Happy Public Domain Day: here's what American's don't get this year, thanks to retroactive copyright term extension


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/01/happy-public-domain-day-here-3.html


I’ve heard that this doesn’t apply everywhere, that there are quite a few countries who adhere to the old copyright terms. Is this true?


Yes. Each Country has different copyright laws. Some agree to a treaty with common rules. China laughs at us all.


Well, Australia has books published by authors who died before 1955 public domain. (they used to have life+50 years, but now it’s life+70, but not applied retroactively). It’s why Orwell (who died in 1950) is public domain there but not in the US.


“No, there is another.”

Don’t give up hope completely. There are a lot of works where the copyright wasn’t registered or renewed and they fell into public domain before the eternal copyright took over.

Check Stanford’s Copyright Renewal Database to see if there are renewals on file.

I mined it for all of Scientology’s renewals.

Next, I’m hoping that the original copyright registrations will be online in machine-readable form, so that it can be cross-indexed to detect fraudulent bogon renewals for things already in public domain.


It looks like the Sonny Bono copyright extension was in 1998 and gave Disney an extra 20 years of copyright. So I would guess that this year we will start to see rumblings of another copyright extension (or some change to current copyright law) with it heating up in 2018.


It’ll be interesting to see how they justify that one. The copyright terms have already become completely nonsensical, so how are they going to pretend that another extension is in the public good, and not just for Disney’s benefit, at a detriment to the public?


Good point. I track Scientology’s lobbyists; I’m sure that they’d be involved in that too. Sonny Bono didn’t just work for Disney.


Mostly, donations to Republican congresscritters.

Those of us in the reality-based community will just be stuck reacting to whatever narrative they bother to construct.


er? Why?

I’m sensing a theme.


Because they invariably claim copyright over everything, even the things that have fallen into public domain, and sue people over it, or at least threaten to sue.

If the material is before a certain year, and there’s no copyright renewal, then they’re SOL. There are also ex-member reports that they falsified a heap of renewals at the last moment to protect them under the current laws. If the renewals don’t have a matching original registration, then they’re really SOL.

True. It’s been my obsession hobby since 1995.

Scientology has always been at the leading edge of legal and Internet abuse, and they make a good test case for developing the tools to deal with worse problems.


I’m wondering how the congresscritters justify passing such an increasingly absurd copyright term, given how completely at odds it is to the stated role and traditions of copyright. At this point, probably they don’t even much bother to justify it.


If they didn’t keep extending it, what incentive would Walt Disney have to keep creating?


I think you’re basically right. Mumble mumble something incentivize the creator something something descendants and families something something NO MICKEY MOUSE FOR YOU.


I tend to agree, but Flintstones.

I don’t think I want the Flintstones in the public domain, because I don’t think I could handle what the Internet would do with it. It was my favourite show as a small kid.

So: silver lining!


I’m sure you can imagine what the internet has already done to it.


From what I hear the current thinking for new copyright law is life-of-the-universe+50-years.

At least that way we can jump to the logical conclusion and congress won’t be distracted by such things when Mickey starts sweating…


I still don’t understand how retroactive term increases were ever considered constitutional.


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.

I guess they just keep redefining what limited means.

If they were reducing the term I imagine that many rights holders would take it to the courts so the legality of the actions could be better defined and delineated. But adding time is unlikely to cause such legal definitions to be made.

I guess anyone could claim standing by saying “I’m a member of the public, and I’m being damaged by this,” but why would anyone bother? The Entertainment Juggernaut would just roll over you…


[quote=“Ambiguity, post:19, topic:92050, full:true”]
I guess anyone could claim standing by saying “I’m a member of the public, and I’m being damaged by this,” but why would anyone bother? The Entertainment Juggernaut would just roll over you…
[/quote]Or anyone who wants to use what should be public domain to make derivative works. Or any publishers who would like to print low-cost copies of what is supposed to be in the PD. Or Libraries who don’t like being overcharged for what should be PD. Or anyone sued for downloading something online that should be PD. Or etc. etc. etc.

Really, these extended copyrights do nothing but line the pockets of the massive conglomerates at a cost to the rest of us.

It’s doubly disgusting when you consider that Disney is one of the biggest pushers of these extensions - Disney made their name, most of their money, and their most famous movies by adapting public domain works.