Take it to the street

January 16, 2003

Many bloggers have discussed the Eldred v. Ashcroft decision. I didn't want to feel left out.

The public domain matters because it allows people, such as Brewster Kahle, Eric Eldred and Phil Gyford, to place literature in online digital archives, with open access, available to a rapidly-increasing percentage of the total population worldwide. It could allow hobbyists and collectors to restore and share films that are locked in vaults in Hollywood, for no other reason then the fact that they want other people to be able to enjoy old movies. These benefits may have seemed less immediate five years ago, when only about 25% of Americans had Internet access (that number reached 50% during 2002.) To many, these benefits may seem inconsequential. To those corporations who profit from the control of art, the idea of freeing access may seem ridiculous. The Eldred case brought this issue to the fringes of the public consciousness. The Supremes left how to deal with this issue to the public.

The Court holds that the copyright terms issue is a political question-- a type of issue which the Court handles notoriously poorly. Starting now, people who feel that Professor Lessig and his colleagues did good work should get active. In fifteen years, the "Copyright Cartel" (to borrow a phrase from Dan Gillmor) will be back in Congress asking for another extension. If this issue matters to you, make sure that it matters to your representatives. (Or become a representative.)

Posted by Andrew Raff at January 16, 2003 09:23 PM
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