The Copyright Series: Founder’s Copyright

Yesterday, we covered Copyleft.

Founder’s Copyright is based on the idea that when the U.S.’s Founding Fathers wrote the original copyright law in 1790, they knew what they were doing. That law gave authors a monopoly over their creations fourteen years, with an option to renew for another fourteen years. During those fourteen years, authors hold all the control they do with regular copyright — they just agree to release their works into the public domain after fourteen years, rather than the seventy (and lengthening!) years that copyright now affords authors.

This right here is where we veer off into my opinion. I do personally believe that copyright law affords too much protection right now — it’s not a coincidence, after all, that copyright gets extended every time that Mickey Mouse is about to slip into the public domain. Copyright was intended to give authors a period of time in which to benefit fully from their work, and then allow others to make use of it — not protect the business interests of big corporations. Furthermore, these regularly scheduled extensions of copyright have created what is known as ‘orphan works’: mostly movies, but other mediums as well, that are still copyrighted, but the entity that held copyright no longer exists. Because older movies are decaying, this is a major issue, because these orphan works cannot be copied without permission from the copyright holder — which means that these works are being lost entirely.

I like the idea of Founder’s Copyright, although I don’t fill out the paperwork to register for a Founder’s Copyright (available here through the Creative Commons Foundation) simply because I write too many articles, stories, etc. to handle copyrighting each one. Instead, I plan to take the much simpler route. If a work of mine could be useful to other people if it was free, I plan to just release it into the public domain after fourteen years. After all, if I haven’t done everything I planned to in that period of time, it’s no one’s fault but my own. I’m sure plenty of my material will be outdated by that point, anyhow, and considering how much a writing style can change in fourteen years, I think that it won’t be a big deal to my income.

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  1. wordsmith   •  

    You are just a fountain of information. Wow! I like your approach to the founding copyright and you make many valid points. 🙂

    I don’t know if you’ve seen Scoble’s blog, but he had an interesting one today called “steal my work,” it’s mostly about photography, but the issues apply to us writers (and other creatives) as well.

  2. Pingback: » Blog Archive » The Copyright Series: Public Domain

  3. Elrena   •  

    Wow — all this stuff about copyright makes me go cross-eyed. But thanks for an informative post!

  4. ritinrider   •  

    You are truly a fountain of information. But, if you don’t complete the founders copyright paperwork does that mean you must specify in your will all of your work becomes public domain after 14 years?

  5. thursday   •     Author

    That’s my understanding of the situation. Surprisingly, though, very few writers make any provisions regarding their work in their wills. There have been so many court battles over who has a claim on any rights to such works, as well as the royalties that can go with them. I’m in the middle of researching this subject myself, and am planning some posts about it, once I’ve got all the information sorted out.

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