How Much Is Your Reputation Worth? – (AKA) Do Your Great-Grandchildren Need Your Copyright? A Guest Post By Frank Hood

How Much Is Your Reputation Worth?(AKA) Do Your Great-Grandchildren Need Your Copyright? A Guest Post By Frank Hood

Headnote: Since we’re all either writers here or people fairly savvy about the ins and outs of the writing life, I have to apologize for insulting anyone’s knowledge, since I wrote much of this for the general public with later parts added specifically for those of us here.

Ted Sturgeon gave me the best advice about writing fiction I ever got. No, I’m not going to tell you yet, but, patience, I will tell you, so just hold on a little bit. First, I want to answer the second question that came to your mind about my first sentence. Who is Ted Sturgeon? “Why,” I reply indignantly, “He’s the creator of Sturgeon’s Law.”  He said, “90% of Science Fiction is crap, but 90% of everything is crap.”  Ted Sturgeon, author of Microcosmic God, one of the Science Fiction Writers of America picks as among the top 50 SF stories of all time. Ted Sturgeon, who created a story with perhaps the greatest title ever, If All Men were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?—yes it was about incest. Ever heard of him? No Harlan, put your hand down, I’m not talking to you. The rest of you ask yourselves, “Why don’t I know about Ted Sturgeon?”  Go to your local library and read him.

Ever hear of Frank Capra? Yeah, didn’t he direct that movie, It’s a Wonderful Life?  What about Mr. Smith goes to Washington?  What about Arsenic and Old Lace? Not familiar with them? How about Alexander Dumas? Maybe the name’s not as familiar as it should be, but you certainly know the stories, The 3 Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask.  Every 20 years or so Hollywood remakes each of these for a new generation. Of course he lived 200 years ago, so there’s no copyright on his work.  Oh, and by the way, that Frank Capra movie you know—a funny thing happened to that one film. Some studio underling made a mistake and let the copyright expire. (The copyright has since been reinstated by some judiciarial jiggery-pokery.)

So my important question is, who would you rather be when you’re dead, Alexander Dumas, or Ted Sturgeon?  Ted Sturgeon’s been dead some 40 years. Will someone dig up his stories 30 years from now when his heirs lose their copyright and make him even more famous than he was in life? Or will people have forgotten his work by then?

How We Got Here Digression

Feel free to skip this part if you’re not interested, but I am, so I include it.

The concept of copyright is very good. The Constitution puts it very succinctly. Congress shall have the 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.

How those very clear words have been twisted into something unrecognizable! Now the Supreme Court and Congress have made a joke of that, by one Justice in his deciding opinion smarmily declaring that “limited Times” can mean anything up to infinity minus 1.

Originally Congress gave authors 14 years of copyright protection, from the date of registration. The copyright could be extended another 14 years by the author if he/she were still alive. If you published without registering with the copyright office and without designating your work as copyrighted (including the name of the owner of the copyright), whatever was published was public domain, and anybody could use it for whatever purpose they wanted. By 1909 potential protection had been extended to 28 years, renewable for another 28 upon application.

In 1976, Congress made a huge change to the copyright, no longer tying it to the date of publication, but to the author’s lifetime plus 50 years (now 70 years, thank you Sonny Bono), and a flat 75 years in the case of “work for hire”. 

End of How We Got Here Digression

Now I want to get personal. Since I have no progeny and my only publications before this year consist of a single short story and a few book reviews, but I want to make this personal, I risk abusing our hostess’ hospitality by using her as an example.

Do Your Great Grandchildren Need Your Copyright?  

What does it profit an author or artist if their work that was done 75 years ago is owned by and profits some corporation since it was done as “work for hire”? You might ask Tyrus Wong, the mostly unknown artist who created most of the art for Bambi. But that’s the work for hire issue.

If our hostess or her husband live only another 17 years (the average based on the current life expectancy in the US—may God grant you many years), then younger son will be approaching 50 IIRC*. His children are likely to be at least in their teens. Add another 70 years to that, and his children will be in their dotage, probably their 80’s. Given that, the likely heir holding the copyright to Darkship Thieves et al will be in their forties, and will have never known either Sarah or Dan, except from family stories. What does it profit this theoretical heir named Robert Rudyard Pratchett to have held the copyright to Darkship Thieves in 2109 AD?

Darkship Thieves and Sarah’s other novels are the simple case. What about some of the many anthologies Sarah has contributed stories to over the years? Some of her more recent, I’m sure declare her to be the copyright holder, but what about the ones she wrote earlier in her career, that belonged to Gonzo Publications Inc., since bought by Good Guys Inc., which merged with Heroic Media, that was later broken up during bankruptcy proceedings into several divisions, one of which was bought by Acme Corporation that bought it for the Tool and Die division and has no idea they even own the copyrights of Gonzo Publications, since Acme has no interest in publishing anything but a catalog for coyotes.

In 2050 I, Lazarus Longstocking, am interested in publishing Pirates of Damocles, a short story by one Sarah Hoyt (presumed to be her real name rather than a pseudonym) as the cover story for my new SF anthology of 20th century authors.  I discovered that gem in a fragile copy of the January 1984** edition of Space Adventures that I found in the Eaton Science Fiction Collection of the University of California, Riverside library. Even if I can trace the provenance of that story, and even if Acme Corporation responds to my request, why would they say yes to my use of an asset that they have no record of owning. Harold Foggedglasses, accountant third class, would see only risk in saying yes, and would likely just never respond. The upshot is that no one else will ever get the chance to read that story, even if Lazarus Longstocking is willing to pay to publish it.

That, my friends, is the tangled web of current copyright law, likely to be made worse by future acts of Congress and Supreme Court decisions, like this one where our current Supreme Court seems unable to see that copyrights and patents are different.

My Conclusions, YMMV

Artists and writers should be paid for their work–Period. (I’m one, so I want to be paid.) But the question is, what does it profit Vincent van Gogh that his works sell for millions, now that he is long dead and buried, when he exchanged them for food and paints in his lifetime? Do my great grandchildren need my copyrights?

By current US law everything I just typed is copyrighted by me just by the virtue of typing it here. I however graciously declare this essay to be public domain. Feel free to quote it, slice it, dice it, distort it any way you like. Feel free to even claim it as your own if you like. Just don’t attribute it to me if you distort it. Some things I write to just spread the ideas. Other things I write in the hope of making money as well. I’m sure I’d rather be the one to whom people attribute quotations that aren’t mine because they want to use my name to enhance the value of their words than the one who’s never quoted.

Sorry for the rant guys. I used to be the trouble maker at work. Now I’m retired and self-employed, so I make trouble for the rest of us in the creative community. “It’s what I do.”

For those of you still waiting, the advice I got from Ted Sturgeon was, “Write 50 stories in a year, by the end of that year, I guarantee you that you’ll be a published writer.” It took me 3 years, but I did sell my 32nd story. Thank you Mr. Sturgeon.***

Sarah notes:
*Dear Lord, no. Barely in his forties. As for teen children, since neither of the boys have spawned there must be some time tampering going on. I want to know what timeline this is in which I have grandchildren. It will make husband happy!

**Being a crafty writer, I avoided this by not being published in the 20th century. Not in this leg of the pants of time. HOWEVER I have made sure never to sign a short story contract where it didn’t revert to me in a year. Even more fortunately, no one will remember me ten seconds after I’m dead.

*** REALLY REALLY REALLY listen to this advice. Sure, nowadays you can be published from story 1 on. BUT I took this challenge, not knowing it was Sturgeons in 1998. A group of us made a pact to write a short story a week.
I was indeed published (but sparsely) before I started and more published by the end. HOWEVER the important thing is: Some seven years ago, I went over my unpublished short stories, to assemble collections. The short stories before that, though some were okay were very uneven and some were obviously beginner work. By the end of that year, my stories were all “publishable” with the high points being “Very good.” Not a bad one in the bunch.
So, I enjoin you to take the Sturgeon challenge if you can.

77 thoughts on “How Much Is Your Reputation Worth? – (AKA) Do Your Great-Grandchildren Need Your Copyright? A Guest Post By Frank Hood

    1. From what I’ve heard, it could be wrong, but it came from multiple sources, some of whom have no connection with the other, the publisher got permission from the estate holder to make changes to the original, before they started making changes to the original. CW hasn’t expired on any of those works yet, but since the will doesn’t precisely state how the estate is to be handled by the designated handler, then, said individual can make money on providing the okay on making the changes and reselling them under the ‘ for modern audiences.’

      So in that case totally different legal issue.

    2. Oh, yes. I saw that, and made a note to see my lawyer about adding a codicil to my will – any changes to what I allow to be published while alive, and the heirs lose all share in the revenues.

      (Not something to worry about right now, but better safe than sorry. It’s not impossible that something hits massive bestseller, and I keel over the next day. Maybe more likely than not – the shock just might do me in.)

  1. I am foundering on the reef of “estate planning” in general. My husband & I have no heirs closer than cousins, and not the kind where we can even name their spouses, necessarily.

    I had hoped, by this point in the Indie industry manifestation, to have identified either a collector-publisher (indie style) who was making a business model out of accumulating willed copyrights to grow a catalog and keep things in print (and I’m a bit past doing that myself), or some institutional destination to at least benefit for a while and hold copyrights indefinitely.

    In my case, it’s not about the monetary benefit to anything connected with family; it’s about the legacy in general, and most especially, about staying in print.

    Does anyone know of anything that has arisen in indie space that fits any of this? Suggestions?

    1. Karen, depending on what type of thing you write, you might contact the Heinlein Society. Being similarly situated heir-wise, in my will, I declare all my works to become public domain upon my demise. Not sure how well that will work, but maybe I’ll have some dead man’s bot trigger it and spread it to wherever I’m published.

    2. Almost sounds like something the Organization for Transformative Works might be interested in– although the way it’d be a source of funding vs how it might corrupt their purpose could make a mess.

  2. I’m not quite brave enough to try a short story a week, but I do have a target of writing 20 this year, roughly speaking alternating one week planning, one week writing, with the potential for a few weeks off if I need them. Maybe I’m being too timid, but I’ll see how that goes before I get more ambitious.

      1. Maybe. The problem is that I’ve tried writing short stories without planning, and they almost inevitably end up with the same problems my novels do: I get two thirds of the way through, then realize I’ve got no idea what’s happening and quit, with the added problem that, in trying to keep going, I add a bunch of stuff that makes it no longer a short story.

        1. As Sarah says, that’s part of the benefit of 50 stories in a year. If you stick to it, it makes you cut the crap. You learn you don’t have time to bore yourself, and eventually you learn that when you bore yourself, you bore your readers. As one of the Hollywood moguls (Jack Warner) is reputed to have said, “I don’t want it good. I want it Tuesday!” As Sarah notes, you can always go back and make it good if you feel the story is worth it.

          If you have no ending, use Michael O’Donohughe’s, “Suddenly everybody was run over by a truck.” It focuses the mind.

          As my high school German teacher would say if you were struggling to reply to his demand for the German equivalent of window, “You’re dangling from a rope over Niagara Falls, and I’m standing there with a knife. If you can’t answer, I’ll cut that rope.” Helped one’s recall tremendously.

    1. I thought I wasn’t brave enough and I really don’t do well planning, but I wanted to get back into writing shorts (I used to do them reasonably well but somewhere I lost it.) So I picked a challenge that put money on the line to give me a hard deadline (I can work to deadline just not internal deadline, this one is run through Smith and Rusch’s classes). I’m 25 going on 26 weeks into a 52 week challenge Some of them are the first chapters of novels. Others… might not be too bad and I’m editing for submission to anthologies. Quite a few have rushed endings because midnight approacheth and I had to get it in to the challenge. Those turned out better than I expected, though they all need a good editing pass. You’ve got nothing to loose trying, but I’d recommend finding someone to ‘turn it in’ to as an added kick in the pants to just focus on getting it DONE.

  3. I bump against copyright all the time, because I write nonfiction. I always need images for my books (somewhere between 40 and 60). The publisher gives me a small budget so securing rights without going in the red is difficult – unless I depend on the public domain. The good news (for me) is I write history, so finding older images is straightforward. (I have a collection of illustrated books published prior to 1924 I go to.) Plus, anything produced by the federal government is in the public domain. (But not necessarily state governments. Texas maintains copyright on its materials.)

    My oldest book came out in 2002, so by original US copyright law it would have been entering the public domain last year. My personal feeling is 28 years from publication date is probably a long enough term to enjoy a monopoly your own words (which is what a copyright is) to satisfy the meaning of the phrase “securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” If you cannot make your nut back after that, you probably will not, anyway. I wouldn’t scream about adding a renewal period of 28 years, because if you have not be recompensed for your labor after 56 years it’s not happening.

    Not enough emphasis is put on “limited time” in my opinion. Because having your older work forgotten is a highway to oblivion for an author. The hardest books to find are those published between 1924 and 1980, due to copyright. Books published more than 50 years ago are unlikely to remain in print. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are relatively few.

    Let’s say you were big in your 20s, published a few books – maybe even won awards for them. Then life intervenes and you can’t write for the next few years – or decades. Finally at 60-65 the kids are grown and on their own, you have a good pension and retirement savings and you decide to quit the day job, live off your retirement pension and investments, and go back to writing full time. Only to discover you have been forgotten. Your old editors are dead, the publishers have gone toes up, and except for a few old fans, readers see your name and say “Who?”

    Why? Because your books are still under copyright and out of print. No one wants to use the shorts you wrote in anthologies because they cannot clear copyright. You, Are,. Forgotten. Even if you go indie, you have to break through the fog of the scads of other indie writers to get a new audience.

    If copyright was only 28 years anthologists would have been seeing your old stories and saying – Ooh. This is good. And running them. Other readers would get eyes on your stuff and saying “Ooh, this is good! Where do I get more?” That’s the audience that would fuel your relaunch.

    It happens. Look at Christopher Anvil or P.C. Hodgell. Both had interrupted careers which were revived by their stories getting republished. (In those cases by Baen.) Anvil was not able to write more, but Hodgell is coming out with a book every year or so. But it happened because someone at Baen (Eric Flint for Anvil) was willing to dig through the copyright maze to find the copyright owner.

    But there are lots of other authors whose relaunch was aborted because they had been forgotten. Read some of Donald Westlake’s books on writing for example.

    I really think very long copyright periods are a disservice to authors. It is a path to oblivion to all but the most famous authors. Life of the author + “X” years sounds caring, In most cases it results in zero, or no zero income for the author in the out years or the author’s estate. I think most authors would rather be remembered after their death than to give their heirs the equivalent of a lottery ticket (with as much chance to win big) by preserving their estate in copyright posthumously.

    1. I suspect long copyright mostly benefits companies (especially one built around a famous mouse), not individuals.

      1. Corporations are immortal. (Immoral, or perhaps amoral, too.) Individuals are not. Note that immortal does not mean they cannot die, like fairies they can die of misadventure or stupidity. But immortal organizations benefit long copyright periods.

      2. They’ve been riding on the mouse’s back since 1928, almost 100 years. The damage that particular company has done to the United States through their copyright shenanigans and general propaganda should never be forgiven.

        Now, not content with debasing their own intellectual property, they’ve managed to destroy the other two major franchises in American film, Star Wars and Marvel. (I would argue that given the latest Black Panther 2 movie, the Age of Stan is at an end. Watchable only in Japanese with subtitles, if you fast-forward all the stupid parts. Otherwise not, because oh my ghod the acting…)

        But now, the mouse is finally approaching public domain. Let the games begin, and may the house of the mouse contract a terminal case of boils.

      3. The ironic thing is that I’m actually okay with Disney holding onto the rights for many of their IPs. I don’t think the world will benefit from idiots who want to make a slasher film starring Mickey Mouse (the way that they’re apparently doing with Winnie the Pooh now that he’s out of copyright). I just wish they’d admit that they want to be a special case rather than making a mess of copyright be pretending that it’s a matter of principle.

        1. Protecting Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh are the kind of thing that trademark law is for, not copyright. I’m sure they have a trademark on Mickey Mouse, but you have to pay for that every year.

          It’s actually Snow White that keeps driving them to lobby for longer copyrights. Ironic when you consider that those Disney movies are based on public domain Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and especially ironic because those fairy tales are definitely not G-rated and had to be substantially changed for Disney’ movies. I do like your idea of carving out something special for the Disney lobby and leaving the rest of us to use laws that work better for us.

          1. What was driving it was Steamboat Willie (the first appearance of Mickey Mouse — although it was a different looking mouse). Every time it got close to going public domain, copyright got extended.

        2. We already have one special case (although not in the US). Peter Pan’s royalties in the UK were donated by Barrie to a hospital and the UK has a special law extending Peter Pan (or, at least, certain rights there).

    2. There’s a niche Japanese bullet storm game series written by one guy that has ended up becoming, I think, the longest continuously published game series, in part because the author just does not enforce copyright.

      So it has ended up having a rather large amount of music remixes, stories, art, etc ranging in quality from atrocious to profound.

      It makes me wonder if it is possible to include hard copyright end dates into the works themselves, so people do not have to go through some complex hunt to know whether or not a work is in copyrigjt?

    3. Your scenarios are cute, but let me explain why 28 years isn’t sufficient, and life of the author is better: So, I wrote for 13 years BEFORE publishing anything.
      Also “were popular in your twenties, won a few awards” Popular and awards are not the same.
      Let’s talk trad pub first: Your chances of being PUBLISHED in your twenties, in fiction, unless it’s nepotism, are…. zero.
      Chances of being promoted enough to be popular off the bat are… winning the lottery.
      Not much different for indie, except you’ll be published, but selling enough to take a living might take ten to twenty years.
      So, you started working in your thirties. Finally get popular in your forties. By fifty eight, you’re slowing down, and the work you did in your thirties is going out of copyright and not benefiting you at all.
      This is what’s known as “let the old authors starve, why don’t we.”
      I’d be okay with “life of author and spouse.”
      But at sixty, when I am slowing down, I’m also JUST becoming popular. Published for first time at 35. Do the math.

      1. Unfortunately using the date of your death plus some period of time creates problems for people who, long after your demise, want to know if and whom they have to pay to publish your work. I think the 1909 law with 28 years, renewable for another 28 worked perfectly well. Gave you the choice to renew or not. That gave you 56 years after your first publication, so up to age 91 for you Sarah, sounds perfectly reasonable.

        I believe part of the case was based on Irving Berlin having written “God Bless America” in 1918 and who lived to be 101. Of course, the copyright on his song was really the revised version from 1938. Also, how much did he charge for the rights to every school choir who sang it at the end of their performance of some play? See also Paul McCartney and the rights to “On Wisconsin”.

  4. It also means that if copywrite expired on your work that people can take them and “revise them” to fit “modern audiences.” They wouldn’t have to have people responsible for your estate, whomever they might be playing the money game to let other people change things.

    Just a thought, since their are two sides to most things.

    1. Well, yes. Think of Jane Austin fanfic or all the follow-on novels involving Sherlock Holmes or the Three Musketeers.

        1. Yeah, but you didn’t rewrite the original manuscripts to turn it into The Three Eunuchs without even a re-title and keeping Dumas’ name on it. 😎

          1. Can you actually do that when the original is in public domain? I’d expect, unless you have the right to Dumas, you cannot actually claim to be the original Dumas without running afoul of fraud laws.

            And with the originals in public domain, absolutely nothing stops someone from reprinting the originals alongside the bowdlerized versions either. Which, as I understand it, is the case with the Dahl books: because they are owned by the estate, the estate can prevent publication of the original versions.

            1. You don’t have to claim that you are Dumas. But you can use any pseudonym you want. (Except, under US law, the name of a living President, or a deceased one if their widow is still alive.)

    2. Indeed they can, and I think that’s a feature, not a bug as we say in my former profession. Having just slogged my way through “Democracy in America” as translated by the Englishman Henry Reeve before 1840, I can only say a more contemporary translation is devoutly to be wished. I swear some convoluted sentences employed triple-negatives. In fact I’m contemplating rewriting the important excerpts in modern English, and I don’t have to learn French or worry about the faithfulness of my translation because it has long been in the public domain. Some may consider that a sacrilege, but I think it will have value because most people have no clue of the wisdom and predictions he made in 1830 about where this country would go.

  5. I’ve been wanting to introduce my kids to Thurber. But he’s gone from ubiquitous to inaccessible.

    The public domain is our common culture, and it’s being deliberately strangled.

    1. Deliberately strangled– look at the mess with the Woke going into any franchise that gets big and popular; they are using the monopoly that was meant to help creators in order to rewrite the mythology of modern culture, and have been my whole life– goodness, the whole “Darker, edgier” nonsense, gag me!

  6. The absolute longest I can see copyright being useful is life + 20 years, so that minor children can have a theoretical source of income to be raised on.

    I am not advocating for that length; I am saying I can entertain arguments for that.

    I do like the concept, proposed by a writer, that corporations could extend copyright IF they pay yearly extension fees on a geometric progression. First year of extension: $1. Second year, $2. Third, $4. It starts off small but eventually gets to a point where the numbers don’t pan out and the corporation *cough Disney cough* lets the copyright lapse.

    Also note that if you are looking at any publisher, clear rights reversion clauses are a MUST, especially in the case of small presses. I have a friend who had to fight for several years to clear the rights of stories she’d sold to a small press which folded and put the rights in limbo. (Another author from that same press started her own small press, and her rights reversion clauses are VERY specific about what happens in the event of non-publication or the folding of the small press.)

    1. I’m in two minds about this – I think copyright on my work for my daughter and grandson is perfectly fine, at my lifetime plus 28 years. But I’m an indy, and the publishing company that I publish through is one which I actually own. So there will be no jiggery-pokery about any of my own stuff falling into limbo.

      But there are a couple of books that I have dealt with as a publisher, which are in limbo as to a reprint or new edition because the author died, and the heirs can’t be located, or are fighting over the estate.

  7. I have thought that “life of the author, or 28 years after publication, whichever is longer” would be a good period. That lets the author control the work while alive, and if he dies early gives a period where his heirs can reap whatever benefits might accrue. After all, nothing prevents the author from putting the work in the public domain if he thinks that might be better for his future benefit.

    1. No. No. Also no. Knowing how long it can take to break in or “become popular”? No.
      Jerry Pournelle, in his eighties, told me that he was finally living from his work. Most of which was more than 28 years old. I expect HIS WIFE who survived him for five years also needed that.
      So, you know what “Life of the author, spouse, or minority of children.” I’ll take that.

      1. And a clause that says, “You can quote it, call something based on it, whatever, but the original unexpurgated versions must be available.” None of this Roald Dahl nonsense.

      2. “So, you know what “Life of the author, spouse, or minority of children.” I’ll take that.” – S.A.H.

        Yeah, I could go with that, too, but I’d keep the 28 years as well (i.e., longest of either category). That transition period at the end is always a bitch, and will often screw somebody (e.g., author dies two months after publication, no spouse, and childrens’ minority ends in six months). Keeping the 28 year minimum while adding the lifetimes you mention would help with that.

        One thing I’d add, though, is that copyrights can only be owned by an actual person – not a corporation or other composite entity. It’s kind of a technical quibble, since the owner can sell all of the rights to a corporation, but the actual owner should be the author or his heirs.

        1. yes. When publishing houses collapse — and I think we’re going to see that, when European companies get tired of financing the American branches — they shouldn’t take people’s copyright with them.

        2. “One thing I’d add, though, is that copyrights can only be owned by an actual person – not a corporation or other composite entity.”

          Not sure how well that would work, but it might. One problem that cropped up in the digital age is when some entity like the NY Times wants to digitize their archives and sell access to them, do they then have to negotiate with every freelancer that ever wrote for them? Also there was the issue of paying for music again when a TV show or movie was converted for sale as a video. Many video versions of TV shows had new or otherwise-controlled rights music replace the background play of pop songs.

          I haven’t investigated, since I’m no artist, but at least in California, artists sometimes have rights to their work even after they sell it. A property owner is not allowed to deface or take down a mural for instance without the permission of the artist, or at least giving him/her the chance to try to remove/move it.

          Sarah also points out that all her sales have a reversion of rights clause after a period of time or in case of bankruptcy or other demise of the entity that bought the rights.

          One thing that’s for sure:

          1. The Peggy Lee decision in California said that creatives could not sell rights to formats that did not exist when the contract was written. (which is why some places are putting ‘all formats that will ever exist’ in their rights grabs) The format in question was home video.

    2. I mean, my kids can make their own money. But we’re 60. Say I die in 10 years, and someone wants to make a movie of Darkship Thieves, and Dan is in a nursing home.
      WHY should they just have it free?

  8. I’m kind of where Sarah is at. Life of author/spouse/age of majority of youngest underaged child (legally adopted or recognized), whichever comes last.

    From my pop culture wiki-walks, I could cite all kinds of weird edge-cases for copyright/use of image from other forms of entertainment, but here’s one from the world of writing: Christopher Robin Milne, who had been the basis for the character in his father’s books, suffered all kinds of teasing growing up related to that. A few months after AA Milne’s death, Christopher Robin’s daughter was born with cerebral palsy, and although he was a surprisingly successful bookseller, I have to assume the royalties didn’t hurt in seeing that she got the help she needed.

  9. Given current copyright law, I’m wondering if it is possible to define how we want our copyright to end and include it in the published book in such a way that merely having possession of a copy of the book can tell the reader whether it is out of copyright?

    I.e. the book copyright stamp says Copyright Owner, Year, expires on (Date and/or condition) or current copyright law, whichever is shorter.

  10. The “Mickey Mouse Copyright Protection Act” has created all sorts of evils. It has allowed various corporations to memory hole a number of their works. I remember watching a number of cartoons (WW2 vintage being replayed) when I was young that are completely politically incorrect these days and the corporations who produced them are now destroying any copies. This is bad. In addition, news broadcasts are copyrighted, so when anything turns out to be profoundly embarrassing at some point in the future, it can be deleted, or even worse edited. This I find unacceptable.

    1. I found some of the WWII cartoons that had been cached by someone outside the US, and bought a bootleg DVD that I use in class. Well, some of the Private SNAFU cartoons I can’t use. Adult content and all that.

    1. He was indeed the gentlest and kindliest of men. Lived for a while in an actual hobbit hole in LA. He even liked Harlan Ellison! I can’t speak for the crap/crud because, unlike the advice he gave me, I wasn’t there when he said it, but to me, “crap” itself is pretty innocuous.

    1. Thanks Foxfier. If nothing else, I seem to have sparked conversation about the topic. Happy to hear from both those who agree and those who disagree.

  11. BTW, the “being forgotten if copyright prevents people from reprinting you” argument strikes me as disingenuous. Sturgeon, aside from his tv work, wrote artsy-fartsy stuff, as seen in the examples cited here. Writing artsy-fartsy is a moderately reliable way of insuring that you will be forgotten; the crowd-pleasers almost invariably are remembered, and parodied, and imitated, and the serial numbers filed off, long before copyright expires. Flash Gordon being under copyright and not available to George Lucas is why we have Star Wars.

    1. It may be true that Sturgeon wrote more “artsy-fartsy” stuff, but that’s exactly what “It’s a Wonderful Life” was considered, and why it didn’t reach the masses in the theaters like “Arsenic and Old Lace” did.

      1. Yeah. And Jane Austen was high brow for her day, and she survives when all the “Gothic” romance people of her day disappeared.
        Except the Brontes. And I don’t see Brontes fanfic selling on amazon.
        Quality is quality. I won’t claim to love ALL of Sturgeon, but I love a significant amont of it.

    2. Saying “Sturgeon wrote kind of work” is true (for any value of ) — and doesn’t begin to cover the broad range of his work. Because the same author who wrote “It” also wrote “Yesterday Was Monday” (both for the Campbell’s Unknown) — and they’re about as different as two stories could be, except that they’re both well worth reading.

  12. I’ve been thinking on this for a while. How about keeping the copyright length the same, but requiring the owner of it to provide the Copyright Office with a current, valid contact address? If a prospective publisher makes an honest attempt to contact at the address on file and gets no response (or a response of “What?”), they can legally use the work.

    Some reasonable time to submit a change of address, of course. Some of you (not looking at anyone, honest!) tend to move rather more frequently than others.

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