Monday, August 29, 2011

Copyrighting Dreams

I've long felt that the copyright law in this country (USA) have been insane.  I mean, we have huge portions of our cultural heritage out of the hands of creators and hackers because the Disney corporation has lobbied Congress time and again to ensure they don't lose control of the Mouse.

When you consider all the thousands of books that are out-of-print, but no one can actually get because they are still under these insane copyright laws, and it is almost enough to make one cry.  Imagine what could be done if all those stories and movies were available for people to mash up and create new works from.

It's not like we're not seeing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--but could you imagine zombies embedded into Golding's Lord of the Flies? Instead it, and thousands of other books, movies and songs --our cultural heritage-- is contained under copyright until roughly 2050.

But it's not just that, but also things like MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. Which is pertinent with Irene hampering the opening of the MLK memorial.

Which I find it amusing that it was built using imported Chinese labor  who were not compensated for their work (which I read as SLAVE labor), and they actually had to pay the King family money (~$800,000) in order to use his likeness on the memorial.

Yes, one of the most important speech's in the last half of the twentieth century, and it's under copyright until late in the twenty-first century. And the King family is using those words and his likeness, not to push MLK's agenda of a color-blind society, but to make money.  The thing is that the King family sells copies of that speech on their website; and if you don't purchase one of their copies, or if you perform the speech, you're actually in violation of copyright law?

That's the joy of copyright right there.

It's the family of dead creators, and those corporations who had works "created for hire" who are the sole beneficiaries of these insane copyright laws. The King family routinely drag their father's name through the mud due to in-fighting over who gets to make money off of their dead father. And the same goes for hundreds of other families of dead artists. 

Copyright was designed to make creators money, so that they would create more. That's its whole purpose--to allow creators to create more. But by hiding everything under a copyright black-hole for a century, nothing is getting created. We can't create mashups of things that we grew up on, we can't reuse aspects of our culture.

Remember, that until the 1978 change in the law, at least 85% of the works created before 1982 would now be in the public domain.  And most of that 85% of all works since 1982 (and everything before 1955) are considered orphan works.  These are things that no one is trying to make money off of.  Books, movies, etc that are commercially unavailable and yet culturally off-limits. 

These are works of art that are not doing any good for the copyright holders, and they're not doing any good for us as a culture.  Instead, we are forced to buy the latest and "greatest" she-bangs which the so-called entertainment industry wants us to purchase and consume.  Forget the fact that most of it is rubbish, and very little of it will be worth the effort to attempt to consume a hundred years from now.

But, we can continue paying for MLK's Deam speech. We can continue shoving our culture into a dusty-bin just so the Walt Disney company can keep control of a cartoon character that should have become a part of our culture heritage as much as it has become an aspect of our cultural baggage. We can continue to do this, until our children don't even know some of these stories exist.  Rear Window, Seven Samurai, Dial M for Murder, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Creature from the Black Lagoon are just a handful of movies which my son will never get to see because they did not enter the public domain this year. They make no one money, and by the time they enter the public domain in 2050, my children won't care about them at all.

Which is a shame, and a travesty.

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