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Mickey Mouse Crisis


This remains one of my pet bugaboos.  Yglesias on the dumping of little-read classics from libraries:

In a world where classic works enter the public domain, people will get them one way or another. They'll be available for free download on the internet. E-book technology will improve. Print copies will cheaply available to people who want to buy them. Whether or not these things are in local libraries sort of won't be a huge deal one way or another. Now, traditionally, copyrights have had limited durations and "classic" books, being old by definition, tend to be in the public domain and hence widely available. In a digital era, they'll be super-available. But the emerging trend of the digital era is for retroactive extensions of copyright terms meaning that nothing new will ever enter the public domain. Ever.

Endless copyright extensions, lobbied for by and granted to Disney and other big intellectual property rights holders, prevent information from falling into the public domain and becoming widely disseminated, as well as grist for art, derivative works and general cultural digestion.  Documentary filmmakers are particularly hard hit by these laws, and it's the thing that keeps documentaries like Eyes on the Prize — an important series about the civil rights movement with certain segments on Martin Luther King available no where else — from being shown publicly.

Anybody who remembers the travesty of Path to 9/11 should remember that attacking Disney's endless quest for endless copyright would certainly get their attention.  I have faint hope that the Democrats will consider this their top priority in the new legislative session (nor am I suggesting that it should be), but I think that long-term it is something to keep in mind. Copyright law is complex and confusing, but it is fair to say that our cultural history is being held hostage by big media conglomerates, and as such they largely determine how it is shaped and disseminated. This is a problem.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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