Why are more things not voluntarily placed into public domain?

In this thread, Polycarp states that:

So why do more people not intentionally place their works into PD after a given period of time? A software company could state that all software they produce automatically becomes PD after 10 years for example. Or a music group could do the same thing after 30 years.

It seems to me there are quite a few benifits of doing this. It would bring some amount f goodwill from fans who are strongly anti-IP and would probably garner a bit of media attention. Also, it might increase the visiblity of a groups old works which might bring in new fans to their more recent work. I know that many low budget films are forced to work with only PD music because it would be too expensive to secure the rights to commercial music and film clips, no matter how obscure. It’s often why you see charecters in a movie watching some really old horror film on TV. If more work were PDed, it would probably be used widely in such films.

Do artists still receive significant revenue for their works as time goes on? If not, the only reason I could see to this scheme not being more popular is apathy.

You got it right.

Money. If not collected by the original producer then whoever holds the rights.

But what sort of revenue are producers getting 10 years on? Who would want to buy 10 year old software? Apart from the Beatles and other such big hits, pretty much 99% of music bands would be pretty much dead 20 years on. Is anyone still listening to Spice girls? Or new kids on the block?

In addition to money, there is also the issue of control. A copyright holder can achieve all the things you describe by licensing his work for free or a nominal fee. However, at the same time he retains control so his work/name does not become associated with issues or people which may be detrimental to him.

For example: let’s say I write a catchy song. If I put it in the public domain, then the People Who Act Like Assholes Association might use it in their membership drive. I certainly don’t want my reputation that I’ve worked hard for linked to an organization such as PWALAA. I’d rather it be associated with the Puppies and Kittens Organization. But, PaKO might decline to use my song now that it’s become associated with PWALAA.

Software? Yes. Even though software evolves rapidly, keep in mind that numerous business carry around with them legacy software/systems for decades. As for music or other media such as film, the majority of revenue for any studio or music company comes from their licensing out their library. It’s true that a specific song might not generate much revenue, but overall, this is their bread and butter.

For older songs, I’m sure a lot of money is made licensing them for movies and tv.

Why would they care about bringing in new fans if they can’t make any money. Sure, a sense of self-satisfaction perhaps, but what tangible benefit are they sure the gain? Why care about the anti-IP fans? If I release a video game in PD will someone else produce a sequel curtailing my efforts to make money off a franchise? I don’t see any tangible benefits to putting ideas into PD and every reason to keep them as my own.

Not that I’m a huge fan of our current copyright system…


Because the more people who know about your older, PD music, the more people are likely to buy your current, non-PD music. There are quite a number of posts on here as well as other places asking what a particular track in a movie was specifically so the poster could check out other tracks by the same band.

And I imagine for indie and low budget films, it’s not so much the expense as the hassle of trying to obtain copyright. If there was a large library of contemporary, broad ranged PD music to choose from, they would be far more likely to be used than commercial music simply because it’s a pain to find the copyright holder and negotiate some sort of terms.

But if you make a simple calculation about the volume of music being produced each year and the volume of music being platyed each year, it’s simply not possible for more than even 1% of music to still achieve any significant airplay after, say, 10 years. OTOH, if you make it PD, then that makes it far more likely for someone to pick it up.

Some software companies do give away their older stuff for free (although not necessarily by putting it in the public domain) - this is the basis for most of the ‘full version’ content on magazine cover discs (at least here in the UK) - you’re given a free, fully-working copy of SuperApplication 2.0 and the magazine contains a discount upgrade offer to SuperApplication 5.5.

This usually only happens when there has been a distinct increase in functionality between the two versions - otherwise you’d just keep using the old one. I’ve had some really decent software this way (and it really was the full commercial version, not ‘SE’ or ‘lite’) - MetaCreations Bryce 2, for example (a 3d graphics program) - version 2 doesn’t have any animation capability though, so the upgrade to 3+ was tempting enough to allow Metacreations to use v2 as a promotional giveaway.
I suspect they got a kickback from the magazine, even if it was just free advertising in the form of the upgrade offer.

(Caution: Hefty dose of cynicism ahead.)

Control. People like to think that every idea they ever crap out is totally original, and they like to be the boss of something. Those two ideas join together Voltron-style and form the hoarder’s mantra, “I made it, it’s MINE, so I get to decide how you can use it”, as we’ve seen in so many copyright threads here. Even if no one wants it, they can still get some satisfaction from knowing that no one else can have it, as long as they keep it out of the public domain.

People who depend on copyright don’t want to appease the people who are strongly anti-IP. They just want to sue them into submission.

Possibly, but they don’t think that far ahead. They think “Why would someone buy our new album if they can listen to the old one for free?”

Whta does IP stand for?
And shouldn’the the artists/authors have a say on whether you should use their work for free or for your use?
I could understand if Disney doesn’t want their characters being used in ways that show a bad image.

“Intellectual Property [protections]”, I think.

Is there really an anti-IP philosophy? I know lots of people who don’t want to pay for, or prefer to steal, IP-protected stuff, but I don’t think I’d dignify that as a “position”.

And speaking from the point of view of a hypothetical creator, what would MY motivation be in “appeasing” or otherwise winning the goodwill of people who either don’t want to pay for anything or whose philosophy would deny me the rights to control and profit from my own efforts? Were I such a creator, I’d kind of not care about those people.


They did make it, it is theirs, and they do get to decide how you can use it. whether or not it’s “original”, whatever that means, is irrelevant.

As they should. Good for them.

Or, under the system you seem to be advocating, someone could just legally steal both.

Perhaps, assuming of course that the other tracks by the same artist wasn’t in the public domain as well. While I could see how putting their work into PD might help some artist I’m not sure how it would help a lot of others in any concrete manner. Maybe they’ll get more people to listen to their music or maybe they’ll just lose that song as a source of income.

Let’s not forget about having control over their work. If Batman & Robin were in public domain you might see NAMBLA using their images to promote their own social agenda and DC couldn’t do a thing about it. So there are other reasons aside from money to keep control of your IP.


Yes, there is. It’s a minority view, but there’s a significant group of people who believe copyright protection should be scaled back to varying degrees or eliminated entirely. For example, read the comments on any Slashdot article that touches on copyright or P2P.

As with any other political view, the reasons for supporting it vary from person to person. Some people believe in free speech so strongly that they won’t tolerate any restrictions on what you can say - that’s the philosophy behind the Freenet project, a peer to peer storage system designed to be anonymous and unstoppable, so that no piece of information can be traced to its creator or viewers, or forcibly removed from the network once it’s posted. Some people simply believe the societal benefits of free sharing outweigh the drawbacks of reduced incentives for authors. Some believe the current system has been abused by the content industries and it’s time for the pendulum to swing back the other way. Some are just looking to get free stuff. (Naturally, the proponents of strict copyright laws like to paint the opponents as all belonging to that last category.)

Well, they get to try. It is, of course, impossible for them to actually succeed. You can’t make information uncopyable; it’s like making water unwet.

Heh, sure… in exactly the same way that you can legally steal anything else that’s in the public domain. (Oh no, I just “stole” a copy of Hamlet from a web site! Shakespeare’s descendants sure will be mad when they realize it’s missing.)