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Copyright is a limited personal monopoly on an original writing, song, piece of art, or a group of any of those, for 70 years after the death of the creator (or 95 years if the creator was under corporate contract—a Disney cartoonist, for example).
Generally, copyright prevents others from being able to show, copy, perform, modify, or distribute the original work without the owner’s permission. Copyright allows creators to charge more for their work, or determine how they want their works to be used.
But there are limitations on the scope and application of copyright. Without these limitations, it would be nearly impossible to share, resell, lend, or even talk about creative works. Not every unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is an unlawful use: you don’t need an author’s permission, for instance, to resell a book or lend it to a friend.
Public Knowledge’s Position
Public Knowledge promotes a balanced approach to copyright law and works to ensure that domestic and international copyright laws promote creativity and the free flow of knowledge.
Here are some of the specific issues and projects we’re working on right now:
Copyright Reform Act
The Copyright Reform Act (CRA) is a project by Public Knowledge to create model legislation that proposes a number of changes to copyright law that are intended to tip the balance back in favor of the constitutional mandate that copyright protection “promote the progress of science and the useful arts.”
Copyright Office Modernization
Ubiquitous computers and internet access have made just about everyone a creator with a stake in copyright policymaking—and the U.S. Copyright office has a lot of catching up to do. Public Knowledge advocates for a modernization of the Copyright Office so that it can better meet the demands of modern copyright in a digital environment.
Open Access Project
Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. While any kind of digital content can be OA, this worldwide movement has taken off in the world of scholars, researchers, and librarians.
In 2003, Public Knowledge launched its Open Access Project to promote the free and unrestricted world-wide electronic distribution of peer-reviewed journal literature.
"Orphan Works" are copyrighted works—books, music, records, films, etc—whose owner cannot be located. Creators who are interested in using an orphan work are often unwilling to do so for fear that they will have to pay a huge amount of money in damages if the owner ever emerges.
Public Knowledge has proposed that the law should allow use of an orphan work if the user searched for the copyright owner in good faith, with reasonable diligence, but still failed to find the owner to ask permission.
First Sale: Digital Ownership
The first sale doctrine says that a copyright owner gets to control the first transfer of a particular physical copy of the copyrighted work. After that first transfer, the recipient gets to control that specific, physical copy (but not the copyrighted content itself).
This doctrine has landed on shaky legal ground as copies have moved away from physical objects and towards digital files. Public Knowledge is working on preserving the first sale doctrine for the digital age.
What you can do to help
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- Donate to Public Knowledge to help us keep our doors open.
- Give policy makers a piece of your mind: act now.
For More Information on Copyright