The Public Domain Enhancement Act, which is the result of the Eric Eldred petition, has been introduced to Congress by two representatives from California. It’s now known as H.R. 2601.
This is excellent news.
Write your Congressperson and remind him/her that s/he represents you, not Walt Disney, not the RIAA, not any of the other special interests. Remind the Congressperson that roughly 2% of all copyrighted material retains commercial value after 55 years. So for every Mickey Mouse, there are 98 works that the copyright holder simply abandons and can’t be used by anyone. While that material may not be worthwhile to the copyright holder, it’s still of value to historians, archivists, and hobbyists. Which probably means you. If you’re not one of those three, the products produced by one of those three probably will trickle down to you, in which case you still benefit.
This act will not force Walt Disney to give up Mickey Mouse. What it will do is free any and all works that aren’t worth $1 to the copyright holder to renew.
Some have argued that once a work falls into the public domain, consumers are the losers because there is no commercial incentive to preserve and reproduce them. That’s wrong. Under current copyright conditions, the movie “Cinderella” could have never been made. Freeing old works allows a new generation to adopt and adapt them and make new classics.
While most public domain material is obscure, so is most copyrighted material. But the best public domain material is anything but. The reason Tom Sawyer is so cheap is because it’s free for anyone to copy. And we all benefit from that.