Friday, August 07, 2009

Mickey Mouse copyright term

James Boyle has some interesting comments on Tom Bell's Copyright Duration and the Mickey Mouse Curve:

"What Tom knows, but the casual viewer may not, is that while this graph is quite correct it actually dramatically understates the extent to which the effective length

of copyright has been extended and does so in two distinct ways.

1.) For most of American history, copyright has been given in renewable increments... if we asked, “what was the median length of actual copyright during that period?” we would have a very different graph...85% of copyright holders were not bothering to renew their works for the second term. Thus, the effective length of copyright for the majority of copyrighted culture was actually half what Tom shows. 14 years in 1790 and so on.

2.) The proportion of culture covered by Tom’s graph changes by several orders of magnitude."
James goes on to note that:
"a.) for most of American history the vast majority of most potentially copyrightable works weren’t under copyright at all and b.) that, of the tiny, tiny percentage that were, the vast majority went into the public domain at the expiration of their first term. "
So (also via Twitter):
"1.) We are the first generation to deny our own culture to ourselves.

2.) No work created during your lifetime will, without conscious action by its creator, become available for you to build upon."
Plain, simple and profound.

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