The Need for Public Domain

CBC Spark features an excellent episode featuring host Nora Young interviewing James Boyle, law professor at Duke University. As one of the original board members (serving from 2002 to 2009, in the final year as chair), of the Creative Commons he is one of the leading thinkers on copyright reform.

The interview starts around the 7:50 mark right after the excellent winning remix of teru (at about the 6:00 minute mark) of the little contest I mentioned a couple of blog posts ago. Congratulations teru – well deserved recognition for your remixing prowess!

Back to Professor Boyle: His new book “The Public Domain” is not only available commercially, but also for free under a creative commons license. Professor Boyle is not against copyright laws, but is very concerned about the overreach of those laws, and makes an eloquent case, that this is not only robbing society of new art and science, but also a classic case of industries shooting themselves in the foot. With their strategy of locking every intellectual property up for longer and longer time, they are killing their own future revenue potential.

To quote the book’s website: “James Boyle introduces readers to the idea of the public domain and describes how it is being tragically eroded by our current copyright, patent, and trademark laws. In a series of fascinating case studies, Boyle explains why gene sequences, basic business ideas and pairs of musical notes are now owned, why jazz might be illegal if it were invented today, why most of 20th century culture is legally unavailable to us, and why today‚Äôs policies would probably have smothered the World Wide Web at its inception. Appropriately given its theme, the book will be sold commercially but also made available online for free under a Creative Commons license.”

Choral Public Domain Library

Begun in December 1998, the Choral Public Domain Library is one of the world’s largest free sheet music sites. You can use CPDL to find scores, texts, translations, and information about composers.

While the site concentrates on sheet music, quite a number of works also have corresponding MIDI files on their pages. And that can be a gold mine for remixers with midi capable software. The site contains classics from giants of choral music including Bach, Handel and Mozart, but also works by contemporary composers like Leanne Daharja Veitch, who reminded me of this most excellent musical resource and writes “I’m encouraging all small-time composers (like me) to make our work creative commons, and accessible to all.”

The Old Time Radio Network

A pretty amazing collection of old radio programs – I think pretty much from the US only: OTR.Network Library (The Old Time Radio Network): “The OTR.Network Library is a free resource for Old Time Radio (OTR) fans. We have over 12,000 OTR shows available for instant listening, with 100 more added each week.” An excerpt from their Legal Notices page: “… We believe that the copyrights of the Old Time Radio shows we host on this site have expired. …”

One of my favorites has to be this great American comedy classic from Abbot and Costello recorded in 1947. Note, that the link leads to a realmedia audio file, so you’ll need a thus capable player or conversion utility. Start playback at around 22:22 for the sketch in question. Just before that a lengthy advertisement for a certain well known brand of cigarettes. How times have changed!

Disclaimer: Copyright law varies between jurisdictions, and I’m not a lawyer, so mentioning this or other sources of audio materials here is not intended to be legal advice.