Seriously. This is some of the worst news I’ve heard in a long while. Combined with the The Emmanuel’s crackdown on free speech, I am suppressing the urge to scream.
Copyright law in the United States is incredibly complex. This ruling was made to comply with international copyright law, and as such, it makes a drop of sense. But understanding why the ruling passed (6-2) does not make the ruling correct.
This is terrible in so many ways that I cannot even begin to articulate them.
If you’ll allow me to indulge an overly apocalyptic view: What happens if you create a project using public domain works that subsequently pass back into copyright?
Example. James Joyce recently passed into public domain, and Scott and I have shot a multi-million dollar film that combines all of his work into one epic, 120 minute film. It’s called, “James Joyce, All of James Joyce, in One Epic Film.” It’s terrible. It wins an Oscar.
Then, James Joyce is ruled back into copyright. It doesn’t matter why. Maybe Germany changes their copyright law to extend protections to artists for 300 years, and the US reciprocates. Maybe Disney buys Congress again (it’s happened before) and decides this time that they want exclusive control of the collective works of Joyce so that they can create a Disney Princess version of Finnegan’s Wake. What then?
A more realistic worry; it was already – before this ruling – an almost impossible task to determine copyright in many cases. It’s often very hard to determine whether something is, in fact, public domain.
This ruling makes it even harder. Good luck figuring out whether something is in the public domain now.
I could go on. I probably should. I just may, after I finish screaming.