Happy Public Domain Day: here are the works that copyright extension stole from you in 2015



I await the many comments protesting Cory’s use of the word ‘stole,’ which most people here do not believe should be used for intellectual property.

I object to the use of the term ‘intellectual property’, perhaps a better term being ‘copyright monopoly’ see http://falkvinge.net/2012/12/22/the-copyright-monopoly-stands-in-direct-opposition-to-property-rights/


Intellectual property is more than just copyright, as it also covers things like patents and trade secrets, so a broader term would be needed to encompass all aspects of the term. You could simply substitute “copyright (monopoly)” in my comment, though.

Can somebody figure out for me when the copyright expires on that sweet Guinea Pig calendar?


imagine these being freely available to students and educators around the world.

Um…you realize that the '78 law is a U.S. law and so only affects users in the US or works that were initially published n the US*. Much of the rest of the world was already granting copyright for terms of “life +50”

*because many countries have, and the Bern treaty permits a “lesser terms” provision, were copyright is only granted to foreign works for the term applicable in the country of first publication.

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Google Books? How about a little love for Project Gutenberg?


Oh, well. Guess I’ll have to come up with my own ideas again.

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T.H. White?

He’s been dead for 50 years and didn’t have any children. Who benefits from his literary estate?

Locking up ideas as property is just as much a form of censorship as suppressing them. That is why the original 1790 copyright law created a term of only 14 years, renewable only once if the author was still living. It was compliant with the copyright clause of the constitution, which states: “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.”

There is nothing in there about compensation, or frivolous entertainment. The copyright extensions Disney lobbyists bribe into being every time Steamboat Willie is about to revert back to the public domain have made the copyright clause meaningless. Walt Disney is dead. He cannot be encouraged to keep creating through copyright. Also, when he ripped off Oswald the Lucky Rabbit to make Mickey Mouse, his former employer, Universal, did not sue because it was understood and accepted at the time that cartoons were frivolous entertainment, not science and the useful arts.


I was recently looking for a copy of Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and discovered it is still under copyright in the US, which is odd because it’s in the public domain in the author’s native UK. Something just seems a bit off about that. It does bring up many questions such as if I obtain a copy of the story while in the UK and fly back to the US, have I committed a crime importing a public domain work into a country where it is still under copyright? And if I download a copy of it from a server in London while sitting in Atlanta, what laws apply? And if I do that in reverse, downloading a copy from a server in Atlanta while in London, am I committing a crime or is the person running the server doing so? What if I own the Atlanta server and am allowing people in London to download from me? And most importantly, should citizens in both countries be expect to know the ins and outs of case law on these topic so they can “do the right thing”?


The copyright extension helps some holders who still have a real interest in their work; the work may be legally assigned to their heirs, who should by law be able to claim some benefit from it. The works I see illustrated are ones i am willing to pay to use or to be a member of a public or private library to be able to use.

These complications dulling innovation are called “friction” now. Let’s Steal This Book already.

You’re not a usanian Cory, neither am I, neither are many of your readers. So how about rejoicing in what does come up for Life+70, or even +50 for those lucky Aussies.

You know, If copyright had always lasted 95 years or more, most of the works in American history would still be undercopyright.

What I enjoy is the delicious double standard that “stole” applies here but not in the case where people violate existing IP laws.

They’re workin’ on it. Gotta love retro-laws.

Because we can’t steal what was stolen from us… even though it was never the kind of thing that could be stolen at all. Or something like that.

Humpty Dumpty Linguistics: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

Indeed. I mean, it could be imagined that this is using “stole” not in the formal sense of a legal theft, but in the very common informal sense of taking something away from someone. The way people talk about stealing a victory, or stealing someone’s thunder.

That would of course make it entirely reasonable to talk about works being stolen by copyright extension, which takes them away from the public. And yet one might still say some forms of IP violation aren’t truly stealing, since the only thing they deny people is opportunity or control. In other words, it would be a use entirely consistent with how Cory applies the term, and easily inferred from context.

But if we were to imagine that, there wouldn’t be such plain inconsistencies. And then we’d be left with a position we have to disagree with, instead of simply mocking the word choice as hypocritical, and then you and bwv812 couldn’t keep passing smug high fives back and forth. Where’s the fun in that?

So yeah, using the word “stolen” in the title is so completely ridiculous, nobody ever needs to consider whether Cory might have any points or not! :hand:
Come on, don’t leave me hanging.

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