      • by jamstar7 (694492)

        1. Capitalism did not end communism. Communism collapsed under its own weight, because central planning is inherently unstable as a means of organizing society's productive capacity.

        Funny you should say that, as corporations under Capitalism do central planning each and every day. Without a plan, they go belly up.

        The problem with 'central planning' comes when there's no negative feedback loop to the 'device', letting the upper levels know when there are problems that need to be addressed.

        It still kills m

  • Not by 2051 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:37AM (#38556158)
    By 2051 the Multinational corporate conglomerates that hold the rights will have paid the politicians and courts to extended it to 3051 or perpetuity. That is if we make it through 2012 first!
    • Re:Not by 2051 (Score:5, Informative)

      by six025 (714064) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:30PM (#38556528)

      By 2051 the Multinational corporate conglomerates that hold the rights will have paid the politicians and courts to extended it to 3051 or perpetuity. That is if we make it through 2012 first!

      While I don't agree with our culture being ruined by greed and believe sane copyright laws would benefit everyone, there is a very good reason the corporations are continuing to fight for copyright extension - and presumably won't stop until perpetual copyright is granted. Obviously, that reason is profit. Let's look at Happy Birthday To You as an example. From the Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org]:

      in 2008, Warner collected about $5000 per day ($2 million per year) in royalties for the song.

      A corporations only goal is to make profit. As we have witnessed time and time again, the corporation does not care how profit is created, human or cultural concerns are not part of the equation. It would be a failure of corporate duty to give up $2 million a year without a serious fight.

      Peace,
      Andy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:41AM (#38556182)

    James Joyce's works are now freely available to everyone. [irishtimes.com]

    An interesting thing I noted is that the Irish and UK copyright terms used to be limited to 50, but were changed to 70 to match the Germans.

    • by marcello_dl (667940) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:29PM (#38556516) Homepage Journal

      > James Joyce's works are now freely available to everyone

      So even the expiring of copyrighted works has its drawbacks. Interesting.

      • by bfandreas (603438)
        Honestly, looking for national differences in the western world is an exercise in futility. We all suffer from the same ailments.
        RE: James Joyce. Me literature teacher back in school told me of a friend of his who picked up Ulysses with the goal to understand it. He went mad over it. That scared me into Computer Sciences even though I'd rather have studied history or English or French or German literature.
        As a direct result I never read anything Joyce, Döblin, Ibsen or Zola. But I did read Burroughs.
  • Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:41AM (#38556184)
    I find it a bit ironic that media and publishing companies call copyright violations "theft" after having this put in place. In my opinion they are holding our literary and cultural history hostage.
    • Re:Theft (Score:5, Interesting)

      by KiloByte (825081) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:11PM (#38556398)

      Many folks call copyright (rather than copyright violations) "theft", but I'd go farther. Being a form of censorship, it is a crime against humanity.

      A mere war against lives is limited in scope. With free dissemination of ideas, oppressive regimes don't last long -- note how the first thing they try is blocking communication among protesters and jailing of authors/journalists/etc who dare to voice something that opposes the regime in question. War on culture has effects that last forever. Books burned don't come back.

      Imagine a guy in, say, 400BC, who took a spray^H^H^H^H^Hbucket of paint and wrote something on a wall. Like everyone else born during the next 2300 years, his life is gone. Yet a part of him lives on. Culture has the potential to last forever.

      Copyright, by massively hampering culture, is the very worst thing we have.

      • Re:Theft (Score:5, Informative)

        by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:03PM (#38556710)

        Many folks call copyright (rather than copyright violations) "theft", but I'd go farther. Being a form of censorship, it is a crime against humanity.

        I absolutely agreed with you regarding copyright law today. There is no reason to restrict works for nearly a century. It is a horrible abuse of power. And I also agree that even a much more limited copyright length (like the 14 years originally granted by the first U.S. act in 1790, with a possible 14 year extension) might need to be significantly reformed to deal with the new technologies today.

        However, that's not the reason copyright existed originally. Look into the history. I mean the really early history, long before the Statute of Anne in 1709.

        If you look at printing in the late 1400s and early 1500s, when copyrights were first granted, there was a real problem. Publishers at that time were really trying to disseminate knowledge for the first time in a big way. Before that, copying of books required actually scribes to write every copy, which was of course very expensive and time-consuming.

        But around this time, many Italian scholars were rediscovering ancient works and coming up with their own works based on those models (and extending them), something commonly referred to as the Renaissance. This diffusion of knowledge was made possible in a large part by the publication of books. Translators worked hard to release editions of these ancient sources of knowledge, and publishers wanted to invest in a printing run.

        But why should the translator and the publisher spend so much time and money when a month later a rival press could just take the text and republish it? The first copyrights were granted in Italian cities to promote the diffusion of knowledge: they encouraged authors and printers to take the time and make an investment to produce quality books. Yes, believe it or not, we have plenty of records stating that this was the purpose: rulers and councils in many Italian cities actually funded and promoted the culture of learning that was happening in the early Renaissance. And the terms generally lasted anywhere from a couple years to 10 years, only enough time for a publisher to sell off the stock from a first print run.

        That's why copyright came into existence, and it may very well have contributed to the preservation of lots of knowledge from a time when publication was still such an expensive endeavor that high quality publications needed to be encouraged.

        Granted, many evil things happened over the years since then. Rulers tried to suppress writings by only authorizing publication from certain publishers who wouldn't publish treasonous or seditious materials, etc. Those "copyrights" are hardly the same idea. But finally in 1709 in England, the Statute of Anne established a 7-year term for authors rather than publishers, and the idea was still to allow a short time to recoup the time and costs invested by someone writing a high-quality book.

        Copyright is no longer like this. It is a travesty today. But until recent years, when reproduction costs became essentially nil for many types of media, it did serve a useful purpose. And in the early days, it truly helped disseminate important knowledge that arguably led to major historical advances.

  • I doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:41AM (#38556186) Homepage Journal
    Barring a sea change in Congress' perception of copyright, we'll get another Mickey Mouse Protection Act by 2051. Remember, the Supreme Court already gave Congress permission to continue extending copyright indefinitely.
    • by Yvan256 (722131) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:59AM (#38556304) Homepage Journal

      That's alright, though. Hollywood and the rest are decreasing the quality of most of their works so fast that by 2051 nobody will even bother pirating their stuff anymore.

  • by DERoss (1919496) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:43AM (#38556208)

    U.S. Constitution, Article I, 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; "

    I believe in the benefits of copyrights. Most of my Web pages are copyrighted. However, the current state of intellectual law is unacceptable. Extending copyright coverage to 90 years (Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998) violates the concept of "limited Times". The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) stifles innovation instead of promoting it. And the primary beneficiaries of these laws are not "Authors and Inventors" but corporate publishers, movie studios, and record companies who reap the bounty of others' creativity. If you agree that this situation is intolerable, tell your representatives and senators in Congress.

    I copied the above paragraph from one of my own copyrighted Web pages (with a slight modification in the second sentence). I hereby grant to the public the right to quote that paragraph at will, in all contexts, and in all media.

    • by vlm (69642)

      And the primary beneficiaries of these laws are not "Authors and Inventors" but corporate publishers, movie studios, and record companies who reap the bounty of others' creativity.

      Please be careful, a law change forbidding corporate copyright while preserving personal copyright would not necessarily help the public, although it would probably make lawyers richer.

      Maybe... make copyright non-transferable under any condition other than heirs (and make adopting a corporation as a heir/child illegal)

      A world of non-transferable personal copyright, patent, etc, would be interesting. Maybe not ideal, but interesting to think about. Imagine trying to get an entire orchestra to agree on a li

      • by houghi (78078)

        Easy way out is a limited time of 10 years. If you want to sell your sole and copyright to the MAFIAA, please do so.

        If you don't make enough money from it in 10 years, then perhaps others can do good with it and build on it.

    • by Tokolosh (1256448) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:23PM (#38556484)

      Assuming (big assumption) that Congress seeks to maximize "the Progress of Science and useful Arts", then the optimal "limited Times" must be determined, to seek a balance between rewards for authors and inventors, and benefit to society.

      One week of copyright is not much incentive to an author. 100 years is not much benefit to society. I think 14 years is about the optimum, but have no data to prove this. However, it cannot be too difficult to determine the optimum, at least to within 5 years.

      The current situation is primarily for the benefit of the authors, with promotion of progress only a secondary by-product. As such, current copyright law is unconstitutional.

      • by cpt kangarooski (3773) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:47PM (#38556638) Homepage

        One week of copyright is not much incentive to an author.

        Depends on the work. A week is more than enough time for a daily newspaper, given that each issue will make most of the money it will ever make within mere hours of publication, and then be so much birdcage liner and fish wrapper.

        If you're looking for data, I would suggest taking a look at the work of Rufus Pollock [rufuspollock.org], who has been looking at this. I admit that the math is over my head, but this is really the sort of thing we need to be doing (perhaps also broken up by type of work -- the ideal term for a movie may be different from the ideal term for a computer program, and there's no reason at all why we need a one-size-fits-all term length).

  • by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:49AM (#38556248)

    It seems to be a greedy boomers thing, it will be interesting to see when all the boomers are gone if their "stuff" will be free. Last time I suggested no one under 50 listens to the Beetles so it doesn't matter anyway, I got mercilessly flamed, so I'll refrain from that form of trolling.
    My guess is we'll have a new law for greedy-Xers such that everything post 1970 will remain in "perpetual" copyright but everything older will be free. An interesting area of discussion would be transitional era. I'm thinking Scooby Doo and Black Sabbath Paranoid are going to be soundly copyrighted as X-er fodder, but what about Led Zepplin, or the Bee Gees, I'm thinking those two would become free as boomer fodder.
    Then once the last of the X-ers die off, everything up to roughly Jason Beiber will probably become free, etc.

    This inspired by a recent XKCD implying that christmas music has been "hostage" to boomer childhood sensibilities for some decades now, and a radio christmas music playlist transition in the near future appears inevitable, assuming broadcast radio survives as an industry long enough for the transition to happen.

    • Re:greedy boomers? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bfandreas (603438) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:36PM (#38556580)
      I always thought I was the only one with a deep feeling of resention for the Baby Boomers. Could we please get rid of that particularly horrid generation of selfish bastards and their Xer collaborators? The whole western world is paying off their debt they amassed with their Greed is Good philosophy. Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20 yet theirs only goes as far as the tip of their nose.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:54AM (#38556270)

    2011 was the year super-injunctions were beaten in the UK. Previously, in the UK if you were rich, you could get a super-injunction to stop the media publishing stories about the fact that you cheated on your wife etc. In 2011 that was broken by the fact that 70,000+ people on Twitter decided that they weren't going to abide by it. The law simply can't prosecute 70,000+ semi-anonymous people on the internet.

    How about a mass movement to respect the pre-1978 copyright law, but ignore the subsequent changes? Or another line in the sand could be drawn on international lines with the Universal Copyright Convention or the Berne Convention.

    Have a lare number of web-sites and/or torrent sites with this material, and only this material.

    Established torrent sites aren't the answer, because whilst they do contain some of this material, the also have lots of material that morally should still be copyrighted. Such as last years movies.

    • by CanEHdian (1098955) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:16PM (#38556424)

      How about a mass movement to respect the pre-1978 copyright law, but ignore the subsequent changes? Or another line in the sand could be drawn on international lines with the Universal Copyright Convention or the Berne Convention.

      Have a lare number of web-sites and/or torrent sites with this material, and only this material.

      The Berne Convention of the 1880s is where all this crazyness about 'copyright for life + another generation' started.

      A couple of professors in a lab with a large team of students come up with an invention - they get 20 years, after which it becomes public domain. And that's all working out fine, given the number of new patented inventions. Why should this be any different for creators? Are they somehow 1st Class Humans and inventors are 2nd Class?

      Yes please, bring those servers up, but use 20 years.

      • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:41PM (#38556606)

        A couple of professors in a lab with a large team of students come up with an invention - they get 20 years, after which it becomes public domain. And that's all working out fine, given the number of new patented inventions. Why should this be any different for creators? Are they somehow 1st Class Humans and inventors are 2nd Class?

        Authors have a difficult enough time earning a living as it is. I wouldn't support taking their income away during their lifetimes.

        Movies on the other hand are made by corporations, and they have enough of them making money in the first few years to make handsome profits. They don't need such long term copyrights.

        So perhaps the answer isn't making all copyrights the same length as patents, but rather to differentiate between different art forms.

  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:59AM (#38556302)

    Say if you want to keep your copyright after X years pay X fee. That way Mickey Mouse can say out of the PD as long as the fee is payed. But other stuff and abandonware can go free. Also make it pre work or at least some way to stop places buying up lot's of old corporate conglomerates and clamming copyright to lot's of old works with out proof and may it that they have to use / offer the work for sale. The down side of copyrights is dead works and a copyright extension fee / or tax will help fix that.

    • by shess (31691) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:09PM (#38556378) Homepage

      The fee should have an N^2 or 2^N or N! factor, where N is the number of years since expiration.

      • by swillden (191260)

        The fee should have an N^2 or 2^N or N! factor, where N is the number of years since expiration.

        Meh. That might be satisfying, but it's unlikely to be enacted, and it's not necessary to solve the dead works problem.

    • by swillden (191260)

      +1

      The fee doesn't really even need to be large. You could probably achieve the same results with no fee at all, actually, just a periodic re-registration requirement. The key is to ensure that the copyright holder still knows and cares about the work, and that others who are interested in doing something with the work can identify the owner.

    • by houghi (78078) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:25PM (#38556498)

      This would benefit the companies and hurt the individual. Mickey will be in copyright forever, while my fantastic great book I have just written won't be. Then that will be turned into a Disney production, because it is in public domain.

      That will then be copyrighted. They have done so with several stories already. The only difference is the fee. The rest would not make any difference.

      And you can be damn sure that there will be a group discount and it will be tax deductible and so many other rules that they will pay less for all their copyrights then you will do for just one.

      Just make it a max of 10 years. That would mean no need to change anything, except the number of years. If grand-dad dies the day after he wrote his book, I have 10 years to collect on it. If he dies the before, I have 1 day.

      Artists can start playing their own music after 10 years f they had problems with their publisher. They can even use their own name again. (Who? Prince! That skinny MF with the high voice.)

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:42PM (#38556616) Homepage

      Say if you want to keep your copyright after X years pay X fee.

      While that would be a nice trick to get a lot of today abandoned stuff into the public domain, I really don't like the idea in the long run, as it would mean that all the big cooperations simply let their lawyers handle things and get copyright protection for as long as the law allows, while the stuff of the little guy will slip into public domain against their will.

      I think a much better solution to copyright would be staged copyright, i.e. 15 years of copyright as is, after that another 15 years where the work is free-for-non-commecial-use, then full public domain.

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:07PM (#38556362)
    If after say 30-40 years from the date of copyright, the material is no longer available for purchase to the common man (Easy to do via digital distribution for movies/songs/etc atleast), the copyright is declared invalid?
    • by grumbel (592662)

      That could lead to situations where a publisher simply refuses to publish a work to avoid paying the author any royalties, i.e. way pay now when you can get the thing for free a few years down the road? I'd like that solution better if it would be limited to non-commercial use and only allowed commercial use until regular copyright expired (which a shorter overall copyright term of course).

  • by bfandreas (603438) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:19PM (#38556454)
    The city Alexandria at the time did reputedly the following.
    If you entered the harbour you were asked if you had any scrolls with you. If you had then you were to hand the over so they could copy them for the Great Library.Chances were you'd get back the copy. I don't know if that particular anecdote is true but it is one that makes perfect sense. That's how important knowledge was to them. If you could read it you could access it. Copy it. Teach it. Available knowledge was part of Alexandrias wealth.
    When the Great Library burned down it was one of the greatest losses to humanity I can ever imagine.
    Now most of us can read it but only as far as the rights as granted by the copyright holders allow.
    Not letting things enter Public Domain is a catastrophy that is akin to the fire in the Great Library. How many works have been forgotten due to nobody really knowing who holds the rights or because it isn't profitable to publish it?
    Wasn't Return of the King first widely published in the 70ies? At least that's when the great craze started.
    We burnt Savonarola, could we please do the same to those clowns who actively steal from our civilisation? I find that particular notion heartwarming.
  • by advocate_one (662832) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:25PM (#38556488)
    the extended copyright terms should ONLY have applied to works FIRST registered after 1978 (the date of effect of the bill) and nothing registered prior to that... Imagine the howls of protest if they passed a bill that retroactively extended the sentences of people already convicted of crimes or retroactively extended back a change in tax rate to cover years of income for which you've already paid taxes on? Surely that 1978 bill was unconstitutional in the first place as it was retroactive in effect?
  • 28 Years Later (Score:5, Informative)

    by bfree (113420) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:48PM (#38556646)
    TFA talks about the pre-1978 law and how these would have still fallen out of copyright had they not applied for extensions, but I prefer to simply think about the scenario where copyright had stayed at 28 years (or less) and there was no option to extend it beyond that.

    Released in 1983

    Film [wikipedia.org]

    • Flashdance
    • Jaws 3D
    • Mickey's Christmas Carol
    • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life
    • Never Say Never Again
    • Octopussy
    • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
    • Staying Alive
    • Superman III
    • Terms of Endearment
    • Trading Places
    • WarGames

    Literature [wikipedia.org]

    • Isaac Asimov - The Robots of Dawn
    • Jackie Collins - Hollywood Wives
    • Roald Dahl - The Witches
    • Stephen King - Christine
    • Terry Pratchett - The Colour of Magic

    Music [wikipedia.org]

    • Let's Dance - David Bowie
    • Europe - Europe
    • Sweat Dreams - Eurythmics
    • Genesis - Genesis
    • An Innocent Man - Billy Joel
    • Rebel Yell - Billy Idol
    • Madness - Madness
    • Madonna - Madonna
    • Under a Blood Red Sky - U2
    • Who's Greatest Hits - The Who
    • "Weird Al" Yankovic - "Weird Al" Yankovic

    TV [wikipedia.org]

    • final episode of M*A*S*H
    • Debut of Fraggle Rock
    • music video for "Thriller"
    • The Black Adder

    Obviously the above list is far from comprehensive and biased by the idiot who plucked thoe above from the various lists, but I'm sure you get the idea. You might also notice I was slightly biased towards early (and final) works of an artist/series as I wonder how many of these might have seen a renewed interest in the rest of their catalogue now if these initial works were entering the Public Domain.

  • 2051? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:07PM (#38556734)
    Bull. Nothing will ever be allowed to enter the public domain again.
  • by kyrio (1091003) <slashdot&lurkmore,com> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:37PM (#38556904) Homepage
    Choose to not give a fuck about copyright, or use those works that should be in the public domain and don't give a fuck about anyone else's hangups.
  • by tchdab1 (164848) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:40PM (#38556924) Homepage

    Has anyone ever advanced the argument that reducing the time a work is "protected" by IP might actually increase productivity, as creators have to produce new works to make up for works that pass into the public domain?
    There are writers alive today who wrote and published in 1955.
    Just wondering.

  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:36PM (#38558052) Journal

    The center laments that works published in 1955 aren't being released. But in fact, the public domain won't expand at all, except through explicit renunciation of copyright.

    Here's why.

    Works published before 1923 are in the public domain.
    Works published between 1923 and 1963, provided that the copyright has been renewed, are copyrighted until 95 years after publication-- 2018 at a minimum.

    You might expect that the works of Virginia Woolf, for example, would be freed from copyright,as it has been 70 years since her death in 1941. But her post 1923 works [wikisource.org] will not enter the public domain until 2019. Provided, of course, that the copyright terms are not further extended in to the far future.

  • by TaleSpinner (96034) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @08:58PM (#38559808)

    > we will have to wait until 2051 before being able to use these works without restriction

    Don't even think it. Every time Mickey Mouse approaches public domainhood, Disney lays more money on Congress and gets an extension, and they will certainly continue to do so, and Congress is certain to continue to do so. Copyrights are effectively permanent. That's what Eldredge was all about.

  • by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @09:10PM (#38559894)

    True, many of the treasures of 20th century culture are locked up behind copyrights, and will remain so for decades to come. But 21st century? Not as much. So many things are already being given away. Linux? No problem, you're already free to use it, share it, and create distributed works from it. Millions of people are doing so, and society benefits enormously. Wikipedia? In a different age, that would have been a company's crown jewels, something to be tightly controlled, but instead it's given away for free (both in terms of money and freedom). Countless software products, books, audio recordings, data collections, and other works are being given away under open licenses, and that trend is likely to keep growing with time. Companies are starting to open source their products because it's the only way they can compete with the existing open products.

    If you believe copyright law is messed up and hurts society, the single best thing you can do is create things and give them away under open licenses. The more that is available without unreasonable restrictions, the less valuable the restricted works become.

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