The Following is a continuation of my comments posted on http://mayersononanimation.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/the-coming-copyright-battle.html
Gw, your perceived use for the public domain seems to be to extinguish an existing characters current dominance of popular-culture & diminish their promotional use as branding of merchandise. All in the belief that this process will somehow herald an uninhibited wave of new characters. But there isn’t really anything stopping new characters achieving recognition already. And I simply don’t understand why the Public Domain should be jeopardized by trying to include abstract fictional characters of fantasy (I.E.; creations that are not real except for their existence as entertainment content).
The objective of this whole Protectionist Laws & Open Domain arrangement was to have a moderate period of limited exclusivity for an Invention, a Technology, an insight, published Story or Idea, before it finally yields to the Public Domain as a tool in service of the greater human good. Forming part of our shared knowledge and a global asset in our ability to create and build upon past works without having to live in some absurd litigation nation because the inventors/creators/instigators were already given their dues through our system of Protectionist Laws for a reasonable period before it became open.
The point is, exclusive proprietary legal rights protecting monetization & fame for the originator still exists, but they are limited to a 25 year period after the creation or the new patient. (No, it’s not “The life of the author plus another 70 freaking years”, but it’s still a quater of a freaking century and more than enough to make a buck from). This idea isn’t about overturning protectionism, because clearly creators need that in order to profit from their work in a hyper competitive world. But GW, stop & ask yourself, should this notion of transitioning to the public domain really apply to everything equally? Is every one of these things equal to the service of our needs & our progress as a society? Or should we, like rational minded creatures, base that priority on our fundamental needs and the inherent potential of the thing in question, considering the implications if it were to be part of the public domain. What conclusion does this train of thought pull us towards?
Instead of simply being dismissive, take a step off the pedestal of your current perspective and try reassessing the level of importance an invented fictional character holds & what their implications as public domain would be. I will try and to the same and try to rationalise your pov as best I understand it…
Yes it is hard to create a memorable fictional character let alone one that can compete with others that have been around longer than YOU have. But let’s state some facts… Firstly, characters gain their value from their level of exclusivity and acquire that value over time as they rise in the public consciousness via their tv shows, comics or stories. But Inventions, Insights & New Technology on the other hand become useful from day one. It’s the esoteric creation VS the widely practical creation. These two things are clearly valuable for different reasons and in rather dissimilar ways, and therefore require differing protection. In order for the instigator to hold on to his new Inventions, Insights or Technologies he needs exclusivity & limited distribution for a period of time to make his profit. Where as Fictional Characters need plenty of time &/or wide distribution (aka marketing) to attain fame and value. So one would think a Highly Practical invention/creation should have no trouble taking hold and making money once out in the world. While an Esoteric invention/creation is much more of a gamble and may not pay off at all. So my point remains that we clearly need two separate forms of context to these Laws in order to separate abstract fictional character creations & “brand imagery”, from things like Inventions, Insights and Tech.
Think of it this way, a notable fictional character is like a rare baseball card or antique. They are only valuable to their given creator/company because of their exclusivity & consistency remaining in the public consciousness due to previous or ongoing creative media & popularised forms of entertainment involving them. That character may come to be admired by many, and may be considered valuable. But they’re only ever $ valuable $ to the few who created or own that character. Where as Inventions, Insights, Tech, etc… are valuable to all. They eventually belong in the Public Domain and should never be kept locked up for reasons of ongoing profit & exclusivity. If we don’t change this, then we are simply damning ourselves by corrupting the flow of information and mental resources in our global society through litigation and power plays.
So, like I said… you can keep your famous Talking Mouse or Invincible Man, because the public domain was not made of them. And there are other versions of talking mice or super human characters out there were those two came from. Disney itself has done plenty of talking mice throughout their animated films. The same goes for DC & super strong super humans too.
So GW, please elaborate on what exactly popular characters like Mickey, Superman or Aqua-man are stealing or denying YOU and your characters? At most you can say that they’ve become what any other character(s) created in their “class” are compared to… but this isn’t a death-note for your character and it doesn’t lessen their legitimacy or potential legacy. So as far as I can see, the answer is…there is NOTHING denying your character(s) a fruitful existence other than your lack of content. There will always be imitators, Monsuno to Pokémon, etc… and that’s fine, because there is only one real Mickey Mouse. And we all know who created Mickey, who owns him, and that’s how it should be. There is only one Superman and we know to created/owns him, and that’s how it should be.
The same goes for YOU, if you ever create the next whoever/whatever that becomes as big as Pokémon or Adventure Time is… then we will all know you created/own him, and even long after your death, that’s how it should be. So yes, I believe that you can own characters and take them to your grave, or $ell out to a Big Creative Media Corporation for Big Bucks while you’re still alive if you choose. Why? Because they’re fictional, artificial entertainment, and because they have very very little to do with the Public Domain; our shared knowledge and the global assets that enhance our ability to usefully create and build upon past knowledge and ideas.
So anyway GW, I hope you’ve managed to endure my page and a half of text. If you want to help rationalise the Public Domain, Copyright and personal ownership any better than this attempt, please do and let me know. If not, then no worries & thanks for the interesting exchange.
Best Regards - Matt Bell