What do Winnie the Pooh, Tarzan, Snow White, the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Mickey’s Christmas Carol and some other Disney works have in common? In an ironic twist, the company that’s doing its best to extend the copyright period could not have made some of their most famous works had the same rules been in force when they made.

You realize that Beauty and the Beast is based on a fairy tale by the same name. So is Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Many of the Disney movies you love are built on the work of other people, yet I can’t base anything on Mickey Mouse without Disney’s permission, even though this character was created in 1928–some 69 years ago.

The original period of copyright was a mere 14 years, so the creators life + 70 years seems a little long to me (that’s the current rule). This means that derivitive works can’t be made of anything I do today until 70 years after I die w/o my permission. Let’s say I live to be 70. That means I have 37 years left. Add 70 to that and anything I create today doesn’t hit public domain until 2077 (if I die today) or 2114 (if I die at 70). Just so you know that means that had the current rules been in place, let’s assume someone made a work at 30 and lived until he was 70. That means this work would have to have been created before 1897 to be in the public domain. So there’d be virtually no public domain movies or sounds. If the owner is long-dead, finding the administrator would be nearly impossibe, so legal use of any thing other than books, magazines and sheet music would be impossible. I’m not a lawyer, but I do think this needs to be changed.

BTW, here’s the original link to the video above. It was made by a law professor, so I bet he’s a lawyer. A Fair(y) Use Tale | Stanford Center for Internet and Society [beta site]

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