The Case for Copyright Reform

November 15th, 2021
By Christopher Shilts

You probably heard about Dr. Seuss Enterprises stopping the licensing and publication of numerous Dr. Seuss books. I wrote Random House Publishing about this, asking for permission to archive the works for the public, and received no response. Effectively, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has used copyright laws to destroy the creative works of the original author.

Swept up by cancel culture, living authors have begun to self censor- going so far as to re-write portions of Ebooks that people have already purchased. For the moment, some companies are decent enough to not change the Ebook for people who have already purchased it. However, like book revisions, this can form a disconnect within a fan base, where they don’t remember things the same way- see Han Shot First!

Has your favorite shows or movies disappeared from a subscription service? Odds are pretty good it was because the license with the Intellectual Property owner didn’t get renewed. This, and the E-book problem are pretty good reasons to obtain a physical copy of your favorite artistic works. Otherwise you’re at the mercy of what (if any) platforms the IP holder has decided the works will be available on during a particular time period.

Because of copyright, talented artists are often denied the opportunity to create derivative works that wold be greatly enjoyed by the public. One example I particularly enjoyed was The Emperor’s Text to Speech device, which had to be canceled due to Game Workshop’s new no-tolerance policy (this is also one of many reasons I’ll never buy anything more from that company). In other cases, IP holders have outright stolen derivative works from fans, and used them without permission.

There’s a good article on Duke Law about this subject. Copyright has been extended so many times that it now takes 95 years for a creative work to enter the public domain. Due to this long process, some works are literally turning to dust, as is mentioned in the video below:

So, what can we do about this? If you’re an artist, you can try to enter some of your work into the public domain after you have realized its economical utility. In the United States there isn’t an easy way to do this, as your work by default is copyrighted. But you can use a permissive license. Unfortunately this is rather complicated, and depends on what medium you’re working with.

The other thing you can do is make more people aware of this problem, and bring it up with your elected representatives. If enough people talk about this, a solution may be found that balances intellectual property rights and the public domain. One thing I’m sure of: the current system isn't working.

~Christopher Shilts

Editor in Chief of Manistee Speaks.


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