There is a lot of hate for the Public Domain from the corporations that hold the Copyrights to a lot of culture and also to creators who created those cultural icons. But without the Public Domain, those creators wouldn’t have a bed of influences that allowed them to create their works without fear of lawsuits and copyright infringement.
Hell, even all of the blockbusters coming out these days are story boarded by using scenes from films that maybe should be in the Public Domain. Check out this article from The Guardian about how “Rogue One” and “War For The Planet Of The Apes” came together. As the article states;
“.. the film’s initial “cut”, designed to map out the movie before any shooting took place, was cobbled together by editor Colin Goudie using footage from hundreds of other existing films. For protagonist Jyn Erso’s early encounter with Mon Mothma and her comrades on the Rebel council, Goudie substituted in the interrogation scene from the beginning of Aliens; for the bit where Erso and her pals break into the Imperial data vault, the editor inserted a similar scene from 1983’s WarGames. Old Star Wars movies were also pilfered from. Using this celluloid patchwork quilt, director Gareth Edwards was able to devise a working template for Rogue One (albeit one that would later be ripped apart and stitched back together following extensive reshoots).”
Yes people, it’s okay to be influenced. It’s okay to take an existing work and use it as a template to build upon. No art is created in a vacuum. As the article further states;
“We watched every Planet of the Apes movie, war movies, westerns, The Empire Strikes Back,” Reeves told About Movies. “We just thought, ‘We have to pretend we have all the time in the world,’ even though we had limited time. We got really inspired.”
Matt Reeves – Director of “War For The Planet Of The Apes”
Just because they used other films for inspiration doesn’t make the movie crap. As the article further states;
The fact that many of the above movies are derivative does not make them bad films. Plagiarism, in many ways, is the oil that greases the cogs of the studio machine. Each film-maker takes something from the last, and hopefully passes something on to their successor. It has been ever so since the early days of silent film, and indeed even the era of Shakespeare.
Progress is derivative has been my motto since I started creating music. Be influenced by what you see, hear and read.
And all of this leads me to the Public Domain.
Each year on January 1, certain works should be entering the Public Domain. But in the biggest market, the U.S, the large movie studios and record labels, lobbied hard to change the Copyright laws and since 1978, nothing really enters the Public Domain in the U.S.
The below works from 1960 should all be in the Public Domain in 2017, however they aren’t. And we will not see them in the Public Domain for another 39 years.
The team over at Duke University always put together a comprehensive list. If the below works entered the public domain, creators could use them to build new works without fear of a copyright infringement case. Fans could make their own clips and homages or new movies without fear of copyright infringement.
Here are some movies that should be in the Public Domain that I recognise;
- The Time Machine
- The Magnificent Seven
- Ocean’s 11
- The Alamo
- The Andy Griffith Show (first episodes)
- The Flintstones (first episodes)
Here are some books that should be in the Public Domain that I recognise;
- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
- John Updike, Rabbit, Run
- Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
In the period these works were created, the writers and movie studios had a thriving public domain which they could call upon. They all created the above works, knowing that in time, the works would fall into the Public Domain and people would be free to use these books and movies in their own stories.
But the money in perpetual copyright created business that make millions, which in turn led to these businesses to pump politicians full of money, so they write and vote for laws that grants them a government monopoly.
There is research out that shows only 2% of works between 55 and 75 years old continue to retain commercial value. So apart from the famous works, the 98% remainder of the books and movies do not have any dollar value, however people cannot use them to build new works. No one benefits from perpetual copyright.