May 29, 2009

On Copyright

The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal in the case of Steinbeck and Smyle v. Penguin Group, a dispute over whether Steinbeck's heirs or Penguin owned the rights to The Grapes of Wrath and other works. Previously, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Penguin owns the rights, and the Supreme Court will not revisit the issue.

I've never been quite satisfied with copyright laws in this country. That's why this blog is issued under a Creative Commons License. I like the freedom that Creative Commons offers. I imagine I will work with copyright in a number of different ways in my writing career. I imagine any books I publish through a publisher will be the traditional All Rights Reserved. And while some magazines and journals are working with Creative Commons these days, most still are protected by traditional copyright. But what about the books I self-publish (if any)? Will I protect myself with traditional copyright, or go with Creative Commons? I guess that's a bridge I cross when I come to it.

One of the things I'd like to have control over is what happens to my work when I die. While I won't be having any children who could have control over my estate, I probably will have some family in one way or another. But I also don't believe that the copyright on my work should stand after I am dead. I'm serious here - I believe that when I die, all of my works should be public domain. What use do I have for them if I'm dead? If, on the off chance, I become fabulously wealthy from my writing, I can arrange to leave money to any family I have. But they don't need to have control over my work after I am gone.

Of course, what happens with publishers is another story. Should I ever be published through traditional networks, I'll have to discuss things with a lawyer, because while I am passionate about copyright law, I admit I only have a layperson's knowledge. But I do know that at some point, I am going to create a document that releases all of my self-published works into the public domain upon my death.

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