Death: The Ultimate Public Domain

| 3/31/2008 11:53:49 AM

TombstoneUnited States copyright law protects “original works of authorship” for 70 years after the creator’s death. After that, the work enters the public domain and may be reproduced freely. Instead of waiting for the whole 70 years to expire, the art blog ni9e is encouraging copyright owners to donate their intellectual property to the public domain immediately after their death. “Why let all of your ideas die with you? Live on in collaboration with others. Make an intellectual property donation,” the blog declares. The site has created a public domain donor sticker to place on the back of your driver’s license that says “in the event of death, please donate all intellectual property to the public domain.”

Questioning the legitimacy of the sticker, I called the U.S. Copyright Office and spoke with Steve Withers, a copyright information specialist. Withers hadn’t heard of the movement to encourage intellectual property donation, and said the sticker might not be legally recognized.  However, he told me that if you want to ensure your intellectual property is donated to the public domain following death, you can send a letter of statement to the U.S. Copyright Office or include it in your will.

(Thanks, The Art Law Blog.)

Sarah Pumroy

Image from Tombstone Generator.

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