I was reading a topic on Slashdot the other day about the public disclosure of Google’s internal emails in its court battle with Viacom, that seem to take the shine off Google’s “Do No Evil” image.

I’m not particularly invested in this news itself, but what cause me to stop and think was this comment from user drDugan (emphasis mine):

What’s more evil?

You know what’s evil? Copyright term of “70 years + life of the author”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_term [wikipedia.org]

Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime. Nothing. The owner of the copyright must explicitly grant it to the public domain, or license it for other’s use, distribution, sharing, mashing, basically anything more than fair use… Copyright is no longer about promotion of creativity, its a legal exclusivity and an effectively permanent lock on all creative output by business interests. Add WIPO and ACTA and soon within 10 years or so, it will be a global exclusive lock, again driven by business interests.

The current copyright laws are simply a denial of any sense of balance or social good in intellectual property.

I had to read that twice… Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime.

This sentence alone pretty much explains the tragic state of affairs when it comes to the entertainment industries view towards intellectual property and piracy. In essence, to me, it pretty much morally justifies piracy for non-commercial use.

Ever heard of The Grimm Fairy Tales, Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Anderson, Jane Austin, Orson Welles, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe or HG Wells (to name just a few)? The likelihood is you have heard of these names and read their books or watched film adaptions. The reason you have heard these names, and studied their works in educational establishments is because their most famous works are all public domain.

The equal likelihood is, if big media corporations of today had existed when these artists were around and writing these works – you would never have heard of them. In fact it could be argued that English Literature as a school subject would not even exist.

Next time Disney or Pixar release a new movie based on one of these old public domain works.. remember it’s large media companies like Disney that are not only benefiting from public domain works, they are lobbying to make sure that the works they create – even these derivatives – never enter public domain.

They’re not just stealing from the past, their stealing from the future, our future and future generations. We will never be able to use the works without copyright permissions, future generations will have to keep studying works produced before the advent of the 20th Century.

This is why it’s vital that political parties, like the UK Pirate Party, exist and are supported. I’d also go as far as saying piracy itself is a vital service in changing the culture and nature of intellectual property. If it wasn’t for Napster, you’d never have iTunes or iPods – we’d still be listening to CD and Cassette players on our way to work.

Cinemoose has an excellent list of famous writers and books that are in the public domain.
Readprint is an online resource for free and public domain books.
Public Domain Works.net is an open registry with searchable database.