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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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