Fri. Jan 17, 2003
Copyright Petrified – It’s been all over (and be sure to read Lessig’s thoughts on “the silent 5”), but pb at Onfocus.com sums it up well: “This is a sad day for our collective culture and creativity. The Eldred challenge to the latest copyright extension was unsuccessful. I don’t believe the framers of our constitution felt a ’limited time’ for copyright means 75 years after the death of the creator or 95 years for corporations.”
The Constitution (Section 8, Clause 8) gives Congress the 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.”
For a limited time, to promote progress. Then, it goes into the public domain, from which new creative work arises. Dan Gillmor gives us the Prime Example: “Walt Disney understood the value of the public domain, and used it precisely as other great artists had done. He updated an out-of-copyright character to create Mickey Mouse, for example, and launched an empire. The company he founded later used French writer Victor Hugo’s work, which was also no longer owned by anyone, to create a cartoon based on the Hunchback of Notre Dame saga. The Disney animators had every right to build new works on old ones—and the public also got the benefit. Try the same thing with Mickey Mouse and you’ll be hauled into court faster than you can say ’Goofy.’ ”
In his new digs over at MSNBC, Glenn Reynolds asks, “how can nearly a century of copyright protection be considered a ’limited time,’ — especially when Congress keeps extending it? And how can rewarding people who have been dead for decades produce more creativity?”
So, this has gone to the Supreme Court and been shot down, so it’s all over, right? Nope. “’Litigation is not the path anymore,’ acknowledged Joe Kraus, co-founder of DigitalConsumer.org, a consumer rights group that focuses on digital copyright issues. ’The pressure needs to now turn toward our elected officials in Congress…. The domain just got taken off the table. Now all we have is fair use.’ ”
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a photograph that, if I fill out the average life expectancy of an American male, will be copyrighted until the year 2110, many decades after everyone reading this is dead and gone. Assuming Congress doesn’t extend the terms of copyright for a seventh time.