Happy 112th birthday, Walter Elias “Walt” Disney! Only 23 years and 10 days left to your copyrights–that is, the ones that won’t enter the public domain before then.
Let me back up for a moment. You know that wonderfully weird phenomenon, when you become interested in a subject and it suddenly crops up everywhere? For me and Old Hollywood, it’s on.
- I started working on the lost film book, and a lost Three Stooges feature was discovered.
- I figured out that copyright terms were necessarily going to impact the story and its timeline, and literary agent Steve Laube blogged about it, using Disney’s Steamboat Willie to demonstrate the effects of current laws. (And incidentally, his post inspired a whole subplot!)
- I explained to a handful of people the estimated number of lost silent films from before 1929, and a Library of Congress study quantifying the statistic at 75% was recently reported. (Thanks for the tip, Mom!)
Back to Mr. Disney. Imagining for a moment that he did not have a massive multinational corporate standing guard of his legacy, current law allows that his works are protected for his lifetime (which ended December 15, 1966) plus 70 years. Can you imagine, if on December 15, 2036, the Disney spell was broken? And those works which “should have” entered public domain but were granted extensions of copyright protection will begin entering the public domain in 2019 (unless the law is changed again).
I’m still understanding all the perspectives, but I’m mixed on this issue.
- As a writer, I believe I should be in control of my intellectual property–including the decision of who should control it when I’m gone.
- As a genealogy enthusiast, I have benefited from photographs and documents in the public domain–including the ability to legally reproduce them on this very blog from time to time.
- As a fan of capitalism, I see no reason a privately-owned, in-demand product should be wrested from the hands of its owner at any time.
- As a fan of culture, I roll my eyes at my inner-capitalist and suggest she go enjoy her Dover edition of Selected Poems of John Donne (list price: $1.00).
It’s a sticky issue, and one that will probably build buzz in the next few years. I’d love to hear your perspective.
Question for you: When should a copyrighted work go into the public domain, and why do you thinks so?
P.S.— In my last post, I mentioned a plan to move email subscriptions to another service provider. Unfortunately, I hit a snag and I won’t be making changes for now. Just trying to keep you my lovely readers in the know.