Theoretically, anyway. This year, we should have gotten Superman, Atlas Shrugged, and On the Road (among others). Instead, we got ... well, jack shit. And we'll be getting seconds of jack shit every January until 2019, because some assholes from (mainly) the film industry have spent the past few decades continuously lobbying to change the laws and extend copyright protection for as long as possible. They're clinging to their intellectual property like an unsightly blemish on an otherwise majestic set of genitals, and they're just as inhibiting.
And before you say "Well, weren't you just saying that people need to make money off the stuff they create?" keep in mind that the people making money off Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sure as shit didn't create it. I don't think anyone who worked on that movie is even alive anymore, and yet Disney has kept control because they're Disney, and you're going to lose any argument with them because they own all the words you'd need to use to prove them wrong. The way the law works right now, anything published between 1950 and 1963 will remain under the control of whoever owns the copyright for, in some cases, 95 years after the publication date. For comparison, a patent on a new drug only lasts 20 years after it's invented, so whoever cures cancer will have less control over their contribution to society than the makers of a Larry the Cable Guy movie.
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images
"Take two of these eatin' pills and git 'er done."
But somehow, it gets even worse, because now companies can legally copyright things they didn't even create. Once you make an adaptation of a work that's in the public domain (like, say, Disney's entire filmography), you gain the rights to all the "copyrightable elements" of that adaptation. What this means is that when Sam Raimi was making Oz the Great and Powerful (based on The Wizard of Oz books by L. Frank Baum, which are in the public domain), he had to be sure that he didn't use any "copyrightable elements" from the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, since that's still owned by Warner Bros. That's probably why, in Oz the Great and Powerful, the witches were zombies, the monkeys were demons, and the movie was un-fucking-watchable.
Look, I'm not ranting like this because I hate capitalism, or even major corporations -- movies like Aliens and Pacific Rim are only made because big corporations can throw money at weird ideas. But I also love creative people, because they make life bearable, and I want them to be free to keep saying weird, funny things about this big stupid world. And if we give the guys in the suits too much control over what we can and can't say or create, that's just not going to happen as much, and I'll have to go back to arson for my emotional release.
JF Sargent has a Twitter, a Facebook, and a free sci-fi novel that you can illegally reproduce in 95 years (and counting).
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