The journalist at the Boston Globe had interviewed me for quotes to accompany my comic in today’s issue, but only four words of the interview made the cut. I’ve included the entire interview here, so you can get some insight into my opinions about the Eldred v. Ashcroft case and my motivation for making the comic…
THE GLOBE: Why was the Supreme Court’s recent decision about copyright extension wrong?
ME: Copyright term limits have been extended 40 years in the last 40 years, a total of 11 times. Why? To keep Mickey Mouse from ever entering the public domain, while locking up hundreds of thousands of non-Disney works in the process.
The Court’s ruling permits Congress to effectively extend the Constitution’s “limited times” indefinitely, from 14 years (in the late 1700s) to 70 years today. (Keep an eye out for the inevitable Copyright Extension Acts of 2018, 2028, and 2048.)
Why should contemporary artists be able to freely use Disney’s copyrighted characters?
For the same reason Disney was able to freely use the characters of Rudyard Kipling, Victor Hugo, Lewis Carroll, and the Brothers Grimm. Walt Disney adapted stories from the public domain because they were free; he couldn’t afford royalties. The Disney Corporation has benefited deeply from the public domain, but refuses to contribute back to it.
The public domain is the wellspring of human creativity — our shared cultural heritage. This isn’t about stealing Walt’s creations; it’s about the fundamental freedom to build upon another artist’s work after they’ve profited from it.
Did you create this comic ahead of time? When did you publish it on your site?
Shortly after reading the verdict, I made the cartoon and posted it to my site. Incidentally, the source image is from a Disney comic book from 1965. Under the original term limits, the image would have entered the public domain in 1993; under current law, it’ll be locked up until 2060!