Public Use

I am passionate about public domain. It is going away. It is being eroded by our bought out Congress who are constantly giving away extensions of copyright and trademark terms without getting anything for the public back in return. They are betraying us in favor those who give them campaign contributions, understandable, but ultimately unacceptable to me.

Sadly I am a poor public speaker, passionate but unable to congeal my arguments into cohesive form. Luckily for me there are very good speaker who eloquently make my case for me such as Larry Lessig. Below is his speech at the TED conference, about eighteen minutes long and very well done. He doesn’t cover all my arguments, but he does make a nice case and he explains why we can’t just trust the government to fix this mess. His point about having everyone working against the law because the law is just being an ass here is a very good one.

I feel that the inability of the law to apply common sense to copyright is damaging the United States and it will only get worse. I should mention the Electronic Freedom Foundation here, it is one of the organizations I give money to. Give them a look as well. I also post my photos on Flickr and all content on this site under a Creative Commons license and encourage people to do the same. The public domain belongs to all of us, it is our culture, don’t let it slip its loss stifle our nations voice.

2 thoughts on “Public Use”

  1. Very interesting and great examples!

    I wonder about the idea of kids “getting together and singing popular songs” — the difference today is global distribution. I remember putting on plays in the back yard or playing based on TV shows (fighting over who gets to be Agent 99; tough when a show has only one pretty girl). It was a long way from writing fan fiction and posting it on a blog.

    And while I understand and appreciate the artistic efforts, I also am involved with historic research. Costs add up to travel and purchase books & items, and museums often operate on a tight budget and need to charge extra for access. Why do some people feel it’s ok to scan things from a recently-published book and put it up on their website? There is a difference between making your own art and “sharing” information that is available to buy (and pay the author or institution).

  2. Carol,

    I am no fan of simple piracy. I buy books, musics and movies from artists all the time. People who lift their work wholesale are stealing, I have qualms about punishing theft. In the past the artist had no way of knowing if anyone is in the backyard singing his songs, but under copyright law it was not legal, it was unauthorised public performance. Copyright holders today complain about all the unauthorized use of their materials, but the truth is it has always been going on, they just had no means of finding out about it. It was our culture and their works made up a slice of it.

    There are sad stories of musicians robbed by their record companies, authors by their publishers, inventors by bigger companies and the like, but they were fewer stories of these people being hurt by the public’s ‘abuse’ of their property. Note that I don’t mean theft here, piracy is bad, but someone’s kid singing a song on Youtube isn’t bankrupting Prince or the Beatles. There is a real line between you and I playing with something we bought, a song or somesuch, and something which will actually hurt a rights holder. The law doesn’t recognize that line, it just makes us all criminals.

    Now the rights holders are convinced we are all thieves and they are wrong. I could steal any piece of music I want to, but I don’t, I buy it. I want the people who made it to get paid, damn near everyone I know feels the same as you give example to above. We want the artists to eat, we want the museums to thrive etc. So to thank us, the honest ones, we get saddled with crippled products from electronic vendors who insist we have to have DVD zones, or DRMed music, or ebooks that we can’t do half the things we could do with a traditional book such as give it away or loan it to someone. Perhaps if copyright holders could find ways to sell to us, rather than treat us all as thieves I would feel less resentful.

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