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What Could Have Been In the Public Domain Today, But Isn't 309

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the none-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes with an article from Duke Law on what would have entered the public domain today were it not for the copyright extensions enacted in 1978. From the article: "What could have been entering the public domain in the U.S. on January 1, 2013? Under the law that existed until 1978, works from 1956. The films Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, The Best Things in Life Are Free, Forbidden Planet, The Ten Commandments, and Around the World in 80 Days; the stories 101 Dalmations and Phillip K. Dick's The Minority Report; the songs 'Que Sera, Sera' and 'Heartbreak Hotel', and more. What is entering the public domain this year? Nothing." And Rick Falkvinge shares his predictions for what the copyright monopoly will try this year. As a bit of a music fan, excessive copyright hits home often: the entire discographies of many artists I like have been out of print for at least a decade. Should copyright even be as long as in the pre-1978 law? Is the Berne Convention obsolete and in need of breaking to actually preserve cultural history?
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What Could Have Been In the Public Domain Today, But Isn't

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  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @09:30AM (#42440929)

    to quote TFA : "[If they had entered public domain as they should have ...] You would be free to translate these books into other languages, create Braille or audio versions for visually impaired readers (if you think that publishers wouldn’t object to this, you would be wrong), or adapt them for film. You could read them online or buy cheaper print editions, because others were free to republish them"

    That's why you should care.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @10:07AM (#42441059) Journal

    minority report is $1.99 on the kindle

    And if it were in the Public Domain, it would be available for $1.99 less than that - both free and libre [gutenberg.org].

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @11:26AM (#42441567) Homepage Journal

    Or we could ask the copyright holder to release it under such license. No need to force anyone.

    It is my understanding that this would be a waste of time, that all major publishers have a policy of blanket refusing such requests.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @12:30PM (#42442047)

    You have to copy pretty close to get sued

    George Harrison begs to differ. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:26PM (#42442383) Homepage

    James Cameron too.

    If you think that James Cameron "ripped off" Ellison then you clearly have not seen the original dreck in question.

    Harlan Ellison is the perhaps the single best example of why the law should not give ammunition to has beens. It gives them legal standing to harrass the new talent.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Freddybear (1805256) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @01:32PM (#42442433)

    It's not a question of them not wanting to share their works. The works were published but the original ownership documentation is lost or just not accessible and so it's practically impossible to determine who actually owns the rights to the works at the present time. Publishers won't touch them because they aren't willing to risk the big lawsuit if and when an owner actually shows up with the paperwork.

    The epic journey of Nina Paley and "Sita Sings the Blues" through the copyright system is the best example I know of.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday January 01, 2013 @03:42PM (#42443767)

    Case in point: Muppet Babies. Go try to find a (legal) copy of that anywhere. You might be able to find some old VHS tapes on Amazon, but no DVDs, Blu-Rays, streaming, etc. Why? Because the show used music and clips from movies. To put the shows on DVD, you would need to get rights to every single movie clip and song snippet they used. Even if said snippet was 50 years old. The complexity of this is so overwhelming that there is no Muppet Babies DVD out there.

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