We had a lot of fun last week talking with James Boyle, Lawrence Lessig, and Tom Menard about intellectual property. James Boyle's new book out from Yale University Press is called The Public Domain: Enclosing the Commons of the Mind. (It's available free online.) Boyle argues that laws protecting intellectual property have been recklessly expanded over the past fifty years—in a way that endangers the freedom of information and runs counter to the intentions of our founding fathers. Agree or disagree, it's hard to ignore how vast are the reaches of intellectual property protections. Our conversation covered topics ranging from music and art to soda pop and fast food. Sharon C. over at Library Webhead listened in on the conversation and pointed out how these issues are brought to bear on libraries and the content they create and disseminate.
And just in case you were thinking of posting the text of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech on your website today, think again. It's illegal. Those words are the property of the King Estate, managed by Dr. King's children, and they've been in and out of court for the better part of a decade to keep them out of the public domain. Oh, and if you're in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration this week—be advised that those shirts with both Barack Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on them--those might be illegal, too.
You might also remember the legal battle of another famous Atlanta family—the Margaret Mitchell Estate and their settlement with Houghton Mifflin over the controversial publishing of Alice Randall's The Wind Done Gone—the telling of the story of Mitchell's Gone With The Wind from the perspective of a slave named Cynara, the mixed-race half-sister of Scarlett O'Hara. More than 50 years after the death of Margaret Mitchell—should this kind of derivative work be illegal? If yes—why and who does it hurt? If not, should the Mitchell Estate at least get a piece of the pie? We'd love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected].