6 Things we're missing out on thanks to Copyright

If you hate the idea of public domain, you hatin' on Cthulu

A new year! A chance to think about the future. Specifically, what might have been. You see, I'm a fan of alternate worlds in which things went different. But not just ones where, like, I'm a jerk wearing black. Or, well...MORE of a jerk wearing black a lot more often. But the ones that could have easily been ours. The one where Mr Freeze was played by Patrick Stewart and where Ryu had that fiery kick.

I think of copyright.  Of the  Game Jam I'm currently hosting and part of my impetus is I thought of the things that could have been, should copyright had not been extended to last longer than Stan Lee's actual lifespan. A lot of people where worried about their favorite characters and how they'd be besmirched if copyright  wasn't there to protect them (but I've been to Paheal, and Fanfiction.net and know that nothing is safe or sacred.). But I can only lament the possibilities that never occurred. This lost opportunities include...

6) Some more celebrity comebacks

You see, some celebrities have the one character or two they're good at. There's only one Charly Chaplin, only one Larry, Curly and Mo, only one Ace Ventura.

But what happens sometimes is, MGM owns Ace Ventura, the character. Jim Carrey totally has a great idea for a sequel. It's awesome. But the studio don't agree with it. They have a full schedule and a head full of farts

Who the hell is this for?

  If Ace could become public domain while Jim Carrey lived, He'd be able to work with another studio, or no studio, and bring back the character.  If the Ghost Busters had become public domain, Dan Akroid would just be able to do his own Ghost Busters spin off or whatever, without having to fight the studio or wait for Bill Murray.

5) Saving movie theaters

Well, I suppose now I'll have to laser pointer my big screen TV while people I know yell obscenities.

When I was a kid, going to the movie Theater to experience a movie was an epic thing that had few substitutes. Indeed, televisions had yet to catch on to theater quality,  bootlegs where not something you could grab off the street and put it in your pocket, or download, and cellphones that record had yet to be invented.

But we can't live in the past anymore. Theater attendance is apparently at an all time low, even though Hollywood has made sure no movies made this year weren't based on a comic, TV Show, cartoon, other movies, or toys. Cinemas  can't afford to fight these other mediums, and they especially can't fight the fact people know the movie will be legally available in a few months.

Really, theaters rent these movies hoping people will buy enough popcorn and candy bars to  offset the cost of the rental, employees, maintenance, and so on and so forth.

However, if   movies that weren't re-registered into the copyright office after 36 years went public domain, then we'd have movies that could be shown with no cost to the audience, we'd have films that could be shown to the audience, free of charge, from as early as the 70s and even the 80's! You could set up your own little theater and show them!

"I've got The Hobbit movie for 7 bucks and...Invasion of the Bee Women for 50 cents."

Mind you, most of the classics wouldn't be available. Mostly the rare movies that  didn't  get registered, usually because they weren't  profitable enough.  But since there is no cost to rent them, you could run low ass prices and get bored people, or retrophiles into it.

And further, the bigger chains could have some movies to run in the lower seasons. They could organize special viewing of this movies.

But as long as copyright owners have their copyright, huh?

4) It would discourage large companies from buying all the cool stuff

The Disneys, Viacoms, and WBs of the world have been busy. In a  few couple of years they've gobbled up most of the popular brands that they already didn't own. Disney bought Star Wars and Marvel. WB(that already owns DC, all the filmation cartoons, all the Hanna Barbera characters, and possibly your firstborn.) bought Mortal Kombat(along with other stuff you don't care about, and they don't, either) while Viacom locked down Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers.

You find the weirdest things when buying  a game company.

Clearly there is good money in owning a perennial hit, and where there is monies, giant corporations  will be. I don't resent them for it, but I don't like the implications of it.

I mean, clearly  WB has more characters than it can use or need. But who cares? The older ones probably still have a lifetime of copyright left.

Back in the day, though, you had to pay every 30 years to keep your work under protected status. Not a lot of money, mind you. But perhaps enough money that maybe they get to thinking if they REALLY need to hold on to the rights of Shmoo and Batfink.

You'd have to be a real dick to think otherwise.

Marvel has 7000+ characters*. I ran some costs and it would cost them 210000 to maintain the copyrights each of those, based on a 30 dollar fee. Some of these characters are simply not worth holding on to, and would go public domain.  Because, seriously, if you can't spend 30 bucks every 30 years in your ploy to put your dick in DC's face, maybe you shouldn't get to do it for free.

Would Disney see things differently about buying Marvel if they knew such copyright exclusivity had a limit? Well, don't make me bring up the Disney filmography again. Those guys love the Public Domain. Of course they'd rather get Spider-Man in the 2030s for free than pay  millions of dollars for him NOW.

3) Hundreds of books, movies, and songs

I join Duke in bringing up all the stuff we could  ALL use, now ( Now, Duke, I've made some assumptions about what you're gonna post several months into the future. Don't give me a dead link, now). A few highlights:


I Put a Spell on You.


The Cat in the Hat Comes Back. Free Cat in the Motherfucking Hat for Everybody!


The Blob, The Fly, and Attack of the 50 Foot woman. The Hidden Fortress, a movie that directly inspired Star Wars, is also from this year.

3)Saving a bunch of your taxpayer money

Nobody likes it the way it is, anyway

"But Batzarro, how is my tax money being spent on copyright?" You may ask. It's simple. For a work to be fully protected, it needs to be registered at the Copyright office. Most of the mainstream shows, movies and songs that got made,  scores of ones that didn't, and even  those sketches of Ninja Turtle clones people registered so no one would steal their "ideas" are all literally, physically registered in actual buildings. How else are we supposed to know whether our sexy, steampunk remake of Narnia will get us a Cease and Desist?

I know. I have a problem.

More recently, of course. You can look up part of these records yourself online. But for certain hard to find ones you'll have to have employees look it up for you. For 200 dollars.

You see, it  used to be copyright did not last as much, and payments where made to ensure those works remain protected. The copyright office had a little more cash to operate, and works actually lapsed into the public domain.

But  now, your initial payment of 40 something dollars gets you twice as many years of protection. It costs money to keep all those bad ideas protected, so it gotta come out of YOUR pockets.

It costs the government as of 2002  13 million a year to maintain a copyright record. Or rather, it costs YOU that much. The Copyright Office is not a private entity. It's a subsidiary of the United States Government. This why permanent copyright is impossible: We don't have enough money to keep those kinds of records in, say 1000 years. Even with user fees, no way the cost of keeping those unmade Batman movies protected won't keep adding up.

2) Adam Strange's appearance in Smash Bros

That's right. Adam Strange, the Superhero who lives on another planet until a thunder forces him back on Earth(or does he live on earth until a thunder forces him back to another planet), could have been in Smash Bros in 2015 as DLC. Sure,in that scenario Batman and Superman are both long into the Public Domain, But Adam's practically made for it!

Sure, why not.

Nintendo wouldn't put Sherlock Holmes in Smash Bros. Really, most of the characters on public domain now are from  before color movies.  Back then we didn' have concepts like "Superheroes" or "Other Planets" or "Time Travel". That means that, most time travelers, extraterrestrials, and Superheroes are copyrighted.

You might think it's cheesy to want to use the characters made by  someone else. After all, why can't I come up with own character? What  am I, a hack?

Haha, you wouldn't tell Alan Moore, that. Really, when he's not using public domain characters to do artsy perversion he's nudge-winkingly trying to use James Bond and Harry Potter in his stories. Why, if he could use the genuine article, I bet you it'd be mother buggering fantastic, and none of you at the peanut gallery peasants would be calling him lazy.

But seriously, this is borderline fan ficky, Alan.

Why can't Chris Sims, self declared Batmanologist, have a stab at Batman? Bob Kane and Bill Finger is dead, and WB is in no risk of going chapter 11, over a webcomic. Why must we wait so many years for a Wonder Woman movie? Because the creative possibilities are chained  to profit margins.

1) Not as many remakes

"Whooooot? How can making very popular works public domain make there be less remakes?" That's a good question. I mean, it SOUNDS counter intuitive. If Batman where public domain, if feels like he'd be in every movie this year.

But actually, no. You see, studios like this thing where they are the sole owners of a franchise that's worth millions of dollars. They get to make exactly as many Superman movies as they want, and you get to do exactly as many Superman movies as they'll allow(zero). And then they get to do it again next decade.

But if they only had 30 years, it's put pressure on them to create/buy/own a NEW thing for 30 years.  Once anyone can make their own Superman movie,  WB will probably move on to buying the next thing they feel will last those 30 years, and not "whatever, it's forever"

What's more, new, obscure stuff is essentially new works to you if you don't know them. Have you seen Star Oddyssey? No? Then maybe my book based on it will be new to you! I mean, the problem is not that it's a remake. Didn't you like The Fly? Well maybe my book is Cronenberg's Fly to the original movie's The Fly.

Brundelfly would approve of my book.
My point is why won't you fuckers buy my fucking book obviously there's a lot more stories to tell out there than how Peter Parker got his powers. If more studios had more legal access to a wider variety of popular stories, those studios would be less likely to keep pumping the same stories they already pumped. I mean, let's look at the 1958 box office: and compare it to the 2013 box office. Which has more remakes, reboots or adaptations? So really, we should be fighting for more stuff to lapse into the public domain, not less.

Ignore the fact all but one of 1958's movies are based on books. Books don't count.
We're undercutting the creativity of the entire country because what? Because "I might just make a great work, and I don't want to eventually have people enjoy it without their joy profiting me directly?" Let's fight for shorter copyright durations today, before we have to fight for less long copyright durations tomorrow.

*In my zealousness, though, I completely forgot that you don't exactly register A CHARACTER in  copyright, but a work. A character's first appearance being PD makes THAT first appearance of the character Public Domain(because you can't make derivatives of a public domain second issue, which would be based on the first issue). Which means, that Marvel would probably have to copyright and re-register EACH COMIC IT MAKES to make sure no elements in it ever lapse. Now, being that Marvel has made approximately (we're not gonna discount licensed material, variant covers and crossover shit. Math is bad enough, and I won't be surprised when I turn out to have completely bungled up this, anyway.)32,000 comics, we're talking roughly  $960000 every 30 years.  The original math still works if Marvel was  just  registering first appearances to keep the first appearance from lapsing, discounting joint first appearances, obviously. It's still a lot of money to keep the rights to The Hypno-Hustler and Venom's Ex-Wife, though.


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