Good News on Copyright

31st December 2018 Off By binary
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NYT has an interesting piece on the flood of books that are about to come into the public domain now that the term for the last extention of copyright (from 75 to 95 years) is about to be reached. This extension was applied retroactvely, so it meant that virtually no copyrighted works came into the public domain for 20 years.

As policy, making a copyright extension is rather bizarre, since it is impossible to provide incentives for things that happened in the past. As the piece notes, one of the main motivations was Disney’s desire to keep some Mickey Mouse work under copyright protection, which is why the extension is sometimes referred to as the “Mickey Mouse copyright act.”

Anyhow, the fact that the work is now coming into the public domain both means that new editions can be published at just the cost of printing, making them more widely available. In addition, people can now freely do derivative works, as well as play and movies, derived from these books, without paying and/or getting permission from the copyright holders. It will be interesting to see how this change affects the treatment of the work newly in the public domain, which includes books by Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Kahlil Gibran.

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