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What Would Have Entered the Public Domain Tomorrow? 331

Posted by timothy
from the alas-'twas-not-to-be dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain about items that would enter the public domain starting on January 1, 2010, if not for copyright extenions: "'Casino Royale, Marilyn Monroe's Playboy cover, The Adventures of Augie March, the Golden Age of Science Fiction, Crick & Watson's Nature article decoding the double helix, Disney's Peter Pan, The Crucible'... 'How ironic that Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, with its book burning firemen, was published in 1953 and would once have been entering the public domain on January 1, 2010. To quote James Boyle, "Bradbury's firemen at least set fire to their own culture out of deep ideological commitment, vile though it may have been. We have set fire to our cultural record for no reason; even if we had wanted retrospectively to enrich the tiny number of beneficiaries whose work keeps commercial value beyond 56 years, we could have done so without these effects. The ironies are almost too painful to contemplate.""
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What Would Have Entered the Public Domain Tomorrow?

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  • Re:Offensive (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:16PM (#30610848) Homepage

    There's a real reason for this that has nothing to do with any biases: There wasn't much by way of feminist literature being written in 1954. This was a full decade before such classics as The Feminine Mystique, and in the realm of speculative fiction predates McCaffrey or LeGuin.

  • by Reason58 (775044) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:17PM (#30610854)

    Any legislator that voted for these extensions should be voted out of office, no matter their party affiliation.

    Or run into a pine tree at high rates of speed.

  • Re:the next step (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:22PM (#30610882) Homepage Journal

    The problem for me is that there are a lot of books I would love to buy except they are out of print and second hand books are not available. So why can't I just go and download them? I assume the profit isn't there to go through the whole publishing thing, or the copyright holder can't be located.

    If copyrights are not being used there should be a way to make the content available in digital form. I don't necessarily want it to be free.

  • 14+14 years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pydev (1683904) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:26PM (#30610912)

    The original copyright term was 14 years, with another 14 years if you bothered to renew. That's the maximum copyright any work should get. Anything longer than that is grossly unfair.

  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joebok (457904) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:36PM (#30610964) Homepage Journal

    Public domain isn't about getting content for free, it is about creating a public pool of culture from which to base further creative works. If you found a torrent of "From Here To Eternity" you could not create a new work with those characters or the story or whatever.

    Current copyright law (at least US copyright law) is stagnating the pool. We grow up surrounded by ideas and culture that inspire us, but which we can't use to create our own works.

  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:36PM (#30610976)

    Yeah, I'm pissed off that the Dickens estate isn't getting royalties to works based off A Christmas Carol.

  • by mtrachtenberg (67780) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @07:37PM (#30610986) Homepage

    Here we go, the whining and complaining from people who are too cheap or too poor to buy a Congressman. Congress works fantastically well if you're willing to invest in it. The return on a few hundred thousand bucks can reach into the billions, as the entertainment, weaponry, and banking/gambling industries have shown -- go find any other investment with that sort of ROI. Stop yer socialist whining -- Congress does a fantastic job when it's made worth its while.

  • by JWSmythe (446288) <jwsmythe.jwsmythe@com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:03PM (#30611132) Homepage Journal

        You should already be aware that most of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights has already been undermined, so I don't know how you'd be surprised that a few other words have been ignored. They have become a historic relic, not a guide to the modern legal system.

  • by tayjo (673861) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:08PM (#30611156)
    All that does is shoot down the little guy. A big corporation would have no problem paying those fees.
  • by Andorin (1624303) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:17PM (#30611228)

    There is a limiting of the works for the benefit of the copyright holders, but the works still exist and are accessible. The works are even available at lending libraries.

    Do you really think that every creative work produced since the 1920s or so is easily available today? And even if there is a copy in some library, that copy is still bound to physical limitations- just because the one copy exists doesn't mean anyone can access it. Not so online, and if these works were in the public domain, they could be legally and freely available online. But since some insanely low number (something like 6%) of works created in the 1920s era are commercially viable and therefore commercially available, a vast majority of that 94% of "non-viable" works are pretty much nonexistent.

    Big Content opposes proposed laws that enrich the public domain, even if said laws have little to no effect on their own IP. What else could they be besides usurpers of the public domain and, by extension, our culture?

  • by mrnobo1024 (464702) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:17PM (#30611232)

    For old obscure out-of-print books, it's often effectively impossible to access them because no bookstore or library has them. For all practical purposes, they have been destroyed from the cultural record.

  • Re:Do they care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:18PM (#30611238)

    The vast majority of people who created the works don't care but the vast majority of corporations do.

  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evil Shabazz (937088) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:23PM (#30611266)
    And so much of it has changed right before our collective eyes. As example, there is no way anyone in their right mind would try to create an album like Paul's Boutique in today's sue-happy licensing-whore world - yet that album still stands as one of the greatest rap albums of all time.
  • A free iPhone game (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Singularity42 (1658297) * on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:24PM (#30611268)

    I've been thinking about a moral thought game. What if someone made a free iPhone game that was rather good, and set it out for free? Technically, you'll be taking the jobs of a lot of people--often independent developers--who won't get a sale. As far as I know, nobody has done this--ever, in the entire world.

  • by Velodra (1443121) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:25PM (#30611274)
    The point is that the big corporations could get their copyright as long as they want as long as they think the copyright is valuable enough. Right now we see Disney constantly getting copyright extended so they can keep Mickey Mouse from becoming public domain, but the only way to do that is to extend copyright on everything. With this new system they could decide the length of the copyright based on how important the work is to them. That means we can let them have 70 years of copyright on Mickey, but only 7 or 14 years copyright on most other things. Much better than today's system where we have to have ridiculously long copyrights on everything so Disney protect one important work.
  • by selven (1556643) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:51PM (#30611438)

    It's not just about downloading, it's about building on the works of others. Unfortunately, large corporations can't ignore the law as easily as we can and progress that could have been done by them is lost.

  • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @08:59PM (#30611486)

    How is that odd?

    The want to use old stuff for free, but they don't want anyone to use their old stuff for free.

    That doesn't seem odd, that seems like standard human selfishness.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:09PM (#30611832)

    An ex post facto law here, in legal terms, means that Congress cannot pass a law saying that what you did yesterday is illegal, and then arrest you for it. Likewise, it would prevent them from placing works that had entered the public domain from exiting it—especially if you had already taken advantage of said status. It notably does not mean that they cannot pass a law extending the copyright terms, which is more analogous to changing the legal driving age after you're born.

  • by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:19PM (#30611868) Homepage Journal

    You should already be aware that most of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights has already been undermined, so I don't know how you'd be surprised that a few other words have been ignored. They have become a historic relic, not a guide to the modern legal system.

    If enough people truly believe that, then it's already game over (man).

    [...] Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    Perhaps the part I find most poignant in this declaration is the line "[All] experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." This is something politicians, corporations, and anyone in power is very well aware of -- that the "activation energy" of any kind of meaningful change in government is incredibly high (and rises with population). Unfortunately it is by this lack of available energy that allows those corrupting the purpose of government to continue to do so.

    In sad effect, The People consent to malfeasance by willfully choosing inaction over action and ignorance over awareness.

  • Re:Cool (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:29PM (#30611896)
    And of course, the Disney company isn't above copying works that are still copyrighted. Remember The Lion King [wikipedia.org]?

    One weird case though, is the film His Girl Friday [wikipedia.org]. According to Wikipedia, the 1928 play the film is based on is still copyrighted, but the film itself is in the public domain.
  • The forgettery (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset (646467) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @10:31PM (#30611902) Journal

    It's important to the copyright lobby that old works become locked away, inaccessible to anyone. If you're reading Watership Down then you're not reading Harry Potter and the Basket of Radishes. The more historical culture is available to us the more we tend to stay with the stuff that's stood the test of time and less of today's releases which frankly have never been more good than bad.

    This is probably a bigger motivator for endless copyrights than being able to milk a few additional dollars a year out of 20 year old works.

    It's a huge loss because it's the remixing of the old with the new that allows us to find new heights of imagination and build identification with our culture. Very few people can build a solid attachment to a culture that's perpetually two years old. The net result of this is that of course we become less interested in civics and nationalism - at our peril. Unrestrained nationalism is a bad thing of course, but the complete lack of national identity leads people to the necessary conclusion that their nation lacks redeeming values worth preserving.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:26PM (#30612130) Journal

    Copyright on scientific articles is the most evil of all, in my opinion as a researcher. I, and most other fellow scientists don't get paid by the publisher for our works. In fact, the salary of a scientist in general is meager. But we find pleasure in what we do, and in sharing our science with humankind. What we do is intended for everybody, and not to perpetually keep money flowing into the coffins of the Elseviers, the IOPs, Wileys of this world. I am astonished sometimes, to see that a lot of fundamental articles, published decades ago (in the 60's, or even earlier) is still not freely accessible by the public. I can't help but think "what douchebags, profiting like leeches from the work of scientists, many now defunct, whereas the work was intended for the whole world".

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday December 31, 2009 @11:47PM (#30612210)

    Perhaps 7 years automatic for free, with the next 7 years costing $1,000, and the next costing $10,000, and the next costing $100,000, then $1,000,000, and so forth. A 10x increase for each extension

    This is so ridiculously biased towards big media and against the little guy that the geek ought to be ashamed for ever having posted it.

  • Re:14+14 years (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Draek (916851) on Friday January 01, 2010 @03:03AM (#30612806)

    People lived an average of 35 years because for every guy who lived to be 70 there was a baby who died at childbirth. In truth, life expectancy for those who manage to reach adulthood hasn't changed much for the last thousand years.

  • Re:Cool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tenek (738297) on Friday January 01, 2010 @04:25AM (#30612848)
    And so Disney uses someone else's original idea, and refuses to let anyone else use their original ideas. If Disney only remade public domain material they wouldn't have much reason to promote extensions.
  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday January 01, 2010 @05:04AM (#30612990) Journal
    If the point of copyright is to let people make money, and the point of big media is to make money, it makes sense big media will try to acquire all of the money-making works and therefore hold most long-term copyrights. They would be bad at their job if that wasn't the case. As much as I support the little guy, it isn't very likely the little guy will have millions to gain from media he creates without being picked up by a big media company.

    To swing this back to the little guy, the problem lies in the one-sided contracts and overall poor compensation of the artist. That would not be addressed by copyright terms.

    I like this idea, as it would be easier to put into law and keep the Mickey Mouse effect from distorting it.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman

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