Who are we?
We are a loosely knit coalition of persons and groups who believe the fight to Reclaim the Public Domain is crucial to preserving our past and creating our future. We are librarians, archivists, bloggers, musicians, programmers, economists, activists, lawyers, and citizens. We hope you will join us in this fight.
It all started with an op-ed in the New York Times proposing a "technique to move content that is no longer commercially exploited into the public domain, while protecting work that has continuing commercial value." Reformatted, this became the first iteration of the Public Domain Enhancement Act.
Almost 20,000 citizens (so far) endorsed this proposal by signing the Petition to Reclaim the Public Domain.
With dedicated assistance from the staff at Public Knowledge, the Bill was introduced on June 25, 2003 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Rep. John Doolittle. It now has 8 co-sponsors.
To date, Film Archivists, Libraries and Archives have expressed support for the bill.
Students in the cyberlaw clinic at Stanford Law School are currently working with Public Knowledge, and the Internet Archive> to reform the bill to even better address the needs of libraries and archives.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation makes it easy for anyone to write their Representative and urge them to support the PDEA in their Action Center.
Over the past forty years, Congress has extended the term of existing copyrights 11 times, thereby stopping the flow of creative material into the public domain. The biggest supporters of these laws are individuals and corporations with extremely valuable copyrights that are about to expire (for example, Mickey Mouse). The biggest effect of these laws is to make unavailable an extraordinary range of creative material for next generation's creators. Just as Walt Disney used the works of the Brothers Grimm to produce some of the best of the Disney stories, so too should the next Walt Disney be able to build upon the stories told by Disney.
But more important than the few valuable copyrights that these extensions protect, this case is about freeing the vast majority of creative work still under copyright that no one seeks to protect -- indeed, work which the current copyright owner doesn't even know he or she owns. Many films from the 1920s and 1930s are decaying in vaults because current copyright holders cannot be identified. Many books and songs published in the early part of the century are unavailable because the cost of finding the copyright owner is just too high. Congress sacrificed all these works, just to protect a few valuable copyrights. But as the Supreme Court has said, "you can't burn the house to roast the pig" -- not even to save The Mouse.