This muntjac is in the public domain (a svithe)


Although media has never been produced at the rate it is being produced today, media has for thousands of years been created and loved and then fallen into the public domain. The US Constitution provides for copyright and although I'm not an expert, I think that US law was among the first to take copyright somewhat seriously (somewhat). Although it was okay to rip off Charles Dickens, of course. (As well as anyone else who wasn't an American.) (And rightly so.) (Huzzah!)

Really, violation of copyright law is a grand American tradition--who am I kidding? But this svithe is not going to justify Kazaa or its ilk; instead it is going to talk about Sonny Bono--whom, I am sure you will agree, is a much more fitting topic for a svithe.

Sonny, as a Disney minion, rewrote copyright in 1998, making the law so endless as to be draconian. What people seem to have forgotten is that "the Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

But what crazy Sonny Bono did was make "limited times" meaningless--if it won't expire in my grandchildren's lifetimes, in what way precisely is it "limited"?

Anyway, this is a svithe, not a rant, so let me now soothe your aching souls.

The modern trends of copyright law are not very Christian, if you don't mind possible hyperbole. It is fair and right and just that a creator should be able to make a living off his work. But it is also fair and right and just that all art should pass into the public domain in a timely manner that all may be edified.

I'm reminded ofthe story of Ananais, who selfishly held on to his own property to the detriment of his fellow Saints (and himself, as it ended up).

Whether you consider genius a gift of God or not, I don't see how you can deny that its fruits have great potential to benefit everyone, not just the creator--and that to permanently withhold art is either cruelty or hubris.

IN OTHER WORDS, modern copyright law is creating a culture of greed and laziness and high intellectual fences with razor wire on top. Instead of great work (or even mediocre work) belonging to the public, it is being kept in closets and rented out for money by generation after generation. And the next time Micky Mouse gets close to the public domain, we can probably expect to see copyright law add another dozen decades.

I'm sorry. I keep trying to turn this into a nice analogy that we can apply to our personal lives, but then I lose track and get angry again. The fact is that modern copyright law is a reflection of modern culture: greedy, selfish, clannish. And we need to be aware of the culture we live in if we want to overcome it, and become a people who love and support everyone, who think the poor fellow with the sign is as worthy of our sympathies as our own blood. If we want to be Christlike, in other words.


I guess I'll start by trying to love Sonny Bono.....

last week's svithe


  1. This may sound far fetched, but If someone wrote something that broke copyright and wanted to get it published, they might deliberately murder the original creator in order to get their own work published.

  2. .

    Hmm. I hadn't thought of that.

  3. "a creator should be able to make a living off his work. But it is also fair and right and just that all art should pass into the public domain in a timely manner that all may be edified"

    All can be edified while the creator owns his work. And if a businessman can build up a business and pass the money-making enterprise onto his children, which shouldn't an artist be able to do the same? Hmmm?

  4. .

    Because art is something that belongs to everyone. I'm really believe this. And art can't live fully till everyone can have a piece of it.

    If Shakespeare's copyright had been vigorously enforced over the last 300 years, his work would not be as available or as known as it is today. Guaranteed. When something becomes owned by everyone, it becomes more fully alive.