Jerry Brito’s Not an Urban Legend exposes the holes in the arguments for a need for extended copyright.
The arguments made to extend copyright vary slightly, but you’ll almost always hear that without the protections of copyright, people wouldn’t have the commercial incentive to create. It’s convenient for the people making such an argument to ignore the fact that Walt Disney pretty much built an empire by creating new works from works that were no longer protected. When Disney was creating works, the public domain wasn’t more than a generation old. Today’s Walt Disney must wait many, many more decades before he/she is allowed to do the same, and yet arguments are still made that extending copyright is a good thing.
Jerry Brito basically pointed out the flaws in one such argument, made by James DeLong of IPCentral. DeLong claimed that the idea that older creations are not forgotten by their creators and so are not deteriorating into nothing due to the inability of preservationists to copy them into a less fragile medium. He points to entire packs of older movies being sold on Amazon as proof that copyright holders are “diligent [in] panning their slag for gold.”
But I would point him to another series for sale on Amazon called Dover Thrift. It is a series of books, priced at about $2 each, the underlying works of which are all in the public domain. That is, they are being printedâ€”and someone is making moneyâ€”without copyright.
Therefore, what I argue for is not no copyright, but rather sensible copyright. I argue for taking into consideration the public domain, and not just the interests of creators, when setting copyright terms. What should be the balance is up for debate, but an informed debate requires that we face facts and not simply dismiss those facts as urban legends because they are inconvenient to our position.
Sensible copyright would be nice.