Thank Disney for the artificial and immoral expansion of “copyright”:
Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years – an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1957 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2014, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” (Mouse over any of the links below to see gorgeous cover art from 1957.) Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2053.1 And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in Canada and the EU are different – thousands of works are entering their public domains on January 1.
What books and plays would be entering the public domain if we had the pre-1978 copyright laws? You might recognize some of the titles below.
Samuel Beckett, Endgame (“Fin de partie”, the original French version)
Jack Kerouac, On the Road (completed 1951, published 1957)
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
Margret Rey and H.A. Rey, Curious George Gets a Medal
Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel), How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat
Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, The Untouchables
Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays
Walter Lord, Day of Infamy
Studs Terkel, Giants of Jazz
Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley, The Three Faces of Eve
Ian Fleming, From Russia, with Love
Ann Weldy (as Ann Bannon), Odd Girl Out
A.E. Van Vogt, Empire of the Atom
These works will instead enter the public domain in 2053… unless Disney finagles another extension. The fact is that there is no such thing as “copyright”, it is nothing more than a government-imposed intrusion on real property rights. No one need have any qualms about copying digital goods – including my own music and ebooks – because it is cannot possibly be considered stealing if you leave the original owner in the full possession of his property.
I’m not opposed to a limited copyright in order to encourage innovation. But the original term of 28 years was more than sufficient. What we have now is unjust, immoral, and the result of corpocratic government.