Thursday, January 3, 2013

Public Domain Day

copyright symbol image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Public Domain Day is January 1st of every year and celebrates the moment when copyrights expire. Films, photos, books and music become "free as the air to common use" if their copyrights are finished, and they then become part of our common culture.

So how many works entered into the public domain in the United States this year? None, zero, nada, nothing! Not a single published work entered into the public domain this year, and won't next year or the year after that. In fact, there won't be anything entering into the public domain until 2019 at the earliest.

That's because the copyright term is now the lifetime of the author plus 70 years, and every creative work is automatically protected whether the author files the paperwork or not.

The long copyright term wasn't always the norm. When the first copyright law was written, the term lasted 14 years, renewable for another 14 years if the author desired, and this was later extended to a 28 year renewable term. 85% of authors did not renew, so works entered the public domain much faster in those days.

Many copyright scholars feel that the length of the copyright term is now too long, and as a result, creativity and innovation suffers. In fact, some would like to return to the 14 year renewable terms. Of course, if you're an artist, you'd like to retain the income from a popular copyright for as long as possible, then allow your family to claim the benefits after you've passed.

There are lots of good arguments on each side. For some great insight on the subject, take a look at this FAQ from Duke Law School and let me know what you think.


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1 comment:

steve harvey said...

Oddly, the term has been extended every time that Mickey Mouse gets close to becoming public domain. Funny how that works...


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