In the 11th episode of Copy This, host Kirby Ferguson talks with James Boyle, law professor at Duke and co-founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain. He is also the co-author of the graphic novels "Theft! A History of Music" and "Bound By Law."
The public domain is composed of books, songs, movies, artwork and other copyrighted works that are available for free to the public. Either their copyrights expired over time - as the Founding Fathers intended - or they were never subject to copyright in the first place. This is why popular characters like Frankenstein, the Wizard of Oz, and King Arthur are in the public domain and, therefore, can be reproduced and adapted into other creative formats. The public domain is why Benedict Cumberbatch can star as the eponymous detective in Sherlock Holmes and how musicians can produce holiday albums with classics like “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.”
Kirby and James will also discuss the entertainment industries’ efforts over the years to extend copyright terms and prevent works from entering the public domain. While it is more difficult to place a work in the public domain today, James explains why the public domain remains an important resource for innovation and creativity, and is critical for allowing the public to access information and historical materials.