How broken is copyright in the US?

copyright symbolHow broken is copyright in the US? So broken that if you look at two different books, both published by the same publisher (Dodd, Mead & Co.), in the same year (1940), both with copyright notices, and neither with a copyright renewal…one is currently protected by copyright, and the other is in the public domain.

An amazing article by Peter B. Hirtle entitled Copyright Renewal, Copyright Restoration, and the Difficulty of Determining Copyright Status outlines this case, and others that are equally frustrating. Fascinating stuff, and shows how truly broken intellectual property laws are in the current market, with the necessity of international reciprocation and ever-increasing ridiculous time limits. Not to mention that the very model is now shattered with the digital revolution…even without the digital, copyright needs an overhaul. With it? It needs cleansed with fire.

Pick a random book in your library that was published between 1923 and 1964, and check this chart, and see if you can tell if it’s still protected. Now multiply that by a few ten million books, and see what kind of crazy legal situation our legislatures have gotten us into.

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