We don't want your stoned mouse without nipples. We don't want The Philadelphia Story, we don't want Bing Crosby, we don't want anything else you think you can squeeze a few extra pennies out of. You want 'em, you keep 'em. We're taking the rest, assholes.
The issue at hand is the Public Domain Enhancement Act of 2003, AKA the Eric Eldred Act. The WHAT, you say? The public domain. Our stuff. Stuff that belongs to us that is ours. The public fucking domain.
See, under our fine United States Constitution, our elected Reprehoosatives in Congress can for a limited time give certain parties certain limited monopolies to certain kinds of information and creative expression. Copyright, in other words. You make something, you get to make copies of it, and sell it, and bring down the tortious shithammer on anyone else who tries to make copies of it. That's copyright.
But AFTER a certain amount of time, copyright goes away. Nobody gets copyright in perpetuity. Eventually, your information -- your PRECIOUS PRECIOUS INFORMATION -- goes into the public domain. Anyone can use it. Anyone can copy it. Anyone can sell it or make derivative works of it. You had your chance to get your shekels, and now it's OURS. The public domain. The world of information that is free for everyone to use.
This is a crucial thing, the public domain. It means that we all share a common INFORMATIONAL HERITAGE, a set of data and words and pictures and music and ideas that belong equally to everyone. It seems like utopian folderol, but at the time our Nation was founded, people thought copyright was crazy hoohaw. They thought it was fake made-up baloney. Public domain is the rule, not the exception.
At the time of the Founding of the US of A, copyright lasted for 14 year. Fourteen! Can you imagine? Like, Nevermind would be going into the public domain in 2006 in that case. You could just make copies and give it to friends, or make coolio techno samplers of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and play them on your radio and stuff.
But since Ye Olden Days, the duration of copyright has been getting longer... and longer... and longer. Up until a few years ago, the duration was death of the artist plus 50 years. Which pretty much meant that you would have public domain access to anything you ever heard or read as a child when you were about 70 or so. Which, hey, you need that stuff when you're 70. Really!
That was until the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. Representative Sonny Bono, the Gentleman from Hollywood, proposed this act and then promptly ran into a tree while skiing. Seriously, like in a matter of weeks, the guy was dead. The idea was to extend copyright terms by another TWENTY YEARS.
Why?! Why would Sonny fucking Bono want that? What did he care? He was gonna be dead in a few weeks anyways! Stupid mustachiod bastard! The thing is, some IMPORTANT COPYRIGHTS were getting ready to expire soon. Copyrights on stuff like MICKEY MOUSE, who was invented in like 1930 or so. Meaning that all that great DISNEY PARAPHERNALIA was gonna be UP FOR GRABS! Shit fire! Somebody call the LOBBYISTS!
Somebody did, and they dumped a shitload of money into the bill, and then all of a sudden Mr. Bono Got His, Babe, and it was like an ASSAULT on the DEAD to vote against the Copyright Extension Act. Who could vote against that? What kind of heartless fucker! If you vote against the Copyright Extension Act, THOSE MURDEROUS TREES HAVE ALREADY WON. That's what it was like.
So now copyright goes for something like death of the artist plus one hundred billion years. It's still technically LIMITED, but there's no particular expectation that Congress won't pass another Copyright Extension Act in one hundred billion years, extending it for a little longer. Stuff that was supposed to go into the Public Domain in 1973 is still getting extended.
The big problem with this is that this TINY MINORITY of superrich companies are keeping OUR STUFF out of OUR HANDS. There's estimates that like only 2% of the works that were extended by this bill have ANY COMMERCIAL VALUE whatsoever. Most of them are books and movies and music by people who died a LONG TIME AGO, and who NOBODY NEVER HEARD OF. It's stuff that's rotting away, and that can't get archived digitally for future generations, because WE GOTTA PRESERVE PROFITS FOR MICKEY MOUSE. I think Disney probly would have been happy to have, like, JUST MICKEY MOUSE extended, but they couldn't really do that and cover their asses. It had to be EVERYTHING.
Anyways, to make a long rant short, the EFF and Eric Eldred, a guy who put public domain books in electronic form on the Innurweb, decided to put a stop to these shenanigans. They sued the government, saying that the Copyright Extension Act was bogus and stupid and unconstitutional. They said that the constitution says "limited time", not "just extend anytime some big rich Mouse Porn purveyor starts getting antsy." Lawrence Lessig, COOLEST LAWYER EVER, argued the case in front of the Supreme Court. The Supremes said, pretty much, "Yeah, it really sucks. But it doesn't suck enough for us to overreach our powers and stop it."
How about that?! A branch of government saying that they shouldn't exercise too much power. Yeah, in this case, it would have been power to preserve our cultural heritage and liberate billions of trillions of bytes of music, literature, art, film, and so on, but, hey, you know, on the bright side, THEY DIDN'T OVERREACH. For the public benefit. I guess that's good, kinda.
SO ANYWAYS, Representative Zoe Lofgren and Rick Boucher, COOLEST REPRESENTATIVES EVER, have proposed a new bill at the end of June. It's called the Public Domain Enhancement Act, or the Eric Eldred Act, but I like to call it the WE DON'T WANT YOUR PANTSLESS DUCK Act. All it says is this: if you want to keep your copyright on something that was copyright extended, FINE. Just pay ONE DOLLAR every TEN YEARS, and we'll keep your copyright on file right here in the United States Patent and Copyright and Information Jail Office. ONE DOLLAR. Every TEN YEARS.
And for everything else, stuff that's just SITTING THERE, not being used, where the crazy eccentric who wrote it died like 50 years ago, well, THAT'S OURS. The public's. It's in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. This is like the "Are You Going to Eat That?" Act. If you're pretty much not going to make the most miniscule of token efforts to eat it, it's ours now.
Of course, the big media companies aren't happy about this. It just might happen that some eccentric nutcase's blues music from 1928 turns out to be next year's REAL BIG THING, and they want to be able to go over to the widow's house and shake her down a bit and get her to turn over the copyrights for a case of Purina Cat Chow and half a box of Depends. Those other 98% of copyrighted stuff JUST MAYBE could be worth money, somehow, and they don't like the idea that they couldn't keep it out of our hands.
But SCREW THEM. It's time to take back our public domain. We gotta put it on the Innurnet, and archive it, and save it, and USE NAPST0R to trade it, and keep our stuff alive. Now! Ours! At the very least, we gotta sign this here petition linked at the end of this article. But we should also call our CongressPooples! And Senat0rZ and stuff! Tell them that WE DON'T WANT THE PANTSLESS DUCK, we just want what's ours.