If it's crap ... We'll tell you
If the concept of the library was created today, it would probably be illegal. Libraries were invented in ancient times to copy and store information for scientists and philosophers to use. Visiting scholars would visit other cities, copy scrolls of interest and back to their city where the process would be repeated.
Today, if such an action was taken, the owner of the scroll being copied would be brought to court and charged for spreading that information. Thankfully, libraries are an ancient institution, so even if a law is passed where the socialist practice of sharing books isn’t technically legal, all of society will look the other way. But, libraries haven’t evolved enough to keep up with technology. If a library today were to be started on say…the Internet, and a program was invented so that PDF-like files could be viewed by one person at a time and not copied or downloaded, the site would still be taken down and any attempts to restore it would be held up in court by lawyers.
Currently, thanks to mass publications, and the internet, individuals no longer have to copy books out by hand. This has lead to another problem, mass production of fraudulent work. While this is still going on today, with many products in China and India being made without the author’s/owner’s consent, it is nothing new. Even when Don Quixote was written back in the 17th century, people wrote fake chapters and unofficial adventures about the character without his consent and crowded the markets with the unofficial works.
Because of issues like this, when America was founded, it decided to create and enforce copyright protection. If you registered your creative work with the government, no one else could use what you created for a whole 15 years, and if you renewed it, you could double that time and get a whole 30 years of something to yourself.
As the average lifespan rose, the copyright expanded too, and thanks to lawyers, copyright was extended so that no one could touch an author’s work while they were alive. But thanks to businesses wanting to squeeze more and more money out of their creation, no one else can touch them after they die either.
No one is more associated with extending copyright for their own sake than Disney. By the nineteen thirties, companies could only own characters until fifty years after they died. As the new millennium approached, that meant that Mickey Mouse was going to fall into public domain. Disney, worried about there mascot being able to be used by anyone, lobbied to congress to pass a bill expanding all copyrights be 20 years, they succeeded. And each and every time Mickey Mouse was going to go into Public domain, the same tactic was used.
Since most of the early copyright extensions took place during the cold war, when America was the main economic power, other Western countries followed America’s lead, (with some notable exceptions, such as Australia.) But after the Cold War, Mickey was in danger of going into Public Domain again, so Disney teamed up with Congressman Sonny Bono (of Sonny and Cher fame,) and extended it, again. However, other countries didn't extend their copyright acts with America.
Now in America, you have to wait until 70 years after the individual dies, or 95 years after something is published, or if it’s owned by a company, 120 years after something is released before it goes into public domain.
Canada and Europe have lesser time periods, but because copyright isn’t harmonized, they can’t let what they’re selling reach America without risk of being sued, and with the internet around, that is almost impossible to do.
Mickey Mouse is now in Public Domain in Canada and (I believe) Europe, but if someone where were to make a movie about him, they could never legally sell it to Americans, and if it somehow go to them, Disney could go after them.
Music is also more available in the public domain in Europe, music recordings are only protected for 50 years in Europe, so many of Elvis’ hits are now in public domain there. In America, you have to wait 95 years before music becomes available to the public.
Movies are a whole other matter entirely, the copyrights are too complex for me to go over here without turning this article into an essay.
In Japan, anything created BEFORE 1953 is now in public domain, meanwhile, in America, there are works that are over 100 years old that few people are allowed to touch. (Most notably Peter Pan, and H.G. Well's the Invisible Man.)
This leaves America with almost a century’s worth of material that they can no longer sample, play with, release or share without a risk of a lawsuit.
Something to think about:
Look at Universal Studios original DRACULA movie, staring Bela Legosi, it came out in 1931, it is now 80 years old, everyone who worked on it and invested money into it is now dead. Most the people who currently own the rights weren’t even born when it was made. Yet, if I wanted to show it at a convention, or create a commentary track and show it online, I wouldn’t be able too.
One of the reasons for inventing copyright is because the government wanted the public to have a drive to create more original ideas and creations. However, over two hundred years later, the majority of things we are now getting aren’t original, most of the hit films we have are based off of properties that are over 50 years old, and remakes of existing films, shows, and franchises.
If the studios that made these movies weren’t the only ones that had the rights to the film, they might decide to give us some original material and franchises, instead of recycling their works in an endless supply of reboots.
Let entrepreneurs, historians, film buffs, fans, and businessmen have some fun with these, and even make a profit in the world’s sinking economy. Reduce and simplify the copyright act.
50 years after something is released onto the market let it become public domain where anyone can use it.
Most people won’t release a lasting property before they are 20 years old, so any one brilliant idea will hold them until retirement, and give them the majority of their lives. Half a century is more than enough time for people to tweak, and expand on what they have created before the public gets a go at it.
It opens up the markets to more competition from smaller, and more numerous businesses, it simplifies it so that schools can be able to look at more materials for a cheaper price, and have plays without spending thousands of dollars of their budget paying others to use them.
Companies like DC and Marvel would be more inclined to create new characters, instead of using the same ten big names forever.
Courtrooms wouldn’t be filled up with copyright cases that never go anywhere, and society as a whole would only benefit from it.
Remember, copyright expansion and prolongation wasn’t pushed by the people, but by businesses large businesses wanting to squeeze as much as they could from existing creations. It’s time the people take copyright back for themselves and shorten and simplify it so that they are given more options and tools to use to better their society.
Copyright is the most loaded subject that I bring up with people, and both sides bring up valid points for the current condition of the law and if it should be changed. If you have any valid opinions, don't be afraid to share them with the world.