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Lessig - Public Domain Dead in 35 Years

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the rest-in-peace dept.

Businesses 469

tcd004 writes "Lawrence Lessig, in an article on the Foreign Policy site, predicts that the public domain will die a slow death at the hands of anti-piracy efforts. From the article: 'The danger remains invisible to most, hidden by the zeal of a war on piracy. And that is how the public domain may die a quiet death, extinguished by self-righteous extremism, long before many even recognize it is gone.'"

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469 comments

Going to die? (5, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463068)

Nothing has fallen into the public domain for almost a half century before I was born.

It's dead Jim.

Re:Going to die? (4, Interesting)

joshdick (619079) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463110)

Yeah, and the concept of open source copylefts won't help this matter. Open source software written nowadays won't be in the public domain for about a century.

I think Dr. Lessig overlooked copylefts as a viable alternative to public domain.

Re:Going to die? (5, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463135)

There's still the idea that *EVERYTHING* ends up in the public domain. That's what's dying.

An author can easily purposely put something in the public domain, or use a copyleft that is almost as good. That doesn't solve the original problem.

Re:Going to die? (1)

bedroll (806612) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463141)

I think Dr. Lessig overlooked copylefts as a viable alternative to public domain.

Yeah, especially when he helped create the CC:SA license. :P

Actually, this was a very short and broadly termed article that I think was hardly newsworthy. You can generally learn more just reading his blog entries.

Re:Going to die? (2, Insightful)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463180)

Copylefts are interesting, but in the end they're really not a substitute for having material that is utterly unencumbered by restrictions.

Re:Going to die? (3, Interesting)

SWroclawski (95770) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463317)

Agreed. Copyleft serves two major purposes, and one of them is not addressed by Public Domain.

The first, of course, is to make work available to the public.

The second is to protect the author from others using thier work against them (ie share and share alike).

But even with copyrights, if a work is not published, but is something internal (say, the code to Google servers), then 50, 75, 100 years can pass, and even though it may (may!) end up technically in the public domain, it's still a trade secret, and if it never gets published externally, it's not public domain.

Copyleft and CC address this issue by getting more works out, but Copyleft and CC only cover works that are specifically placed under those licenses, which are not the majority of works. Both are essentially workarounds for a system that is fundamentally broken and has lost its balance of profit vs public good.

Re:Going to die? (1, Interesting)

Jamesday (794888) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463282)

Copyleft licenses are far worse than the public domain. The typical type blocks all reuse except by something with exactly the same license, making each license a walled garden, only compatible with things having exactly the same license. Public domain or even a license like BSD lets just about any person producing FOSS use the work, without dividing the OSS world.

Re:Going to die? (1, Troll)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463144)

Plenty of things fall into the public domain every second of every day. In fact, I'm going to release this post into the public domain right now.

Re:Going to die? (2)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463174)

You placed it, it didn't fall into public domain. It wouldn't fall into it for at least a century.

Re:Going to die? (2, Insightful)

joshdick (619079) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463250)

I disagree. For something to enter the public domain today, it must've been created around the early part of last century. I don't think too many people are all that thrilled about the chance to use works from that time period.

If you're implying that works without a copyright symbol attached are in the public domain, you are mistaken. Copyrights in the U.S. are opt-out, not opt-in.

Re:Going to die? (2, Interesting)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463286)

For something to enter the public domain today, it must've been created around the early part of last century.

Not true. Consider this [wikinews.org], or this [infoanarchy.org], or this [voanews.com].

If you're implying that works without a copyright symbol attached are in the public domain, you are mistaken.

No, I'm implying that works that are explictly placed into the public domain or are produced by an employee in the US government as part of her duties is in the public domain.

Re:Going to die? (4, Insightful)

DigitumDei (578031) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463185)

People seem to forget that the pop culture that various industries churn out is not the only creative output in the world; it's just the most visible. And yes "it" will probably never get into the public domain.

There is however a huge, and admittedly 99% crap, amount of work that is released with creative commons style licenses, or released into the public domain immediately.

I hope that over the years -- as popular culture becomes more and more formula driven -- that a new and burgeoning culture arises that sees the various sharing licenses as well as public domain as the best option. Where anyone can release their creative works into the world, and their merits, not their marketing budget, determines whether it is successful or not.

Re:Going to die? (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463234)

And as technology enables that, it also kills it.

Look at the requirement that everything on the next gen players be DRM'ed and licensed. There's no "Region 0"

Re:Going to die? (1)

DigitumDei (578031) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463340)

I never understood that...

I do like to buy DVD's of movies that I enjoy, and the industry's insistence that they don't release movies in certain regions just gives me one less reason to give them my money.

Of course, I'm sure most future players will be hackable/flashable.

Re:Going to die? (3, Insightful)

Brunellus (875635) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463309)

...and now let's go back to reality. Marketing budgets cut through the babel of thousands--millions !--of other products competing for attention in the marketplace. The only "merit" that ensures survival in the marketplace is marketability.

That's a hard truth, but it's what it is. Great work is seldom popular work.

Re:Going to die? (5, Insightful)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463231)


Nothing has fallen into the public domain for almost a half century before I was born.


That is amazing isn't it? Back in the days when it took years to publish and distribute a work artists were given fourteen years of protection. Today, despite near instantaneous communication, they are protected for a hundred years or better. It's no wonder that so many people don't give a damn about sharing copyrighted works.

Lessig? (4, Insightful)

dsginter (104154) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463075)

Is this really Lessig writing or is he just regurgitating Ray Bradbury?

In any event, people simply don't care. As long as they have a cool ringtone, that is.

Re:Lessig? (1)

CHESTER COPPERPOT (864371) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463142)

"As long as they have a cool ringtone, that is."

Obviously Lessig is jealous he didn't get to download that Public Domain remix of the song out of Blade with vampire blood dancing. Which leads to something more nefarious..

Putting two and two together we /.'ers have obviously solved the root of the piracy problem where Lessig failed, that is ... vampires have taken control of intellectual property. Yes, yes. I know, I know calm down. It's simple see ... we just take the supposed lawyers (vampires) for a "walk" in a back alley. Accidents happen can sometimes happen in back alleys.

What are you on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463079)

Public domain can't die as long as one can create a piece of work and renounce all copyright to it.

What a prophet! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463083)

Geez. It's funny how people can predict what will happen in 35 years when they don't actually know what will happen in about... half a second?

My prediction (1)

rajafarian (49150) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463362)

In about half a second things are going to be almost exactly the same as they are... NOW.

That was easy and it looks like I was right, too.

People forget (3, Insightful)

Peaker (72084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463086)

that the main purpose of copyright, was to enhance the public domain.

Re:People forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463134)

That may have been the PaRty line, but the main purpose of copyright, has nothing to do with enhancing the public domain.

Re:People forget (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463290)

In 1710 Parliment enacted the 'Statute of Anne' which basically created the public domain. It guarnteed that all published works entered the public domain after 14-28 years. It's entire purpose was to prevent monoplies and enhance the public domain.

Re:People forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463229)

"Sounds like somebody's livin' in the past. Contemporize, man!"

We're not talking about what the purpose of copyright WAS, we're talking about what the purpose of copyright IS.

At this time, the purpose of copyright is to provide a secure income stream for a handful of global media conglomerates.

If you don't think that's such a hot idea, you really only have a couple of choices: convince enough people to elect a congress that won't be bought by Sony and Disney, or somehow conduct a successful guerilla campaign against Sony and Disney. All anybody has done so far is either tacitly support Sony and Disney by paying $10 a pop to watch their crappy movies, or ineffectively fight against Sony and Disney by stealing their crappy movies.

Re:People forget (0)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463240)

Actually, I doubt that's true. In hindsight it would have been a good purpose, but that doesn't mean it actually was the purpose.

Re:People forget (4, Insightful)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463276)

The main purpose of copyright was to ensure that artists would have an incentive to create new content. Period.

Now, the US constitution (which is one of many documents the world over that calls for copyrights, etc) calls for "limited times" which implies that part of that mechanism is ensuring content falls into the public domain.

But that's not the reason for the copyright, indeed it could be argued that putting stuff in the public domain is a part of the incentive (ie you're putting the cart before the horse): by ensuring stuff eventually gets put in the public domain, artists can build upon the works of others and, in the past when copyrights lasted a few decades, artists had an incentive to continue creating rather than relying upon a back-catalog of stuff they did in their 20s to keep them fed in their 50s and 60s.

We want content, we want it in general circulation and accessable to everyone. Whether it's public domain or not is more a matter of practicalities, not of some greater goal.

Disclaimer: this doesn't not mean I don't like the public domain, or am in favour of current copyright limits and evil absurdities like the DMCA's ACMs/CCMs.

Re:People forget (1)

Peaker (72084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463364)

The main purpose of copyright was to ensure that artists would have an incentive to create new content. Period.

Ensuring incentive is not a purpose, its a mean.

The explicit purpose was promoting science and useful arts. Science and useful arts are enhanced by a large public domain and derivative works, not by disallowing derivative works of any work in existence.

I foresee a crisis at Disney (5, Funny)

Cronopios (313338) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463088)

Does it mean that Disney will have to actually come up with new stories instead of ripping off Grimm brothers et al?

Re:I foresee a crisis at Disney (4, Insightful)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463218)

Warning: I'm actually serious about this.

I'll be terrified to see the day that the USPTO actually starts selling the rights to public domain works of unknown origin.

I can honestly see it happening.

Hum... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463378)

Do you know where Walt got the "inspiration" for a good deal of his work?

You guessed it.
Old, public domain folk stories.

Why do you think he was a fervant defender of copyright extension? He nabbed that shit and wanted to keep it forever.

Spell check please (1)

neomorph (172439) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463093)

Public 'domian'?

Re:Spell check please (3, Funny)

CHESTER COPPERPOT (864371) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463159)

Public 'domian'?

No. It's spelled correctly. The /. editors forgot to add the sinister gregorian monk music and demon guide dogs and crows.

Re:Spell check please (1)

DenDave (700621) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463190)

Yeah man, didn't you see that South Park episode wit "Pubic Damian"? With the Pubes from hell!

I don't think so. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463096)

Within every culture there are people that want to fight the system, and if releasing material into the public domain is one way of fighting back, people will do it.

Re:I don't think so. (3, Interesting)

MisterMurphy (899535) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463322)

"releasing material into the public domain" does not equal "sharing my Ray Charles Mp3s on Kazaa". Trying to release material into the public domain just won't work in fifty years, anyhow; with the continual extension of copyright and the accumulation of greater and greater amounts of material in the hands of big corporations. Eventually anyone who even wanted to make something public domain would be sued into oblivion for copy infringement, as it becomes harder and harder not to be derivitive of something that is in the vaults of the media which will stretch back over a century and a half.

Fight back! (5, Insightful)

alexwcovington (855979) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463111)

This is why everything I write on Wikipedia is still released into the public domain.

Re:Fight back! (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463182)

Please-kindly-note that while YOU may release anything you write on Wikipedia into the public domain, Wikipedia itself IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN, it's available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), thankyou-verymuch.

Re:Fight back! (2, Interesting)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463325)

Please-kindly-note that while YOU may release anything you write on Wikipedia into the public domain, Wikipedia itself IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN

Wikinews is, but some people are trying to change that. If you want to see Wikinews stay in the public domain, create an account and vote here [wikimedia.org].

Re:Fight back! (3, Interesting)

defile39 (592628) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463244)

As to my understanding, it is not possible to "release things" into the public domain. If an author publishes a statement that a given work is being made "public" or something to that effect, and you use that work, or distribute it, or copy it, or whatever, you might still be infringing. If the origional author decides to take you to court over it, we don't know what the outcome of the case would be. I don't think that there is a legal way to say "this work can be used/copied/distributed by anyone, anywhere". This, I believe, is why the "Creative Commons" was formed. I don't know how defensable this agreement is, and IANAL, but I think this is the best we have so far.

Creative Commons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463112)

Isn't that supposed to sort of take over the task of public domain? Or would it be inadequate? Because you can always pick something in the PD up and polish it, then re-sell it again.

Public Domain in the balance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463113)

This is another content free handwave - why 35 years? I'd expect more from someone of Prof. Lessig's stature.

There will always be writers and artists who release their own works into the public domain. If anything, the trend is accelerating because the Internet is turning the masses into "authors" and "composers", and the traditional for-pay channels for distributing media are breaking down.

Re:Public Domain in the balance (2, Informative)

BackInIraq (862952) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463208)

This is another content free handwave - why 35 years?

Not much in the way of content, you are right. As for 35 years, it's because it was part of a larger "Here Today, Gone Tommorow" piece that is talking about what institutions that we take for granted might not be here in...you guessed it...35 years.

Re:Public Domain in the balance (1)

BackInIraq (862952) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463225)

Oh, and I forgot to add that 35 was chosen specifically because FP is marking it's 35th anniversary. My bad.

Will it be dead? (4, Insightful)

3CRanch (804861) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463117)

What a stupid thing to suggest.

As long as people are out there sharing ideas freely, it'll survive. It may not get as much attention as it does right now (i.e. all the attention open source gets right now), but as a concept, it cannot die.

There, I had a thought and shared it. PD was just reborn ;)

Re:Will it be dead? (2, Insightful)

joshdick (619079) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463262)

Concepts die and slip into obscurity all the time. With all the miseducation regarding copyrights nowadays, what's to stop that to happening to the concept of public domain?

Re:Will it be dead? (1)

UltimaGuy (745333) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463288)

I agree with your views, but the article by itself raises some interesting questions ... What will happen if the joe sixpack doesn't know that something called Public Domain existed ... what if they thing copyright is the right thing to do ? What I have to say that I was indeed deeply troubled by this article

History of Piracy (0)

Dysfnctnl85 (690109) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463118)

Piracy is constantly changing forms over the course of time and will always, always, always be around. How can you even BEGIN to prophesize the end of the public domain if you have any sense of history?

"Domian" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463120)

Isn't pretty much the point of an editor to screen articles, correct spelling etc. In general, edit?

(It's pretty obvious the job of an editor isn't to spot and avoid dupes)

I disagree (5, Insightful)

marcantonio (895721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463123)

In a free society the public domain will never die. It's part of our culture. There will come a point when things get so bad that people will just stop caring about the lawyers and self-righteous extremism. Look at what a joke patents are becoming. If it's get ridiculous enough and enough people care about, it will change.

Although, things aren't so great right now, and will probably get worse before they get better.

Re:I disagree (4, Insightful)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463172)

Well, then this will be a great test of our "free society." Does it still exist to the extent that this problem can be corrected?

Agreed (1)

jeffvoigt (866600) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463271)

Throughout history there have been people proclaiming end of the world scenarios, and this person is no different. Like any new frontier that is explored, people are "testing the waters" for what they can and can't do. Once this frontier society has a good grasp of the inherent workings of the system, laws will start to be formed to govern it. Some laws will stay, some will go. But it seems short-sighted idiocy for someone to proclaim that one of the core driving forces of the system will be gone (public domain). It's like saying gravity will dry up. While it will most likely not look exactly like it does today, the public domain will still exist. There will just be laws in place to govern it better.

That's exactly the problem (2, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463329)

``In a free society the public domain will never die. It's part of our culture.''

I much more feel that society and culture are the root of the problem. Let me explain.

One problem is the political system. Winner-take-all is a way of counting votes that basically admits only 2 parties (a 3rd party will take away votes from the party closest to it, increasing the likelihood that the less-favored party wins).

Because there are only 2 parties, and it's hard to start up a 3rd party with a fighting chance, it's hard to improve the situation once both parties start down the Dark Path.

Enormous amounts of money are invested in election campaigns. One party cannot significantly cut investments, because that is almost certainly yielding victory to the other party. Campaign money has to come from somewhere.

Both parties receive heavy sponsoring from the corporate world. It is not at all unreasonable to suspect that this might convince some politicians to view their sponsors in a favorable light, and be more inclined to pass legislation that helps these sponsors than legislation that inhibits these sponsors.

In short: what's good for the company is good for the party. There are clear signs of corporate influence on the government.

The principle of freedom of the press exists so that the media has the freedom to inform the public about political wrongs. The idea is that politicians can get away with a lot of crap as long as nobody knows, so some entity has to be responsible for keeping the public informed. This entity is the free (e.g. independent from the government) press.

The problem with the free press is that it is dominated by large corporations. These same corporations also sponsor politicians. So, on the one hand, they can influence politicians in a way that wouldn't be desirable from the small man's point of view. On the other hand, they can cover it up so that noone finds out.

So, it's the corporations pulling the strings in the important parts of society. Pair this with an individualist culture bent on material gain and personal happiness, and I think you can see how big a problem there is and how hard it is to change it.

Oh, and yes, everybody preaches freedom, liberty and democracy...but more and more freedoms are taken away. Citizens of the USA now enjoy noticably less freedom than citizens of the European countries the USA originally loathed for their authoritarianism, so I think the freedom, liberty and democracy message can be safely discarded as a lullaby to keep the uninformed public from waking up.

Re:That's exactly the problem (1)

marcantonio (895721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463375)

I agree completely, that is what the Lessig should have said is in danger, our democracy and freedom.
 
We are know tettering on the edge of democracy and the illusion of it.

Re:I disagree (1)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463348)

In a free society

No such thing. This planet has never seen one, and never will.


There will come a point when things get so bad that people will just stop caring

Agreed, and I think we've already gotten right to the threshold of that in the US. Personally, I try to do the "right" thing, but could care less about what "the law" says I should do (largely because I've learned that "law" and "right" only rarely overlap, and then only for purely accidental reasons).

And looking at the next generation - I seriously believe that what socity has called the "gimme" or "entitlement" mentality reflects exactly your assertion - They don't have a sense of "entitlement" so much as a total disconnect with the idea of intellectual property. We tolerate the limited monopoly on ideas and "content" for the purpose of enriching the public domain a few years down the road. Not for the purpose of making Sony more money - No one cares if Sony makes money, not even its own execs (they just care about their bonuses, which get fatter the more Sony makes).

Consider the current state of Music copyrights from the perspective of a 10YO:
"Why shouldn't I just download it?"
"Well, because some day, that song will pass into the public domain, and belong to everybody. By letting the artist have a copyright now, more artists will have motivation to contribute to that eventual shared culture."
"Okay, that makes sense... So will that happen next year, when most sales have already happened?"
"Well, it takes a little longer than that..."
"So when I turn 20?"
"Erm, no, longer still..."
"30?"
"Not quite..."
"So when? Not by 30? By then I'll turn into a geezer listening to Perry Como!"
"Well, actually, it won't happen in your lifetime. Probably not even your kids' lifetimes. IF congress doesn't extend copyrights any further, your grandkids might get to enjoy it for free shortly after they retire..."
"Uhhh.. Yeah. Riiiiiigggghhht. Just keep telling yourself that; Now if you'll excuse me, I'll go download it from the real public domain, Kazaa."

Mod parent up (1)

marcantonio (895721) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463405)

Personally, I try to do the "right" thing, but could care less about what "the law" says I should do (largely because I've learned that "law" and "right" only rarely overlap, and then only for purely accidental reasons).

HERE, HERE! Morality != the Law.

Say what?? (0)

Timberwolf0122 (872207) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463124)

Surely the definition of PD is an application/data that the author freely distributes possibly with a small EULA asking that the app/data not be altered and re-distributed in its original form.

Many people write tools that are then distributed free as a hobby or because they think other people may find them useful, I fail to see how/why this would stop.

Re:Say what?? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463156)

Surely the definition of PD is an application/data that the author freely distributes possibly with a small EULA asking that the app/data not be altered and re-distributed in its original form.

No, public domain means not covered by copyright. If there's "a small EULA" which depends on copyright for its force, then it's not public domain. You're thinking of "freeware".

Re:Say what?? (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463386)

If there's "a small EULA" which depends on copyright for its force, then it's not public domain.

Since EULAs are governed by state contract law and not federal copyright law, no, you can have an EULA and still be in the public domain. In fact, one of the most prominent cases over EULAs was ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg, which was a dispute over the redistribution of a public domain work.

Re:Say what?? (2, Informative)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463321)

The idea of public domain is that you create something, release it and relinquish any control you have over it. You can't release something as public domain but add conditions.

If you were to release an application in to the public domain and offer it as a free download from your web site, you could not stop me from simply changing the strings so that it looks like my work and then reselling it as a commercial application.

That's not public domain. (1)

KitesWorld (901626) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463398)

If something is released to the public domain, then there is NO EULA, and no restrictions placed on use or distrubution whatsoever.

Public domain essentially means that the owner has released all rights in relation to the infomation - be it a book, a piece of software, a film, music, whatever.
In that sense, yes, the public domain is dyng. It's becoming increasingly rare for someone to distribute something without placing a restriction or two on its use - everyone wants their piece of the cake, so to speak.

Anti-piracy? (5, Insightful)

bedroll (806612) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463125)

Lessig himself teaches that, since the failing of Eldred, public domain will die due to lobbying and retroactive term extensions. That's not an anti-piracy measure, it's just big companies controlling congress.

Not Only Piracy (1)

jstrain (648252) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463148)

In addition to the war on piracy, current laws certainly aren't helping to grow the public domain. Until lawmakers adopt some common sense when it comes to copyright length, the outcome of the war on piracy matters little.

Public Domain's Not Dead, Just On Hold (4, Insightful)

mikeboone (163222) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463152)

Public domain is just on hold for a while. Hey, we only have to wait until 2019 [wikipedia.org] to get our hands on that hot 1923 copyrighted material.

Congress wouldn't extend copyright again, would they?

Of course, new stuff locked down by DRM won't know when it's supposed to expire, so 90+ years when it's supposed to expire, no one will know what to do with the scrambled bits. :(

Re:Public Domain's Not Dead, Just On Hold (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463285)

In 90 or so years no one will care about Britney Spears' latest single or another MPAA flop.

Double edged sword of copyright? (4, Interesting)

Enlarged to Show Tex (911413) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463155)

Few people on this site dispute that the ability to automatically have your work copyrighted by default helps Sam Slashdot by making it easier to cover his stuff. However, it also means that more and more areas end up having its entire body of work covered under copyright. With the practically indefinite term of copyright being bought^W lobbied for by Disney and others, it's no wonder that Lessig talks in this kind of language...

I think the only way to save the public domain is for serious reform - be it soapbox, ballot box, or revolution - to take place sooner rather than later.
 

Re:Double edged sword of copyright? (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463261)

Few people on this site dispute that the ability to automatically have your work copyrighted by default helps Sam Slashdot by making it easier to cover his stuff.

I'd certainly dispute this. How much stuff does Sam Slashdot produce which wasn't a work for hire and for which the copyright on it is actually useful? Little to nothing, I'd say.

Maybe in the USA (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463170)

But as we've seen from the chaos in new orleans, USA'ians are hardly the ones to dictate anything to the rest of the world about how to behave.

I predict exactly the opposite... (1)

anthony_dipierro (543308) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463192)

When I first read the article title, I thought this was going to be a story about how everything would be public domain in 35 years. You'd think a guy like Lessig would be more optimistic about things.

Anyway, I predict that in 35 years the pendulum will have swung. The zeal of the war on piracy will have gone too far for too long, and people will fight back. Sure, the fight will start with copyleft, as it already has begun to do so, but once copyleft has won the establishment will be forced to move in the opposite direction, and lessen the stranglehold of copyright laws.

Refreshing (2, Insightful)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463377)

Anyway, I predict that in 35 years the pendulum will have swung. The zeal of the war on piracy will have gone too far for too long, and people will fight back. Sure, the fight will start with copyleft, as it already has begun to do so, but once copyleft has won the establishment will be forced to move in the opposite direction, and lessen the stranglehold of copyright laws.

I agree. It's not in fashion here on Slashdot to actually be optimistic about the mechanisms of change in a representative government. But what people keep forgetting is that the American government was deliberately set up to move slowly on issues of major import. Sometimes that slow pace seems good (when people are trying to overturn something you like), and sometimes it seems bad (when you're trying to turn the tide and it's difficult to do so), but it's that way for good reason.

People are already starting to fight back. Lessig, McLeod, and others are writing about copyright excesses. There are a handfull of Representatives in Congress who really understand what's going on, and they're trying to educate their peers. We lost the Eldred case at the Supreme Court, but that's certainly not the end of the road.

But where will it go? (1)

Iriel (810009) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463194)

You know he's mostly right, except I think M. Jackson's going to buy half of the entire public domain for $73 billion in 10 years. Another 25 after that, he'll get sued by the financial firm he never paid back for the loan and only half of the public domain will be lost ;)

Culture of Greed (5, Insightful)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463196)

This is what happens when the motivating factor is to maximize profits. If someone can make a profit from it, it gets patented and copyrighted.
What is the incentive for people to give away things when the trend is to become wealthy as quickly as possible?
People who already are wealthy are the ones with the greatest means and free time to create more wealth...it is a mindset.

Re:Culture of Greed (2, Interesting)

multimed (189254) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463399)

The thing that really sucks is that for the overwhelming majority of protected IP, the profits are long since gone decades before it enters the public domain--if in fact it ever does which is a very much in question based on the "limited terms that are renewable forever are still limited terms" doctrine. What's so sad isn't that no one will be able to freely copy Mickey Mouse cartoons, it's everything else that never makes it to the public domain. I still think the best fix for copyright is an initial 20 years, renewable for small periods with increasing renewal fees--something like 1 year periods, $10 the first year and doubling every year after that. Making the people making money off locking up ideas actively do something and pay something to continue their monopoly.

Authors have control (3, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463200)

Within every DRM system there will always be a way for the author to set the copy rights to allow freely made copies. There are always people who want their stuff copied or who don't care or who don't want the recipient encumbered by any restrictions.

That said, PHBs and paternalist OSes from Redmond may decide the implement restrictive DRM settings for their own idiotic reasons. I noticed more than one company annual report that uses a password protected PDF to prevent copy-past operations for who knows what reason. Yet the first time a small content creator's use of DRM causes problems for their big client, the small company will "turn off" DRM.

As long as there are people that want to be heard as far and wide as possible, there will be a public domain.

Another Prohibition (5, Insightful)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463202)

It's very likely that Lessig is right. Meanwhile, personal casual copying will continue--on a reduced level. Average consumers will have DRMed gear.

Only about one in twenty or one in a hundred will go to the effort of buying the illegally chipped merchandise that will become available in flea markets, on the Internet, and via other black-market channels. This gear will be sold like the pressed-grape-concentrate bricks of the Prohibition era, which came with detailed instructions explaining that it was totally illegal to use them to make wine and giving careful step-by-step directions on what you must not do to stay legal.

It will create more social unrest, injustice, and disrespect for the law. As with prohibition, and with current marijuana laws, a huge fraction of the population will be felons according to the law. Enforcement will be inconsistent and selective. Most people breaking the law will not be deterred because they will feel that getting caught is unlikely and totally a matter of bad luck.

My analog cassette player died last year. My old CD player is starting to become unreliable. I'm not sure what the useful life of a solid-state laser is, but I'm beginning to suspect it's less than ten years. The next one I buy will probably have DRM.

Prohibition eventually ended, the "war on drugs" will eventually end, and the war on the public domain will eventually end. Probably not in my lifetime, though, and not until a lot of damage and misery has occurred.

Re:Another Prohibition (1)

fiddlesticks (457600) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463411)

>My analog cassette player died last year.

go and buy a new one then.

> My old CD player is starting to become unreliable

buy a better one next time then

Such a short article but so wrong (2, Insightful)

squoozer (730327) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463212)

While I see the guys point he probably couldn't be more wrong if he tried. I never used to release anything I wrote or developed into the public domain. As restrictions increase though I am more and more inclined to release my material, in part, as a protest. Most of it is not really worth anything to anyone but me but there are a few gems in amongst it that potentially have value.

While I don't imagine everyone will follow my course I imagine that there are suficient like minded people that will do the same to ensure that we will always have a body of public domain work. As restrictions increase public domain works become more and more appealing. Public domain will never replace private domain as there is to much money in it. Public domain work, though, can certainly keep the private domain in check and limit its powers. The only danger is nutty legislation that effectivly bans public domain work and I can't ever see that happening.

I actually don't see copyright as being all that bad. In fact I would go as far as to say I quite like it. The length copyright applies for is far to long. IMHO it should be more like 20 or 30 years but I could be persuaded that it should be somewhat longer. I like the way the author doesn't have to apply to any central body to copyright a work. It just magically happens. That's great because it stops leeches making a quick buck of other peoples work.

Misleading Catch Phrase (4, Insightful)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463224)

While it sounds catchy, it's not really as if public domain is _really_ going to die. What's going to happen is that copyright becomes stronger and lasts longer, and eventually copyrighted material might never enter the public domain again.

But plenty of people love to share their work and ideas. Some of these people are going to be putting stuff in the public domain. Also, with copyleft and similar policies, a lot of copyrighted material is going to provide similar benefits to public material (reusability).

All is not lost, and all won't be lost as long as enough people behave socially rather than trying to grab as much money and power as they can.

the article has no information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463255)

through the World Intellectual Property Organization, wealthy countries everywhere are pushing to impose even tighter restrictions on the rest of the world. These legal measures will soon be supplemented by extraordinary technologies that will secure to the owners of culture almost perfect control over how "their property" is used. Any balance between public and private will thus be lost. The private domain will swallow the public domain. And the cultivation of culture and creativity will then be dictated by those who claim to own it.

Unfortunately the article fails to explain what the specific threats are and how they will impact the public domain. I'd like to be better informed about how WIPO will unfairly take away my rights, but tfa doesn't explain anything...

35 years (4, Informative)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463260)

I RTFA, and nowhere was the term "35 years" used. However, poking around the site I see this article was one of a batch on the themes of thngs happeneng over the last 35 years (since Foreign Policy magazine began), and the next 35. So Lessig didn't choose that figure for any real reason.

Lessig dead in 35 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463291)

No more nambly-pab whining then. Thank god!

what DIES is the system as we know it (-1, Flamebait)

leckmi (911151) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463308)

look at new orleans, look at thai tsunamis, look at austrias flood. chaos, riots and mischief everywhere due to nature catastrophes which come from our reckless abuse of the nature. the system of government, executives, police and law enforcers will break down soon. also big multinationals and other companies will die out. media in the future will be what it should be: entertainment not made to get some bucks out of it. it will be entertainment that will kick the human to another level. it will be something like linux is for software. people will create media to contribute to the evolution not to fill their pockets. not like nowadays where drugabuse, violence and promiscuity are promoted as considerable lifestyles in hollywood movies etc. when there are only few people left on earth after the BIG CRASH, everyone left will have enough space to run farms and live free without greed, cause everyone will get full everyday. MORMONS and VISSARION are not too wrong with their way. they will survive.

Lessig for SCOTUS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463319)

I hereby nominate Lawrence Lessig for current and upcoming vacancies. -ac

Not dead. Just comatose. (2, Insightful)

jglazer75 (645716) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463344)

More than anywhere there is a generational gap in the copyright universe. There are those, currently at the top, who want to protect the things they grew up with (Mickey Mouse, we love you - I wanted to be member of the Mickey Mouse club - haha, wasn't Mickey so cute.) And there is the current generation who, for better or worse, have no attachment to anything - everything is just play-doh to make something else. At some point there will be a changing of the guard and the public domain will rise like a phoenix.

I also think to some extent the generational gap results in over protection to those with the pocket-books. Copyright didn't play an important part of culture so the leaders aren't comfortable speaking its language. Whenever you have that situation, where a leader is relying entirely on the advice of his "counselors" you have the problem of the leader's view taking on the characteristics of the view of whomever speaks to him the most. And quite frankly those with the most get the ear. As more of us get into congress that are comfortable with the issues and have independently formed opinions, you will see a change to a more reasoned debate.

I hope.

Do NOT obey the laws. (1, Troll)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463358)

Seriously...

Shit like this happens based on pure greed, and they expect us to sit there and blindly follow the law? Hah.

Even people on slashdot that are always siding with the RIAA on those piracy stories.. how can you justify this?

The law is only good for so much, people. You CAN ignore it without consequence, you know..

A2K (2, Interesting)

Elektroschock (659467) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463389)

Lawrence Lessig raises awareness, he is a good communicator. I wonder why he does not actually act.

There is the A2k treaty project, we will get a development agenda for WIPo soon. Is Lessig accredited to WIPO? No, sure he isn't. You can make a dent there. Lawrence Lessig does not expect it to last 35 years...

Public domain -- it might be an US-only problem. Of course the works of Kafka and others are public domain in my legal system.

lessig is a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463393)

he is not a lawyer, nor has he spoken to one. public domain is a _class_ of copyright. It is the default class. In short:
If you do not take specific legal action to _protect_ your works it will _by_default_ become public domain...
going away huh?
if that is so it must be replaced by something exactly like PD.. only called something else...
her kid here's $0.25 buy yourself a clue.

End to American dominance too? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13463397)

I take it we're talking about works copyrighted in America, therefore only American creative works will not enter the public domain.

Arguably you could say the US is a superpower based on it's culture (or lack thereof). They haven't conquered anywhere by force, but have introduced, TV, music, films, the whole American lifestyle. Surely if a smaller and smaller percentage of public domain creative works are American, they will have a lesser cultural influence on the world (especially if sales of DRM'd "culture" slow as consumers realise what they lose).

Going to? (1, Informative)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463400)

Public Domain is dead.

Nothing has entered public domain in the latter half of last centure, and even a lot of stuff that did enter the public domain had been "returned" to the original copywrite holders.

Copywrite should be 20 years from first publication. Trademark should last indefinately. Micky Mouse (TM) would remain Da Rat, while Elvis would be PD now. But that won't happen untill 2075 or something.

No chance, NONE! (0, Offtopic)

pdamoc (771461) | more than 8 years ago | (#13463402)

enough people will get around and read stuff like this [kingdomnow.org] and then... they will not be able to hold us.
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