The Centre for the Study of the Public Domain has a look at some of the classic works that would this year be entering the public domain if not for the 1970s changes to US copyright law (and subsequently imposed on us here by Howard’s FTA) because corporate America demanded them:
- The first two volumes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of Rings trilogy: The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers
- Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (his own translation/adaptation of the original version in French, En attendant Godot, published in 1952)
- Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim
- Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception
- Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
- Pauline Réage’s Histoire d’O
- Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent, subtitled “The influence of comic books on today’s youth”
- Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
- Mac Hyman’s No Time for Sergeants
- Alan Le May’s The Searchers
- C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, the fifth volume of The Chronicles of Narnia
- Alice B. Toklas’ The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook
Naturally, those COMMUNIST RADICALS at Duke Law don’t appreciate why we need copyright to last ever longer – because if copyright expired a mere two generations’ worth of time after an author’s death, then authors couldn’t earn a living writing and wouldn’t create these classic works in the first place. Can you imagine Tolkien writing the Lord of the Rings if the copyright was going to expire only 56 years after his death, rather than 95? Of course not. That extra fifty years of potential corporate profits was clearly deeply on his mind, even though it wasn’t enacted for twenty years after his death in a completely different country. Same with Golding, or Lewis – they only wrote for the benefit of the extremely long-term profits of the corporations that would eventually obtain the copyright in their works.
In fact, it’s a complete travesty that some corporation doesn’t own the works of Bach, or Beethoven, or Mozart, and people can play and enjoy them for free. It’s anti-competitive, that’s what it is. It doesn’t matter that no-one living has any particular moral right to profit from them – the important thing is getting them locked up to reduce competition for us now. Somebody should be making you pay. What kind of a world would it be if people enjoyed the classics without paying rent to the modern corporations that didn’t do anything to deserve it?
Frankly, 95 years isn’t enough either. But I’m confident that by the time we get close to those terms expiring, we can get the US Congress to extend them once again. To paraphrase another writer whose classic works we’ve stopped from becoming property of the public: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a corporate boot owning everything — forever.”
That wisdom will cost you $10.85, by the way. Pay up.