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

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 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 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 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 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:18PM (#38556442)

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

    The other guy. And when the other guy does the same thing, elect yet another and another and another, Eventually, they'd get it.

    That won't happen.

    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."

    Then there are the folks who believe whatever their chosen media outlet tells them to believe and votes according to that because they're afraid of Socialism, Big Government, Higher Taxes, guns being taken away, Sharia Law becoming the law of the land, Israel being exterminated by the Muslim hoard, etc, etc, etc, .....

    Personally, if Mitt would run as the Governor of Mass Mitt, I'd be inclined to vote for him. Unfortunately, he won't be nominated by the Reps because he's a Mormon and because he's "flipped flopped" too much (they all do), and *gasp* signed into law government health care years ago.

  • 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 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 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?
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 01, 2012 @12:57PM (#38556672)

    So, dipshit, what are you going to do about the movies made for $5000 out of some guy's pocket because he loves the medium? Here's a hint... there's a world outside of your narrow fucking frame of reference. Get out of the goddamn basement and check it out sometime.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 plurgid ( 943247 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @04:49PM (#38558132)

    That's one of the most concise examples of what I've been seeing happen over the course of my lifetime: economic winners writing the rules so that there can be fewer and fewer new winners.

    America is now like a basketball game where every time someone makes a basket, their team gets to replace a referee.

    This is what pisses me off the most when older folks give my generation the "well if you don't like the way things are, why don't you start your OWN company, Apple started in a garage for chrissakes" ... why? Because we're not even remotely playing the same game that Apple was playing in their garage days .. or Wal-mart ... or hell ... Amazon for that matter.

    The winners write the rules so that it's impossible for you to follow the same ... hell ... even a similar ... path to success.

  • by next_ghost ( 1868792 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @07:23PM (#38559210)

    And for the above posters: Try being involved in politics AND have a family AND have a job AND hold onto any semblance of personal sanity or get any sleep these days. Most people are worked into the ground, it does not allow them to have a government that is all that just, it only allows for animalism.

    I know it hasn't sunken in yet for the vast majority of people but we have the Internet now. Some people have time, some people have money and some people have knowledge. I know it takes a lot of all three to influence politics in any significant way and very few people have all three in sufficient quantities but that doesn't matter anymore. Citizens taking active part in politics doesn't have to be a one-man-show anymore. Do the thing you can do best and leave the things you can't do to somebody else who can. Remember that there are just a few thousand politicians, but there're millions of us citizens.

  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday January 01, 2012 @10:22PM (#38560228) Homepage Journal

    We are headed now for a situation where over 50% of all Federal expenditures go to entitlements; now along comes ObamaCare piling more financial obligations on there. ObamaCare could be, not just a straw, but a boulder dropped on the camel's back.

    That's a bit disingenuous, don't you think? If the U.S. economy collapses, it's because of excessive federal debt. The problem with your statement is that those entitlement programs you criticize are very nearly cash-flow-neutral, and Social Security is actually cash-flow-positive. In other words, ignoring the temporary payroll tax cuts that are currently in place, most years, Social Security doles out less money than they take in from taxes specifically earmarked for that program. Social Security actually loans money to the federal government, which means that without Social Security, our government would be in even worse shape than it is.

    As for Medicare, I think it operates at a loss, but its total expenditures are barely twice Social Security's excess, so even if fully half of Medicare's costs were above and beyond the Medicare payroll tax, the combination of Medicare and Social Security would still be break-even as far as the federal budget is concerned.

    In other words, in any honest description of the federal budget, entitlements make up approximately zero percent of the total budget, not half. This means that cutting the entitlement programs won't do a damn thing for reducing the national debt because it isn't actually contributing to it; those entitlements don't come out of the general budget in the first place. Merely talking about entitlement reform in the context of the federal budget means that you're either misinformed or are deliberately distorting reality to push a political agenda. Either way, it's complete bullshit.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm fully in favor of having an honest discussion about the insane growth of Medicare expenses and how to slow that growth. We need to drive the cost of healthcare back down to what it should be, and I'm convinced that the only way to do so is to remove the profit motive from healthcare entirely. Unfortunately, that terrifies both political parties—the Republicans because non-profit healthcare would impact companies that donate heavily to their campaigns, the Democrats because protecting the people from the high cost of healthcare and health insurance is one of their strongest cards to play against the Republicans.

    While we're at it, we should have honest discussions about whether providing healthcare and minimal monetary support for the poor and elderly is a good thing or whether we should just throw them out in the streets to die. Sadly, no Republican actually has the guts to admit that this is what their party is really after; instead, they couch their argument in terms of the federal budget to keep people from noticing how many of them are borderline sociopaths. Sorry to be so blunt, but rather than try to fix the problems with these programs, they instead use fear of possible future increases in cost as an excuse to dismantle services that provide critical healthcare and financial support to people in need. There's no other word for that other than sociopathic.

    I'm not saying the Democrats are great, either, mind you. I could rant for hours about overtaxation of corporations that immediately pass all of those taxes on to the poor because they can. We need less corporate taxation and more individual taxation (and particularly higher capital gains taxes), but neither party wants that because it would make it too easy for the public to see just how much they're paying in taxes. As long as those taxes are hidden in the cost of the products people buy, the people won't notice how much they're getting shafted from both sides.

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

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