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Sherlock Holmes and the Copyright Tangle 290

Posted by kdawson
from the making-lawyers'-eyes-roll dept.
spagiola passes along a New York Times piece on the copyright travails of Sherlock Holmes. "At his age [123 years], Holmes would logically seem to have entered the public domain. But not only is the character still under copyright in the United States, for nearly 80 years he has also been caught in a web of ownership issues so tangled that Professor Moriarty wouldn't have wished them upon him."
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Sherlock Holmes and the Copyright Tangle

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  • by Brian Boitano (514508) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:13AM (#30829070) Journal

    Basically, nobody wants to give up rights to it because they can make money from it.

    • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:21AM (#30829110) Homepage

      Basically, nobody wants to give up rights to it because they can make money from it.

      Not "Basically", but rather "Elementary"!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tim C (15259)

        "Elementary" is equivalent to "basic"; you'd be wanting "elementarily", though I appreciate it obfuscates the joke slightly.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Jeremy Erwin (2054)

        Arthur Conan Doyle never wrote [snopes.com] "Elementary, my dear Watson". Perhaps it derives from some derived work, and any extant copyright claim to the phrase rests in the hands of some other estate.

      • by frogzilla (1229188) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @11:53AM (#30833790)

        I don't remember Holmes ever saying "Elementary" in the stories. Wikipedia confirms this:

        A third major reference is the oft-quoted but non-canonical phrase: "Elementary, my dear Watson." This phrase was never actually said by Holmes, since it does not appear in any of the sixty Holmes stories written by Conan Doyle.

        Now, do we trust wikipedia? Discuss.

    • by timmarhy (659436) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:39AM (#30829194)
      if you can milk something infinately, it removes all incentive to create new creative works, completely undermining the whole arguement for copyright in the first place. how does this simple fact fail with law makers?
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:50AM (#30829250)

        It doesn't fail with them. They just don't care. They get paid to write more long-lasting, restrictive copyright laws, so they do it. All those "for the good of culture" arguments are just smokes and mirrors, so it's less obvious.

        • by Wildclaw (15718) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:13AM (#30830194)

          Yup. In fact, copyright in itself is self defeating as any increase in actual information produced is offset by the loss of actual copies of said information due to higher copying costs.

          To be fair, that is not 100% true. If the extra information produced is of higher quality it can still be worth it. But that is pretty much the only situation where copyright can be motivated. However, in that case, I don't really see any evidence for copyright beyond 5 years, as quality information should have no problem earning back its money in that amount of time. And allowing non-quality information to profit from copyright laws is inefficient.

          • by Moryath (553296) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @09:05AM (#30831244)

            Consider the following point:

            Holmes, in the country of his birth (Britain), has been public domain for TWENTY YEARS.
            Holmes, in the US and thanks to our fucked up laws [cornell.edu] passed by paid-off, bribed, and otherwise corrupt legislators, is covered by "copyright" law in the US all the way until 2023. At which time the character will be 136 years old.

            Keep in mind that the NORMAL term of our fucked-up copyright laws is supposed to be either 95 years for "works for hire" (bought and paid for by hookers sent to legislators courtesy of Disney Corp and Sonny Bono's widow), or "Death of the author plus 70 years", which means the copyright on all of Conan Doyle's Holmes stories should have passed into public domain in the US back in 2000 (Sir Artie died in 1930). Actually, they should have passed back in 1980 (and did), but every time it gets close, Disney sends another round of hookers and bags of cash to Congress to buy another extension [techdirt.com].

            • by fruitbane (454488) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @01:05PM (#30834856) Homepage

              According to US copyright law and Project Gutenberg, the original Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain. This means that the original form of the character is available for re-presentation and re-imagining. Now, it may be that there is some later, more potent version of Sherlock Holmes that is still copyright protected. Certainly all of the movies are. But the original stories, and the ability to create derivatives of the original character as written, that's no longer locked up. The Times article is not clear on what's protected and what's not. It's not like for a continuum of works there's simply an on/off switch, protected/not protected.

      • Answer: Lobbyists.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by oh2 (520684)
          As long as politics in the US is decided by who has the largest wallet things like that will be the logical conclusion.
      • by VShael (62735)

        Because the law doesn't say copyrights are eternal. Therefore you cannot milk something indefinitely.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MrNaz (730548) *

          Disney would beg to differ.

        • by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @08:26AM (#30830900)

          Because the law doesn't say copyrights are eternal. Therefore you cannot milk something indefinitely.

          If I passed a law that said copyrights now last 10^100 years our cowards on the Supreme Court would still say it was constitutional because it fit the definition of 'limited time'. even if that time would be some time after the heat death of the freaking universe.

      • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@@@slashdot...org> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:10AM (#30829590)

        Huh? Incentive for creative work was an argument for copyright?

        No. It wasn’t. Look at the word. It says copyright. The right to copy. To reproduce the work.
        It has nothing to do with creativity or art. It has to do with publishers and money.

        What you mean, is the author’s right.
        Which, from what I heard, is nearly meaningless in the USA. Right?

        In Germany we have the Urheberrecht instead of the copyright. The Urheberrecht (literally “originator’s right”) is the right of the one who created the work. And it can’t be given away. Ever. (The rule is, that if you’re payed by the hour, the payer is the originator. If you’re payed all at once, you are.)
        Which is pretty nice.

        Except that many people here start to think we are government by US laws. They always see the term “copyright“ and think that’s a German thing. Which results in silly things, like people stating to own the copyright on something they literally just copied. Like this idiot here, who really just scanned stuff in, and now thinks this entitles him to some right [deutschlan...tsorten.de].

        Nowadays, nobody needs publishers anymore. So they are clinging to the last twig they still got: Extending copyright as far as possible. Like with this thing here. If your life would depend on it, you’d do the same. It always gets looong and weird at the end.
        But I don’t worry, since it’s impossible to keep this going forever. Sooner or later, there is no art and no artist left. New artists already couldn’t care less about them. And there will be a time, where their extensions will become just so silly, that everybody stops taking them seriously.

        • by beowulfcluster (603942) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:26AM (#30829664)
          Copyright laws were made at first because publishers made copies of authors' works without their consent or giving them compensation. The idea was to give authors control for a time to allow them to profit from it and thereby encourage more creative works. That's been twisted now of course but that was the idea at the time.
        • by timmarhy (659436)
          actually i wasn't touching on the meaning of copyright at all, but what it was supposed to achieve.
      • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:17AM (#30829610)

        if you can milk something infinately, it removes all incentive to create new creative works, completely undermining the whole arguement for copyright in the first place.

        I'd point out that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is also very dead, which probably prevents him from making new creative works more than a lack of financial incentive, but I agree with you in principle.

      • by bjourne (1034822)

        Because it doesn't. I don't have anything I can milk indefinitely so the incentive to me to create new works appear to be higher because i would then be able to milk my product for the rest of my life. For someone who already owns something they can milk indefinitely the incentive is still there because even rich people want to get richer.

        Logically, by making the reward massive (infinite copyright), the incentive also becomes massive.

      • I have to wonder if the 1980s Granada series of Holmes adaptations starring Jeremy Brett, the definitive Holmes adaptations to myself and many others, could've been made had the copyright not lapsed.

      • by westlake (615356) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:31AM (#30830294)

        if you can milk something infinately, it removes all incentive to create new creative works

        Sherlock Holmes is a piss-poor example for this argument.

        The character is arguably the most famous and instantly recognizable in all English literature.

        There have been hundreds if not thousands of new Holmes stories published. Countless books, films, stage, radio and tv productions. In each generation, a new actor becomes the definitive Sherlock Holmes.

        There have puppet shows, comics, cartoons, graphic novels - Dover even publishes a set of paper dolls.

        The modern mystery and detective story begins with Holmes. Doyle introduced three important and suggestive ideas:

        1 Holmes is a private detective, in the modern meaning of the word.He is almost never reduced to solving a problem with a fist or a gun, I don't think of how fresh and novel that was.

        2 Doyle separated the narrator and the detective.

        Watson can tell the story in the first person without cheating the reader.

        He can ask the questions the reader wants answered. He can be an Archie Goodwin or a Nora Charles.

        2 Holmes is firmly anchored in a particular time and place - a time and place he instantly invokes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by celtic_hackr (579828)

      Well, except for the fact the article is wrong on several accounts and so are the heirs, interesting article.

      First, it was the 1997 Sono Bono copyright act that extended the copyright for the single Sherlock Holmes book published after 1922, but the rmaining Sherlock Holmes books have long ago entered the public domain. Therefore the character is public domain, but no derivative work based on the 1927 Sherlock Holmes book can be made until 2017.
      But don't take my word for it, see for yourself at gutenberg. [gutenberg.org]

  • Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BlackHawk-666 (560896) <ivan.hawkes@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:17AM (#30829094) Homepage
    You can blame Disney and their rodent for the current state of copyright laws. Don't think that when copyright period for Mickey once again draws to a close there won't be a large bundle of cash handed out to the nearest person able to extend the period another 20-50 years.
    • Re:Disney (Score:5, Interesting)

      by myowntrueself (607117) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:20AM (#30829626)

      You can blame Disney and their rodent for the current state of copyright laws. Don't think that when copyright period for Mickey once again draws to a close there won't be a large bundle of cash handed out to the nearest person able to extend the period another 20-50 years.

      One way to stop this would be to turn Mickey into an pop culture symbol for a pedophile or terrorist...

      Degrade the icon to the point where Disney would rather wash their hands of the rodent.

    • by MikeFM (12491)
      What I hate is arguments that if the copyright is allowed to lapse that anyone will be able to create whatever derivative they want and sell them as legit. I've had educated people try to tell my that copyright is keeping Mickey Mouse porn from being sold at Walmart. Talk about a basic misunderstanding. This is the exact bullshit that lets them get away with extending copyrights over and over. I still think the easiest system is to charge a yearly fee that starts off at $1 for the first year and doubles ea
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As much as the current state of the copyright law and the public domain pisses me off, I can't help but laugh at the rationale that was presented when they extended copyright from life of the author plus 50 years to plus 70 years. They really did argue that it was necessary as an incentive for artists to produce—it wouldn't be worth it to do the work if their heirs couldn't benefit from the work that long.

      So, a bunch of lobbyists explained, with straight faces, to some congresspeople—who then we

    • Re:Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sootman (158191) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:02AM (#30831990) Homepage Journal

      Which makes Disney the worst kind of hypocrite, since they've built their empire on public domain works, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940) to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Rapunzel (later this year) and many others in between. Over 70 years of taking from the public domain and what have they given back? NOTHING. Fuckers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:18AM (#30829096)
  • What a crock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davmoo (63521) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:19AM (#30829098)

    The fact that none of the current living "heirs" is a direct descendant of the author is further proof of how screwed up our system is.

    But I can understand why they fight so hard. If they didn't have Holmes, they'd have to all get real jobs and work for a living.

    • The fact that none of the current living "heirs" is a direct descendant of the author is further proof of how screwed up our system is.

      IANAL, but can't an "estate" be sold just like a copyright or a trademark?

      • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tim C (15259) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:39AM (#30829190)

        I don't see why not, and copyrights can certainly be transferred. The screwed-up bit, in my opinion, is this:

        In 1980 Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle’s other works entered the public domain in Britain. In America the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 gave an author or his heirs a chance to recapture lost rights; Conan Doyle’s daughter, Jean, did so in 1981.

        So here in Britain they would appear to be in the public domain, as one would expect, but in the US his daughter was given the chance to say "no, actually, I'd like to keep the copyright for longer please"? Or am I misunderstanding that paragraph?

        • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Informative)

          by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:03AM (#30829306) Homepage
          This reminds me of the Smiley Face trademark [guardian.co.uk] escapades. The posters for the Watchmen movie were different depending on the country. There was also an issue with Wal-Mart using it, apparently [nytimes.com].

          Copyright lawyers have to earn their salaries somehow, I suppose.
        • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Informative)

          by Toonol (1057698) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:30AM (#30829392)
          In America the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 gave an author or his heirs a chance to recapture lost rights; Conan Doyle's daughter, Jean, did so in 1981.

          Yes, and it's a travesty. The heirs of Jack Kirby are using it in an attempt to steal dozens of characters that Kirby helped create while at Marvel back in the 60's, and the heirs of Siegal used it to reclaim the character of Superboy from DC. It is going to happen a LOT in the upcoming decade.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by delinear (991444)
            Maybe that's not a bad thing, if it gets used against some big studios maybe they'll be able to do something about getting it reversed - they certainly have deeper pockets/more immediate vested interest than the average Joe.
    • If they didn't have Holmes, they'd have to all get real jobs and work for a living.

      I wonder what the other Holmes's reaction would be? Thinking long and hard until he had an explosive idea I suppose.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lordholm (649770)
      The only reason to extend after the death is to ensure that the husband/wife receives a pension and the children are supported until they can start working by themselves. For the first part, 70 years is most likely a bit excessive for most cases, and for the second case definitely excessive. How about: lifetime of spouse or until the youngest child is 25 years, whichever is greater. This may be difficult to administer, in that case, just make it 25 years after death and you have covered it in 95% of all cas
      • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:03AM (#30829302)
        Huh? What's so special about an author, that they get life insurance for free? Everyone else has to pay for that sort of guarantee for our dependants. Copyright should be a fixed term, regardless of the mortal status of the author.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by lordholm (649770)
          I am not defending it, I am just simply saying that those reasons are basically the only ones that hold at all for having copyright extended after the death of an author. I do agree with you, but if you want to reform the copyright system you need to come up with ideas that can gain acceptance from more than the slashdot readers. Saying 25 years with the motivation that it covers the children until they start working is pragmatic in the sense that it would be possible to accept it, even for the copyright m
          • I do agree with you, but if you want to reform the copyright system you need to come up with ideas that can gain acceptance from more than the slashdot readers.

            Given that content consumers significantly outnumber content producers, I don't think getting wide acceptance for significantly reduced copyright terms (or any other similar scheme; my favorite is unlimited term, but with a fee required to sustain copyright after an initial period of a few years, growing linearly as time passes) would pose a problem.

          • Re:What a crock (Score:4, Insightful)

            by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:26AM (#30830266) Journal
            > those reasons are basically the only ones that hold at all for having copyright extended after the death of an author

            There's another reason: if copyrights ended on the death of an author, authors might somehow end up having lower lifespans than average.

            Having it author's death + 25 at least makes them wait a bit longer...

            Fixed term from creation date is better of course - decouples the death from the copyright.
        • by wisty (1335733)

          I agree. Why should the works of a long-living author be worth less than the works of an author who dies early?

        • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Insightful)

          by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:50AM (#30829494) Journal

          Huh? What's so special about an author, that they get life insurance for free? Everyone else has to pay for that sort of guarantee for our dependants.

          You get paid in real time. Do a month's work, get a month's pay, set some aside for life insurance or pension. An author is more like a long-term investor. They put in a lot of work up front and their rewards come in over years, sometimes decades. If you write a novel, die, and then a year later it gets its second larger print run after good reviews / word of mouth, or it gets bought for turning into a film, or whatever, your widow would get nothing to represent the value of the work. That's why copyright projects forwards in time, because the earnings project forward in time. What, if your partner invests all their hours and money into long-term stocks, you don't get the earnings back from that because they died?

          Also, it reduces the incentive for movie producers to kill you so they can use your work for free. ;)

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LordLucless (582312)

            If you write a novel, die, and then a year later it gets its second larger print run after good reviews / word of mouth, or it gets bought for turning into a film, or whatever, your widow would get nothing to represent the value of the work.

            Huh? Of course she does. I didn't say copyrights should expire on death - I said they should extend a fixed term. All other things being equal, your widow would get exactly what she would of got from that work had you lived out the entire term.

          • Re:What a crock (Score:5, Interesting)

            by JAlexoi (1085785) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:29AM (#30829684) Homepage
            Nope. Actually fixed term copyrights are the best countermeasure against "incentive for movie producers to kill you so they can use your work for free".
            If the copyright is fixed at 70 years after publication, then nobody cares you are alive or dead. If the copyright is your life + 70 years, then there is a higher incentive to kill you to get the work in the public domain ASAP.
            BTW this extreme privileges that writers, singers and actors get. Painters and sculpturers never had those, and are now fighting to have a cut of their work's re-sales.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Wildclaw (15718)

            An author is more like a long-term investor.

            In that case, they should either work for a salary for a book investment company or run their own company (which again needs investment of some kind). That is how business usually works. Not being able to collect a steady salary is something any upstart entrepreneur without backing has to deal with. There is nothing special about authors there.

            They put in a lot of work up front and their rewards come in over years, sometimes decades

            You will find very few cases were you don't have have an 80-20 distribution with the 80% being in the first 5 years. Small enough percentage that we shouldn't worry a

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stdarg (456557)

          Out of curiosity, do you see a difference between copyright and shares in a company?

          The shares of a company that no longer provides anything of interest are worthless. The copyright of a story or character that nobody has interest in is worthless.

          The owner of the shares doesn't have to do any work, just take the proceeds of the work others do. The shares only exist to make the ownership clear. Copyright holders also don't have to do any work, just take the proceeds of the work others do (via licensing etc..

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Toonol (1057698)
        How about: Copyright lasts 30 years.

        Why all this 'x after death, or y if z' nonsense? The heirs receive the benefit of the money the creator makes from the work, after all.
        • by Wildclaw (15718)

          Why should the commercial copyright part be owned by private people in the first place? The right to be recognized as the creator is one thing. There shouldn't even be a time limit on that one. But the money part? Why is authorship treated so differently from any other type of work?

      • Re:What a crock (Score:4, Insightful)

        by foobsr (693224) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:27AM (#30829672) Homepage Journal
        How about: lifetime of spouse or until the youngest child is 25 years, whichever is greater.

        Pff, they will ensure that offspring is created from a sperm bank each quarter of a century.

        CC.
  • Ah, greed (Score:5, Funny)

    by derGoldstein (1494129) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:19AM (#30829102) Homepage

    Mr. Lellenberg said that Sherlock Holmes remains under copyright protection in the United States through 2023, and that any new properties involving the detective “definitely should” be licensed by the Conan Doyle estate. Asked about a recent Red Bull television commercial that features a cartoon Holmes and Watson, Mr. Lellenberg said he had not seen it. “Very interesting,” he said. “News to me.”

    He then twirled his mustache, petted the Persian cat on his lap, raised an eyebrow, tilted his head, rubbed his hands together, and said: "release the lawyers!"

  • by Manip (656104) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:20AM (#30829104)

    So you create copyright works in country A, and when that expires you then renew your copyright in country B? After that expires will they just transfer it yet again to another country and extend it yet again? Since all of these countries have [evil] trade treaties copyright in one is copyright in all....

    Copyright is seriously out of control and I point the finger squarely at the US for creating this greedy flawed system...

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:27AM (#30829142)

    The article doesn't explain precisely why it's still under copyright, except that it was renewed in 1981 after falling into the public domain, as permitted by the Copyright Act of 1976. But why hasn't it fallen back into the public domain again? Looking through this chart [cornell.edu], I can't find any combination of circumstances that would allow an 1887 work, whose author died in 1930, to remain in copyright until 2023.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      My guess is:

      A few of the short stories are still under copyright because they weren't originally published in the US. Nobody owns the characters because they're in the public domain but the person/group who claims to own them (possibly wilfully) doesn't understand this. Guy Ritchie realised it was cheaper to pay them off than to win in court. The journalist doesn't have a clue but figures he can be vague enough and still get a good story.
    • by Pretzalzz (577309) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:03AM (#30829304)

      The last sherlock holmes story was published in 1927 which would theoretically last under copyright until 2023. But the majority of the stories are pre-1920 and presumably public domain. The post-1923 are also considered the worst according to wikipedia. But mostly in the bookstore you see a large compilation of Sherlock Holmes with every story. To publish every story you'd need to pay a royalty for the 5% still under copyright. The estate charges an inflated amount for this 5% and the publisher pays it since he is spreading the cost over the stories that he doesn't have to strictly pay for.

      • by Dracul (598944) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:39AM (#30829440)
        And consequently (particularly for those making movies) the key characters and associated details remain protected, preventing their use by others. This allows particularly devious estates the option of commissioning new stories with the same characters so as to create all new copyrights for the future (remembering that the plots of stories are not as well protected as the elaborate details that bring them to life).
  • by lordlod (458156) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:28AM (#30829156)

    The Conan Doyle family would like your pity.

    They were forced to obtain and maintain the copyright on the Sherlock Holmes stories. It's so terribly hard managing all those bank accounts.

    In fact, Jean Conan Doyle said that "Sherlock Holmes was the Conan Doyle family curse."

    I certainly feel something for the family now.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @02:34AM (#30829166)

    If IP owners are going to be such absolute children about this, maybe we should revert back to the old law.

    It was once legally agreed upon that 14+14 years was an adequate amount of time to commercially exploit your copyright. With today's digital distribution and rapid-fire publishing houses, does it really need to be a HUNDRED years?

    • by IndieKid (1061106)

      That only works if the IP you're planning on exporting isn't already public domain in the countries you plan on exporting to.

      In this instance the IP is public domain in the UK (as I understand it) and you would think the UK would probably be one of the largest markets for Sherlock Holmes stories.

    • by IndieKid (1061106)
      Oops, replied to the wrong post... see "Think Like a Politician" posted by Kriss below.
    • by TheLink (130905)
      Yeah, the recent movie Avatar made 1.6 billion USD worldwide after just a month. Not 5 years. Not 50. Not 120.

      I say even 50 years is too long.

      14 might be OK.

      Microsoft has made plenty out of Windows 95. If Windows 95 going public domain is a threat to Windows 7, then maybe they should make something much better right?

      And in 5 years they must release something way better than Windows XP. Which is harder, but hey if you want to encourage innovation and increase the pace of progress.

      Say they fail, and the Windo
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Agreed. There was nothing wrong with this old law. Fourteen years is often plenty; if the author still cares after 14, he/she can renew it for another 14.

      Almost 30 years is more than enough. It allows for the occasional work that might take a few years to achieve popularity. It's about half of most people's adult lifespan.

      Then the work reverts to the public domain. Very few works take decades to become popular. And if for some reason the work does become popular 30 years after it was published, th

  • by kriss (4837)

    If you extend copyright: Some number of jobs (thousands, tens of thousands?) saved. IP exports generating US revenue. No real downside other than "What, you extended it again?" and no clear loser.

    No wonder they extend it. They have no real case against doing so.

    • by lattyware (934246)
      Except it'll destroy our culture by having no public domain works, and less incentive to create new works.
    • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte AT drunksnipers DOT com> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:34AM (#30829412) Homepage

      If copyright is extended jobs are lost. You don't need to hire people to create new stuff because you can still earn money from the ancient stuff.

      • by kriss (4837)

        Think bigger. The US has a net export of culture (if I may call it that for the sake of the argument) - Disney is one rather marked example, but say Hollywood in general and ignore all other sources of culture for the time being. There's still a metric fuckwad of products out there in the world with Mickey and Donald images on them. Some are even produced by outfits in places where you actually pay royalties. Disney series - even old ones from the 80's - are broadcast in quite a few countries, also generati

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:43AM (#30829464) Journal

      If you extend copyright: Some number of jobs (thousands, tens of thousands?) saved.

      What jobs? Once the work is created, the author, strictly speaking, doesn't have a job, unless he starts working on a new one.

      Or did you mean lawyers and accountants?

  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:05AM (#30829310) Homepage
    Wasn't Professor Moriarty put in charge of the U.S. Patent Office?
  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:12AM (#30829336)

    "Yes, really, Watson. I'm sure the Traveler will allow us the use of his machine."

    "Is there no other way, sir? This seems most excessive..." Watson trailed off, fully aware of the futility in trying to sway Holmes from his conviction. Perhaps Holmes is right. Nip this in the bud while the opportunity still remained.

    "Sir, how do you suggest we approach this matter? Surely you cannot expect to drop in from a century in the future and expect tea and scones? The matter of that rather scary looking contraption you wish to employ needs to be addressed as well, sir."

    "Quite simple, Watson. I intend that we should mount this "contraption", as you put it, and set the controls to precisely 19 feet in elevation, the corner of Glasshouse and Regent, on the morning of August 16 in the year 1974. Then return." Holmes removed his spectacles and gave them a quick rubbing with the bottom edge of his smoking vest, closely watching Watson from the corner of his eye. The smoke from his pipe cloaked his gaze from Watson.

    Watson's eyes glazed slightly as he took in what Holmes had just said. Then they widened. Then they widened more.

    "You cannot be serious, sir! You mean to crush Ms. Nina under that contraption?" Watson said, his astonishment tinged with an obvious air of distaste. "Sir, I implore you. Have we really come to this? Time traveling assassins?"

    Holmes, more tired then he had ever been in his life, gave Watson a sad, almost regretful smile. "If we are ever to live the life Arthur intended, to solve the riddles that require solving, to live up to our potential, she must die. Then all will be right in the world of Sir Doyle."

    Watson, always the one to find some solace in the worst of circumstances, flashed Holmes a quick grin of highly polished teeth. "Can I bring a camera?"

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @03:47AM (#30829482)
    That Americanism says it all...
  • by Greymoon (834879) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:49AM (#30830400)
    Copyrights are granted as a contract between society and the creator. Society grants protection for an artist's work for a brief time, in return society becomes the benefactor of these works once copyrights elapse. Failure to release works to public domain and instituting new copyright laws to lengthen copyright duration violate this contract, in effect theft of culture. Copyrights - 7 years. Patents - 10 years. Anything more is stealing your culture.
  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @08:20AM (#30830844)

    You can Trademark a character, but you can't Copyright him.
    You can Copyright "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (which is in the Public Domain), but "Sherlock Holmes" isn't Copyrightable.

    Note that much of the Holmes canon is in the Public Domain, since it was originally published in the 19th century. There are only a few Conan Doyle stories (and a great many movies and Holmes stories by other authors) that were Copyrighted late enough to still be under Copyright.

    Note also that owning the Trademark for Holmes allows one to play goalkeeper for anyone who wants to do an original Holmes work (and extract money in the process), but it doesn't actually allow one to control the republishing of the original Holmes stories from the 19th Century.

  • by Punto (100573) <puntob@gmail.cUUUom minus threevowels> on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @10:01AM (#30831978) Homepage

    I got them all from Project Gutenberg. And kudos for getting the word "upon" into the summary.

"There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don't know yet." -Ambrose Bierce

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