A few years ago Congress ushered in perhaps the most troubling intellectual property development of our lifetimes, extending, yet again, the terms of existing copyright. Lawmakers didn’t do this out of some misguided yet benevolent desire to protect artists. They did it for Disney. At The Valve, John Holbo asks:
Why aren’t academics — in the humanities in particular — more exercised by recent developments in copyright law? Specifically, why aren’t they outraged by the prospect of indefinite copyright extension? You can’t throw a rock in a humanities department without hitting someone who hates Ashcroft. What about Eldred v. Ashcroft? Has consciousness been raised? Free Mumia? Why not Free Mickey?
Take cultural studies (and literary studies for good measure). Doesn’t the prospect of great swathes of public domain threatened by information age Inclosure Acts seem bothersome, not to mention plutocratically sinister, hence (dare I say it?) activism inspiring? Don’t people who want to do research and publish find their work is hampered, or at least worry it might be? I can’t think how many interesting publishing projects would have been potentially opened up immediately, or in the near future, if Eldred had gone the other way. Music, film, TV, radio, also plain old literature — orphaned works, anyone?