The Public Domain

I just finished reading The Public Domain. Before I had even finished the book, I had purchased multiple copies online, tried to arrange to get more copies in the library [and failed], and began scheming up ways to get others to read it.

I’ve always had a community oriented mindset. Having limits on copyright, patents and their ilk has always been an important issue to me. However this book frames the issue from many directions, helping you see just how much we stand to lose if the tides do not change.

Songs written by Ray Charles, who played a part in the birth of soul, may never have been released in today’s environment, where copyright extends far beyond the life of the artist.

Do you remember before Wikipedia? An excellent question, when was the last time you looked up something in a regular encyclopedia? What would the Internet be like today if we argued about net neutraility fifteen years ago. Would you have put your faith in a world-wide band of individual software developers to change the way blue chip companies like IBM do business? Really?

The book touches on mashups in music and how it’s nearly impossible to do the sampling you could do a few years ago now. We’re not just talking about sampling new music either, copyright has been extended beyond the life of the artist retroactively so the few copyrights with a viable business model get to maintain. That was never the reason for the monopoly power behind copyright; it exists to fuel innovation, not create new business models. If we risked so many musical genre’s of the past (like soul, aforementioned) what are we losing out on because of the limits today?

What about all the music, books, and material that cannot be archived and digitized because of the copyrights? We can’t begin to fathom how immensely important this information could be to us in fifteen years. The Internet is a perfectly example of amazing sources of creativity that couldn’t have been planned for in a study.

Read this book, it’s even online under the Creative Commons. Pass it on. I’ll even send you a copy if you promise to.

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