Lawrence Lessig/blog/2002/10/23/1428

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Aaron points to a wonderful page by John Mark Ockerbloom at the University of Pennsylvania listing books that are in the public domain elsewhere but not, because of the Copyright Term Extension Act, in the United States. Check out the books you are not allowed to download. Makes me proud to be an alum.

Comments (3)

October 24, 2002 12:56 PM - Anonymous

You are the best! ;)

October 29, 2002 8:45 AM - Grant M Henninger

This is one of the things that really confuses me about copyright laws and items in the public domain. If something is in the public domain anywhere, wouldn't it be in the public domain everywhere? Does the public domain follow national boundaries?

It would seem to me that if I can go somewhere and get something out of the public domain I could bring it back to the US and distribute it as if it was in the public domain here too. Of course, that might not be how the law is written, but it is what would make sense to me.

I think that this is one of the strongest arguments in favor of the CTEA, that it synchronizes the US's and Europe's copyright terms.

Can somebody explain this to me a bit more fully? How can something be in the public domain in one place and not in another?

-Grant M Henninger

October 31, 2002 8:08 PM - Karl Davis

Mr. Henninger,

The view that you put forth is very much the conception of copyright that existed around the time that the Constitution was drafted. Copyrights were granted only for works by Americans and only applicable in America.

However, one of the key elements of adaptations in copyright law since then, something at the heart of the CTEA, is 'harmonization' of copyright legislation with the EU and other governing bodies. The idea that a copyright in one civilized nation was as good as any other, and should be applicable across borders.

It seems contrary to the intent of the Constitution for many reasons, but we really won't know how it stands until the Spring.