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Happy Public Domain Day: Works That Copyright Extension Stole From Us In 2015 328

Jennifer Jenkins, Director of Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain, points out what could have entered public domain in 2015 but won't and why we need to use the upcoming Public Domain Day to focus on the importance of copyright reform. She writes: "What could have been entering the public domain in the US on January 1, 2015? Under the law that existed until 1978 -- Works from 1958. The films Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Gigi, the books Our Man in Havana, The Once and Future King, and Things Fall Apart, the songs All I Have to Do Is Dream and Yakety Yak, and more -- What is entering the public domain this January 1? Not a single published work."
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Happy Public Domain Day: Works That Copyright Extension Stole From Us In 2015

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  • Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 01, 2015 @09:24AM (#48710991)

    "Attack of the 50-foot woman" might be interesting. The problem is that the copyright holder is not showing this movie anywhere - going public domain would fix that.

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      I don't blame the copyright holder; I think it's too bad even for MS3K. That said, you can buy it on DVD. Though I think your money is better spent on Plan 9 from Outer Space.

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @09:33AM (#48711013)
    i refuse to buy books, movies and music anymore
    • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @12:52PM (#48711787)

      i refuse to buy books, movies and music anymore

      Then books, movies, and music will continue to be produced and shaped for those who do buy them.

      Disney has been taking chances with projects with serious geek cred like Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6 and been rewarded handsomely in return. You will excuse me if I share some doubts about the geek's commitment to the boycott.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )

        My consumption is mostly limited to "all you can watch" buffet type services and waiting until the movies are on sale for $5.

        There is a lot of free content being created as well. (Like the harry potter and the methods of rationality, all the youtube videos).

        I am now retired and I literally cannot keep up with all the content being created. So with rare exceptions, I just stay back on the less expensive end of the curve.

        I would estimate that last year I saw a dozen movies for $4.25 on matinee and maybe 3?

  • by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @09:39AM (#48711027)

    Attack of the 50 Foot Woman? Try the Lion King and Pulp Fiction. Works from 1994 should be in public domain. Twenty years sounds fair to me. Intellectual property is supposed to protect works, giving an ability and incentive to produce new works, not act as a perpetual revenue stream for whatever entity owns the rights to older books, music, games, and film. This life of the universe plus a month nonsense is completely counter to what IP should be.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @10:52AM (#48711263) Homepage Journal

      Twenty years sounds fair to me.

      Twenty years from creation (copyright is currently defined as starting at creation) is way too short. I'm about to publish a trilogy of novels, and I started on the first one in 2001. By your standards, six years of profiting from my works should be enough. That's laughable.

      Twenty years from first publication might be reasonable, but it is still problematic for works of fiction, because it is a short enough period of time that a film studio wanting to make a movie would be sorely tempted to wait out the copyright rather than paying the author for the use of his or her work.

      On the one hand, you have individuals creating works, and on the other hand, you have big corporations creating works. The former need a lot more time to exploit their works, because they have fewer resources for doing so. The latter can adequately exploit their works in just a few years, after which, they're essentially leeching off the public domain. A reasonable copyright scheme needs to consider both of those situations and treat them differently. For example, you might set a twenty year limit for works for hire, but make the duration be 75 years for copyright owned by individuals. Or you might require the copyright to be renewed every fifteen years at 1% of the property's total gross revenue, so a movie that brought in $40 million pays a $400,000 renewal fee every fifteen years, but a book that made only $7,000 pays a $70 renewal.

      Either way, a flat twenty years is absurd.

      • Twenty years from first publication might be reasonable, but it is still problematic for works of fiction, because it is a short enough period of time that a film studio wanting to make a movie would be sorely tempted to wait out the copyright rather than paying the author for the use of his or her work.

        That's not been shown to be problematic for pharmaceuticals, where companies routinely wait out the patent before producing a generic drug.

        For example, you might set a twenty year limit for works for hire, but make the duration be 75 years for copyright owned by individuals.

        Then companies would just structure their deals to, say, assign copyright in a film to the film's director but then exclusively license the copyright back to the studio.

        Or you might require the copyright to be renewed every fifteen years at 1% of the property's total gross revenue

        If copyrights are "intellectual property", then tax them like property [wikipedia.org]. Have each copyright owner self-assess the value of his works, and levy a tax on that value. To prevent publishers from avoiding tax

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @11:58AM (#48711549) Homepage Journal

          Twenty years from first publication might be reasonable, but it is still problematic for works of fiction, because it is a short enough period of time that a film studio wanting to make a movie would be sorely tempted to wait out the copyright rather than paying the author for the use of his or her work.

          That's not been shown to be problematic for pharmaceuticals, where companies routinely wait out the patent before producing a generic drug.

          That's a completely different situation, because both the patent holder and the generic drug maker are on roughly equal footing in terms of their ability to exploiting the property. A drug company can make a drug and can market it readily; that's what they do. An individual who writes a book cannot realistically make a movie version of that book, because A. they don't have that kind of money, and B. they are not likely to have the required skill set.

          For example, you might set a twenty year limit for works for hire, but make the duration be 75 years for copyright owned by individuals.

          Then companies would just structure their deals to, say, assign copyright in a film to the film's director but then exclusively license the copyright back to the studio.

          By definition, any permanent license is a work for hire. So no, they couldn't do precisely that. However, the law would need to specify a maximum contract duration beyond which those limits kick in so that companies wouldn't license it for [lifetime of copyright minus one day].

          If copyrights are "intellectual property", then tax them like property [wikipedia.org]. Have each copyright owner self-assess the value of his works, and levy a tax on that value. To prevent publishers from avoiding tax by lowballing the value, let people crowdfund the donation of each work to the public domain by paying this value to the copyright owner.

          It would be far easier to simply tax the past income from the work as part of the copyright fees. Actual income tends to be a good indicator of the value of a work.

          • An individual who writes a book cannot realistically make a movie version of that book, because A. they don't have that kind of money, and B. they are not likely to have the required skill set.

            I couldn't help but read that in the synthesized tone of "MongoDB is web scale" made with XtraNormal [mongodb-is-web-scale.com]. Anyone who has a computer and can write a screenplay can produce an animated short film. And tools to mark up a screenplay for conversion to an animated film will only get better. Then you can send excessive copyright terms to /dev/null.

            However, the law would need to specify a maximum contract duration beyond which those limits kick in so that companies wouldn't license it for [lifetime of copyright minus one day].

            Or the director could just avoid doubt by exclusively licensing the motion picture to the studio for 20 years. This would be long enough for the theatrical release, the curr

            • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

              I couldn't help but read that in the synthesized tone of "MongoDB is web scale" made with XtraNormal. Anyone who has a computer and can write a screenplay can produce an animated short film that no one will watch. And tools to mark up a screenplay for conversion to an animated film will only get better, so you can make even better animated shorts that no one will watch.

              FTFY. :-)

              Just in case anybody reads your comment and assumes that you're being serious (I'm pretty sure you aren't), here's an idea of the m

      • David Gerrold, is that you?
      • Twenty years from first publication might be reasonable, but it is still problematic for works of fiction, because it is a short enough period of time that a film studio wanting to make a movie would be sorely tempted to wait out the copyright rather than paying the author for the use of his or her work.

        So what?

        Answer this: Would the knowledge that no movie studio would pay you millions to license your novels have stopped you from writing them? You can argue that that possibility factored into your thinking, but that's not the point. The point is: If that possibility, and that alone, were completely removed, would you have chosen not to write?

        You have to keep in mind that the purpose of copyright -- as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution, who provided the legal framework for it -- is to bene

      • The obvious solution to this is to trademark the characters, that way the work can be released to the world but derivative works with the same characters or some portion of it couldn't be made without your permission.

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          A trademark cannot be used to extend the effective term of any of the exclusive rights under U.S. copyright. Dastar v. Fox.

      • by stjobe ( 78285 )

        Twenty years sounds fair to me.

        Twenty years from creation (copyright is currently defined as starting at creation) is way too short. I'm about to publish a trilogy of novels, and I started on the first one in 2001. By your standards, six years of profiting from my works should be enough. That's laughable.

        You wrote the first one in 2001 and sat on it for 13 years, then complain that 20 years would be too short?

        Twenty years from first publication might be reasonable

        20 years from publication is about twice as long as is reasonable. Most novels make the vast majority of their sales in their first year, after that it just peters out to nothing over a number of years. It's a rare novel indeed that still makes sales after ten years, let alone twenty.

        On the one hand, you have individuals creating works, and on the other hand, you have big corporations creating works.

        That one is easy - disallow corporations from owning copyrights. There's no sane reason why copyrights should be allowed

  • by NotSoHeavyD3 ( 1400425 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @09:47AM (#48711049)
    Which given the excuses for this stuff is really telling.(Since the whole "You're stealing from the creators" is one of the arguments you hear about this shit.) So these days you have shit like Hollywood accounting and things like the author of Forrest Gump literally not getting paid royalties for the movie.(Because it supposedly didn't make a profit.) Of course there's the whole thing screwing of musicians by record labels. Basically if you record an album don't expect to get any profits at all. If you make any money it will be off touring. Here's one, just to show how much of a bunch of scum bags they really are. https://www.techdirt.com/artic... [techdirt.com]
  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @09:49AM (#48711057)

    As much as piracy is difficult to justify. It is rulings like this that make it hard to ultimately argue against.

    • by Shados ( 741919 )

      Most of the resources going against piracy are to fight day 1 release (or before) piracy though.

      If you had a magical wand, and told the big corps: "100% of people who piracy your stuff before or during the first 2 weeks after release will get caught and get the death penalty. For the rest of 1 year, current copyright laws apply, and we have a magical way to catch everyone who so. After 1 year, the shit is public domain".

      They'd probably take that deal. The crazy copyright extensions is just them taking what

      • Re:It is sad... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @12:32PM (#48711681)

        Not really. Mickey Mouse would be public domain. Think about that.

        Besides, I've talked to a lot of these MPAA guys personally. They're completely fanatical.

        Their attitude is "our contract says we can do this, so those are our rights and anyone that violates them is a criminal." - period.

        You know those crazy ads where they compare piracy to automotive theft or bank robbery? The people driving this along felt those ads were too mellow. They wanted to go farther with it.

        You have no idea. They are as closed minded and intolerant as a 15th century cardinal. You cross the line and they're going to say "burn them".

        While I agree nearly all the effort goes into zero day... that is because everything becomes more nebulous after that point and they make the most money off of zero day releases. So that is why they do that. But if you think they don't care about their legacy licenses you are kidding yourself. In their view, that stuff is worth billions. Telling them a certain amount of it is going to go public domain is like telling someone that a certain amount of their bank account is going to vanish. They're totally unwilling to move on the issue. They are not going to compromise on anything.

        The only way forward is to let the old fire brands die... literally from old age in most cases and be replaced by more realistic members.

    • "As much as piracy is difficult to justify"

      It's not difficult at all, actually. The U.S. Constitution is pretty clear on what the purpose of copyright is. The protections afforded to creators of artistic works are granted for a LIMITED time...not for free, but in exchange for an agreement from the creators that their works will enter the public domain at the end of that time. The content industry has made it abundantly clear that they have no intentions whatsoever in honoring their end of the bargain.
  • To explain the idea of softening copyright laws, I always think of food laws.

    You can make your meals however you like, but once you start distributing them to the public you have a bunch of obligations (no poison, list ingredients and nutrients on package, note the best before date...).

    I see culture similarly. If you write a great song and you don't want people to share it, then the simple solution is to keep it to yourself. Then it's your song. But if you distribute it to the public, it becomes part of

  • The feature films who would want to watch them anyway? books I can understand that but feature films ZzZzZzZ. can they still earn money from these old films? who watches these! Fantasy cartoons where it is all silliness and happiness that I could understand it relieves stress. I don't understand feature films it's grown-up men playing children's games why is it entertaining why? It's nonsense it's what every child grows out of goody's baddies, doctors and nurses, Cowboys and Indians, and so on. Films a wast
  • I am fine with copyright extension if there is a company which actively maintains the IP. Such as Disney protecting Mickey Mouse (they still even create new content with features Mickey). However if no one is actively taking care of the copyright and not providing a way to distribute it, then there could be a timeout of decade or two.
  • This discussion is usually centered around movies, music and books, but what do you think about software and video games?

    For example, should Quake 1 (1996) be public domain? The source code is libre already, but the art assets are still sold in Steam.

    What about Windows XP which was released 2001, but was still actively maintained till 2013?

    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      MS DOS, Windows 3.1, NT, OS/2 and Linux are all close-to or past that 20 year mark too. IIRC (It's been a REALLY long time) I started playing with Linux in '95 or '96. Not to mention a lot of the more moldy older UNIXes, VMS, the IBM mainframe OSes, etc.And of course the fan fiction I wrote about a homoerotic encounter between Captain Picard and Q, which you can still find on the internet if you dig around a bit!
      • Good point. Corporations would be free to start incorporating more open-source code into their products since GPL code would start going into public domain. I mean, why should software developers be allowed to rent-seek with their creations? It belongs to the public!
  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @11:23AM (#48711397) Homepage Journal
    The works of the famous painter Mondriaan will fall into the public domain as per February 1, this year.
    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      United States copyright in works published prior to 1978 is reckoned not from the death of the author but from first publication. Mondrian's paintings prior to Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, and Grey (1923) were already in the public domain under the 75-year rule that was in effect prior to 1998. Copyright in that painting won't expire under the new 95-year rule until 2019.

  • We had a deal - those creating works get a period of time to capitalize on those works, after which they go into the public domain, and in exchange for those works being given over to the public, the public agrees to not violate that copyright without facing penalties.

    Most works are no longer being given over to the public domain, therefore it's absurd to punish people for pirating them - a contract has to offer something to both sides.

    WRT to software piracy (specifically games) - DRM put the nail in that c

  • Please all note that this mechanism will also allow for copyright term reductions to be applied retro-actively and without compensation to rightsholders!
  • ... why we should give a shit?

    Copyrighted material is not mine and I don't need it and I am not feeling the sense of entitlement to copyrighted works.

    I am a photographer and I certainly support copyright protection but I don't understand the hysteria over the expiry date issue.

    • I'm with you. I do see some ridiculous situations regarding to copyrights, but in general I don't see how shortening copyright times is a terribly important battle to fight. For example things like patent hoarding cause much more problems.
    • by slinches ( 1540051 ) on Thursday January 01, 2015 @02:01PM (#48712147)

      The "hysteria" is about a perpetual monopoly on our cultural history. If every piece of art created in our lifetimes is locked down, then we don't have the freedom to create anything new. Everything we do is built upon the ideas of the prior generations that we are exposed to through our culture.

      Ultimately, infinite term IP ownership is unsustainable. Our technological and cultural development will stall. Imagine if someone (ie a corporation or estate) still held the patent on the transistor or the lever. Those companies would control the markets for basically every electrical or mechanical device. Do you think we'd even be able to have this discussion? And why wouldn't the same effect occur with copyright once there's nothing left in the public domain to draw from?

  • do work for hire, paid by the job or salaried and that's it - on to the next job/pay? Is it possible that colors the discussion? Seems to me there would be a different take on it if most of the people here worked for advance against 8-10% royalties or percent of sales. Not sure the /. take on this is global.

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