Dennis Karjala does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and

Why Batman and Rhapsody in Blue should be in the public domain, but aren’t

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2021-07-26 19:30:07

Dennis Karjala does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

In 1998, if Congress hadn’t extended copyrights by 20 years, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind would all be in the public domain. This year, the comic book characters Superman and Batman would be free to use by anyone. Meanwhile, movies from 1940 – like Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator and John Ford’s The Grapes of Wrath – would have been slated to enter the public domain at the end of 2015.

Instead, all of these works – and tens of thousands more – remain firmly under copyright at least until 2019. Surely, we’ll see another effort by those in the copyright extension camp to lengthen the term yet again.

Why does this matter? Well, how would you feel if you needed to obtain a license from a copyright owner in order to read a passage from the Bible to your church group? Or if before you could ride your bicycle you needed a license from descendants of the inventor of the wheel?

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