Against Copyright

The "public domain" is the world's intellectual treasure-house of all the art, writing and music that has ever been done by humans. It is our common inheritance and is the sum of what it is to be human -- to have a direct connection to all who came before. This means that all these works may be copied, edited, sequeled, adapted into other media, etc. It is your right to do so. Copyright laws are do not protect a right -- they take a right away for the benefit of publishers and authors, originally for a limited time. Copyright used to be 28 years, renewable once if the author or publisher bothered to re-register. Thanks to the machinations of lawyers protecting Mickey Mouse, U.S. copyrght is now something like 95 years past the death of the 'creator'. They are pushing to make these copyrights, in effect, go on forever.
Copyrights extended this way hamper the creativity of those seeking to create derivative works, or even just to quote from or adapt the originals, all for the benefit of people referred to in my circle as "shiftless heirs." People who do no work, collecting royalties into infinity, and prohibiting posterity from creating new work with paying them ransom.
In the case of poetry, I have seen "shiftless heirs" of a dead poet, harboring a fantasy of future wealth, and prohibiting any of the poet's friends from assembling and publishing books of their work. I have seen poets' life work hurled into dumpsters by contemptuous family members. Copyright serves no one when the work has no monetary value -- ironically, poetry, one of the ultimate treasures of any era, is almost always regarded as trash by the contemporary culture around it.
So, for poetry, I stand against copyrights altogether, and encourage poets to place statements on their copyright page, specifying the year in which they wish their work to be in the Public Domain. To hell with the lawyers.


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