This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

Copyright, and the Library of Congress

If you're curious about copyright in the United States, you have seen The Library of Congress mentioned. And if you have heard "Library of Congress" as many times as most of us, it seems to lose its meaning. The best way to see it is as just an empty building built by a bunch of guys who had hopes for the future.

This empty building was to be filled with all of the wonderful things that the people of the country would create some day, books, inventions, artwork, that sort of thing. And to fill this library, the deal was this - you give a copy, for example, of a book you just wrote, and the United States Government will protect, by law, your right to make copies, for a limited time. And the limited time is the most important part. Once the copyright expired, it belonged to the people of the United States, to be used, and copied, freely by them. A pretty clever idea!

Of course, if the new country had failed, the library would never have been filled. But it succeeded, and the library is gigantic and continues to grow. And all of that stuff, once the copyright time has expired, which is now the vast majority in there, belongs to you and me, citizens of the United States.

This is what is known as Public Domain. That just means that it belongs to all of the public. That is, we the people of the United States all have the right to use, and to copy, this material.

The more I learn about our "founding fathers" the more amazed I am by their foresight. Build an empty library, encourage people to put their stuff in it, protect their copyrights for a limited time, and then it is automatically donated to the people.

If you don't know how The Library of Congress works, maybe you need to go back and study what "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" is all about. Yeah, maybe you missed that in your high school civics class. But a lot of people do understand it, and it is a wonderful thing.
Post a Comment