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Dan on Copyright – Trespassing on the public domain

Dan Gillmor makes the point that we have to keep hammering home: Creators of creative works do not own their works the way land owners own their land. The US Constitution gives authors some rights that land owners have but carefully circumscribes them: creators have a monopoly on the right to publish their works for a limited time (originally 14 years, now life + 70) and within a limited domain (Fair Use).

Is this unfair to creators? Nope, and not just because creating a public domain is a greater good to which the creator must bow. Creators do this funny thing of publishing their works. In making their works public those works cease to be fully private the way land can be. You can’t both make it public and demand that the public not use what they’ve bought. Some leeway is required. Copyright law tries to preserve that leeway, despite the Big Lie of Big Content.

And with digital rights management — or what Dan more accurately calls “digital restrictions management” — on the way, the owners of copyrights will be able to control with near perfect precision how you use what you’ve bought. Thus, the noble compromise that is copyright will be torn up, leaving the public as trespassers in what used to be the public domain.

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4 Responses to “Dan on Copyright – Trespassing on the public domain”

  1. “Creators of creative works do not own their works the way land owners own their land.”

    Creators of works don’t “own” their works at all once the works are disclosed. They own the copyrights in the works, not the works themselves. They have in effect sold the work to the public in exchange for the copyright.

    The copyright is in many respects a piece of personal property, but not in all respects. In particular the law creates “termination rights” which allow the author to recapture the copyright after 35 years. This feature doesn’t look very property-like to me.

  2. If I “open” a store to “the public”, does it become a free commune after 14 years?

    (I’m against the rodent’s current actions, and think it’s time for a big rethink of IP law, but I don’t see a valid point here about “publishing” inherently changing the ownership nature of a thing.)

  3. Of course your store doesn’t become a depot of free after 14 years, but opening it to the public does change your rights with regard to it.

  4. […] EFF Petition. “The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a petition for those of us appalled by the RIAA’s singleminded attempt to criminalize file sharing rather than working to come up with workable ways to achive the multiple aims of building a flourishing a public domain, providing access to works no longer available thorugh publishers, and compensating artists….” [Joho the Blog] […]


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