Lessig links to this MSNBC piece that mentions him. It is about the comic book The League of Extrordinary Gentlemen and its movie spin-off, and how copyright has affected both:
One of the filmâ€™s problems, and the comic bookâ€™s strengths, is enormously relevant in an age of rampant online file-sharing and courtroom wars over extension of the copyright term. In the comic book, Moore shows the benefit of having a rich public domain. He plucks old characters from obscurity, brings them together and makes them dance. The public domain works the way itâ€™s supposed to. New creators enliven old works and send interested readers scurrying back to the original texts.
At the same time, the film illustrates how modern copyrights restrict the use of established cultural texts that should be in the public domain. For American audiences, Tom Sawyer is added to the mix, but evidently Fox couldnâ€™t clear his film rights, so heâ€™s referred to only as â€œagent Sawyer.â€? A friend of mine walked out of the movie having no idea Mark Twainâ€™s rambunctious kid was all grown up and inexplicably sneaking about London with a shotgun.
The author mentions that it isn’t necessarily even that the copyright still exists, but the threat of litigation that stops people from making wonderful new works.
Here’s a pop quiz for you? Does anyone know how long a copyright remains locked up? Give up? The lifetime of the creator plus seventy years if it is owned by a person, or 90 years if it is owned by a corporation. Ninety years! Universal made a film version of the Invisible Man back in the 1930s and that precludes H.G. Well’s classic character from appearing in a movie published in 2003. And, of course, every time copyrights on “important” works like Mickey Mouse are about to expire, the content companies step in and “persuade” Congress to extend the terms of copyright. The result is a perpetual creative purgatory, as valuable art and culture is locked away in corporate vaults, never given back to the people who so deserve it.