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

    by kurt555gs (309278) <kurt555gs@ovi.cSLACKWAREom minus distro> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:35AM (#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!

  • Not by 2051 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:37AM (#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!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:41AM (#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.

  • Theft (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:41AM (#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.
  • I doubt it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:41AM (#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 dbet (1607261) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:52AM (#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 @11:04AM (#38556340)

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

  • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:07AM (#38556368) Homepage Journal

    Are people being jealous of fat useless leach members of "estates"? Let them have their dubious castles and kitschy art collections at the expense of fools who still pay for this old crap.

    Nothing of value was lost?

    What about all of the old celluloid films which are disintegrating but can't be copied to preserve them because their copyright ownership is cloudy?

    The problem isn't people who are actively profiting from old works. The problem is old works that are locked up to the benefit of none and the detriment of all.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:10AM (#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 couchslug (175151) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:13AM (#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 houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:17AM (#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 Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:25AM (#38556492)
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — 1 stone.
  • by desdinova 216 (2000908) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:29AM (#38556514)
    But sadly that will never happen because the people who are affected by election rules make them.
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:41AM (#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 grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:42AM (#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 fooslacker (961470) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @11:48AM (#38556644)
    We yearn because this is about _OTHERS_ who sold their work to _NOBODY_. A company is not somebody it's a legal entity designed to restrict liability of individuals for harm they may cause and collect and pool capital investments in an efficient manner. Unlike an author who has a death, an obvious point in time around which which his rights and the good of society can be balanced a company can go on indefinitely and has a inherent disregard for any concerns which don't directly affect short or long-term profitability. The idea that a corporation can own intellectual property without an intellect is not beneficial to our advancement as a species. I've got not problem if the author wants to restrict his/her work for as long as he/she lives. But after they are gone a company shouldn't be able to hold something they didn't create and milk profit in perpetuity. We're talking copyright of artistic works today and that's disturbing enough but when the same concepts and legal tactics bleed into more other areas that affect quality of life and advancement it can be even more damaging.
  • 2051? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:07PM (#38556734)
    Bull. Nothing will ever be allowed to enter the public domain again.
  • by MountainLogic (92466) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:09PM (#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.

  • by SlippyToad (240532) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:15PM (#38556772)

    And what prevents Disney from creating more Mickey Mouse cartoons is that they have no incentive to be creative anymore since no one alive today at Disney was involved in those early cartoons, no one today had to do anything particularly creative to succeed at Disney.

    Consider that Disney's only films of note for the last 20 years have been Pixar movies, and that virtually every other thing they've done has been completely forgettable? Of course the irony is Disney's major successes after Mickey Mouse and crew were almost all public domain fairy tales. No, there is not a lot of creativity going on at Disney anymore. This is what happens when you can milk a dead teat.

    I won't go into the eventual disappearance of Mickey Mouse from popular culture as the generations that grew up with a living creator of the art around pass away. The drivel that Disney puts out now as original material, aside from the Pixar stuff, is eminently forgettable. They're digging their own grave as an organization by creating a scenario where they can perpetually rest on their laurels.

  • by next_ghost (1868792) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:17PM (#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 Ramin_HAL9001 (1677134) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:22PM (#38556808)

    Interestingly, Mitt Romney would have made a good Republican candidate, but he's a Mormon, so the more common Christian conservatives just don't like him.

    I just LOVE the karma of it all. So the Republicans sell their soul and suck up to the immovable religious fundamentalists to get votes and win elections, only to find that the guy that could have led them to victory over their most hated president Obama is NOT electable because those same immovable fundamentalists don't like Romney because he is the wrong kind of Christian.

    That is truly poetic justice.

  • by The Mighty Buzzard (878441) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:24PM (#38556824)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:39PM (#38556922)

    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 get the same deal with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:51PM (#38557006) Homepage Journal

    Right, because not being able to make your own Mickey Mouse cartoons is a giant threat to democracy. Keep things in perspective people.

    How about this for perspective: Copyright laws are a government-enforced monopoly. The compensation to the public for granting that monopoly is after providing monopoly-based profit opportunities for the creator, the monopoly ends and the works are available to everyone to use for creating new work. So it's like a mortgage. Payments for 30 years means you own the house and the payments end. This is like the government deciding that you EXISTING mortgage (remember, the agreement for those works already existed) will instead last 60 years, and you don't get to own your house until then. Who profits? Banks.

    This is the same situation. The government has STOLEN those works from the American people, and told the profit-earners that they can continue to receive payment for another 40 years. That could be billions or even trillions of dollars redistributed from the poor and working class to the wealthy.

  • Re:I doubt it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:56PM (#38557038)

    There's probably a strong correlation. What incentive do they have for making new and original stuff if they can keep on flogging the old stuff in perpetuity?

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:57PM (#38557046) Homepage

    No. Most republicans are xenophobes. The "base" of the party are the kind of people that tell each other anti-Mormon propaganda during sunday school.

    Been there. Been subjected to that.

    A few Roosevelt republicans might be left but they have far too little influence (especially in primaries).

  • by martyros (588782) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:26PM (#38557262)

    Of course the irony is Disney's major successes after Mickey Mouse and crew were almost all public domain fairy tales.

    And even more ironically, under today's laws, some of those would still have been under copyright by the time the movies were made. Lewis Carrol died in 1898, so his estate would hold have held the copyright until 1968 -- 17 years after Disney made the film in 1951.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:34PM (#38557318) Homepage

    If you include the Copyright marking... Copyright $YEAR_LIST $AUTHOR_LIST
    Otherwise, copyright law can not apply.

    False. The Copyright Act of 1976 eliminated any need to place a copyright notice.

    The 1976 law changed it so that anything you write down is automatically copyrighted, the instant you write it. You can scribble your grocery shopping list on a napkin, milk+eggs+etc+etc+etc, toss it in the garbage, and you have a legally enforcible copyright on it. If someone digs that napkin out of the county garbage dump and publishes it, you can sue him for copyright infringement. And win.

    How am I to know its protections haven't expired yet?

    Congress said "tough shit, screw you, deal with it".

    Dredging up some tamper-proof proof it wasn't created long ago is harder to do than you might think.

    Congress said "tough shit, screw you, deal with it".

    Much like the US Constitution provides us the concept of "Innocent until proven guilty", I assume all works are Copyable unless proven protected.

    You can assume anything you like. Under copyright law that is going to qualify as willful infringement and you are going to get smacked with up to $150,000 per infringed work, or actual damages if they are higher, plus you're almost certain to going to get hit for the other side's legal fees.

    Lets see if I can make the law even more clear to you. There is a legal term called "innocent infringer". An innocent infringer is when you have good reason to believe you are not infringing copyright. Innocent infringer is when someone hand you something and either they inform you that it is public domain, or perhaps they tell you that they are the copyright owner and that they are granting you permission to copy it. Except it turns out that person lied to you. As an innocent infringer, the law recognizes that you did nothing wrong. And because the law recognizes that you did nothing wrong the law has a special clause to address that situation. Because you are completely innocent, the law states that the court may lower the damages against to the range $200-to-$30,000 per work you infringed. And there is no "innocent until proven guilty" here. The legal burden is upon you to prove your "innocent infringer" status.

    Note that a single webpage could easily count as 50 copyrighted works, counting each icon and other element. That would mean, once you prove in court your innocent infringer status, the law mandates damages between $10,000 and $6,000,000 for your single webpage. Even though you did nothing wrong. Under the law you did violate the copyright, and because you did it "innocently" the minimum damages are lowered to $200 per infringement.

    In case I haven't mentioned it before, Congress said "tough shit, screw you, deal with it".

    If you don't like it, if you think that is evil or insane, I don't disagree. Your problem isn't with me, your problem is with the asshats in congress. In particular the problem is that our copyright bills are literally written by lawyers employed by the copyright industry. The asshats in congress pass those bills into law with little or no modification.

    I have barely even begun to describe how insane the law actually is. Just to cite one more of many example, a sneaky redefinition was slipped into the 1997 NET Act. It redefined "financial gain" to cover a huge range on entirely non-commercial activities. In particular it was redefined such that it encompasses virtually any P2P infringement. Any such infringement is then technically swept under the criminal copyright provisions. Criminal laws that were originally intended to target commercial piracy operations. If you have ever used P2P, it is effectively certain that you are technically guilty of criminal copyright infringement, a felony with a federal prison sentence of up to five years in prison. Virtually ev

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:46PM (#38557404)
    To be fair, I think most men are uncomfortable with the idea of being held responsible for the actions of their wives ;-) Mary can burn in her own hell, based on her merits.
  • by julesh (229690) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @01:56PM (#38557490)

    Consider that Disney's only films of note for the last 20 years have been Pixar movies, and that virtually every other thing they've done has been completely forgettable?

    Pirates of the Caribbean. Tangled. National Treasure. Chronicles of Narnia. Lilo & Stitch. James & The Giant Peach. Pocahontas. The Lion King. Cool Runnings. Aladdin.

    No, clearly you're right. Disney haven't made any memorable films in the last 20 years except through Pixar. I'm imagining the ones I listed above.

  • by darjen (879890) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:13PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @02:58PM (#38557826)

    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.

    No, it proves how OWS protesters are shallow, clueless, and selfish fucks that don't give a damn about anyone or anything except their own entitlement mentality that demands others work to support them and their inflated sense of self-importance and delusions that they in any way represent the "99%". They sure as hell don't give a damn about all the small businesses they damage and working-stiff commuters they delay and the costs to taxpayers to clean up after their drug-fueled drum circles and tent-orgies.

    It might be different if they actually had any real clues and offered up some workable, practical solutions that had some chance of actually accomplishing something good, rather than shout class warfare slogans and anti-Semitic bigoted screeds against Jews and in favor of socialism/communism, while mistakenly blaming capitalism for a too-large and corrupt government.

    Pepper spray? Ha! Should be more like mounted riot police, fire hoses, tear gas, batons, rubber bullets/beanbags, and police dogs.

    Followed by jail time for those clueless, lazy, self-indulgent, spoiled, and useless drug-addled OWS navel-gazers.

    Mod me down to infinity minus one, but it won't change the fact that what I posted here is how the majority of people feel. OWS has become a bad joke that's been way over-played. Much like the politicians who back OWS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:18PM (#38559166)

    Yeah!

    Bill Gates worked hard to become rich! ..wait, wasn't his family rich anyway? They did pay a small fortune to keep his arse out of jail when he was caught using CPU time at university to compile software. I guess that would apply to anybody who's poor, too - if you can afford it, you don't get a date in court.

    But that really means there are two laws - one for the rich who can afford to buy their way out of legal trouble, and one for the poor, who can't. That'd sum America up nicely. Be lucky, make a few million, no law is an obstruction for you, just grease the right palms, pay the right groups, and you'll get your way. Anybody can do that! I mean, everybody CAN be rich, right? It's only because everyone's lazy that there are a few rich and so many poor.

    It's not like one particular group of rich fucks decided that other countries needed to implement draconian copyright laws as part of a trade treaty with the US while ignoring the wishes of the population of that other country, is it? That would be incredibly anti-democratic. In fact, given the warped definition of communism used by many (more accurately referred to as totalitarian), that would be communist action, where the influential can do what they like, and everyone else has to suck it up and make those people richer and more powerful.

    Oh dear, it looks like there are two laws, doesn't it? It also looks like the modern US is quite the hypocrite. JUSTICE FOR ALL WHO CAN AFFORD IT, where justice is defined by the number of lobby groups you can hire.

    Yeah, definitely nothing to be pointed out by lazy entitled poor people. There's no such thing as a lazy entitled rich person. Why, for something like that you would almost need to be like New Zealand where the rich gave tax cuts to all and then hiked up sales tax to cover it, meaning a net loss for the majority of the population.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @06:41PM (#38559336) Journal

    Because you have people like a friend of mine who'll give plenty of lip service about how both parties are screwing us over - yadda yadda yadda, but come election day, she votes Republican - the incumbent - instead of a third party candidate because she can't stand the thought of a Democrat winning. I do point out to her that in Georgia, USA, Democrats have a very hard time getting elected and voting third party isn't "throwing her vote away."

    The problem is that in most parts of the country, we don't have even have a real second party to choose, much less an acceptable third. The opposing major party never fields any competent challengers, and the third parties are almost invariably even farther out than that.

    I was all set to vote against Feinstein because she completely ignored my letters and those of countless other Silicon Valley folks who expressed our opinions on a number of laws similar to SOPA in past years. I even voted (as a registered independent) in the Republican primary to try to get somebody electable to unseat her.

    What happened? The non-independent Republicans in California picked the one candidate on the ticket who I could never even consider electing—Carly Fiorina, a deposed former leader of HP who is so clueless about technology and business that she nearly bankrupted one of the largest tech companies in the Silicon Valley. She is quite possibly the only candidate on the entire Republican ticket who I could confidently say would have even less clue about laws like SOPA than Feinstein.

    And this is why nothing ever changes. Instead of being intelligent voters who vote during the primaries for the candidate who is the closest to center, members of both parties choose the candidate that most closely resembles their highly partisan beliefs, thus ensuring that no members of the other party can possibly even consider crossing party lines to vote for their chosen candidate. Combine this with gerrymandering, and you have an electoral system that all but guarantees that no seats ever change hands.

    Want to change things? Vote for the most centrist candidate you can choose—the least ideological candidate you can possibly choose—in the hopes that maybe that candidate will be palatable enough to voters in the opposing party to get elected. This is provably the only feasible way to ever actually get anyone sane to "vote for the other guy".

    As for voting for a third party, that only makes sense if the third party stands a chance. The right way to handle third parties (in the absence of a more sensible voting scheme) is this: whenever anyone polls you, tell them you are planning to vote for the third-party candidate that is most closely tied with your position. This ensures that the polls track likely real-world election results as closely as possible. Then, on election day, if that candidate is polling strongly, vote for that third-party candidate. Otherwise, vote for whichever major-party candidate is closer.

    That said, Feinstein's support for SOPA/PIPA pushed me over the edge. I don't care if Adolph f**king Hitler runs as the Republican, I'm not voting for her again. I'll tolerate even the most batshit crazy Palin/Bachmann wannabe for one term just to get her out. Enough is enough. Feinstein and Boxer have to go.

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