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osOpinion: Abandoned Intellectual Property

Oct 23, 2000, 06:45 (25 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Susan Aker)

[ Thanks to Kelly McNeill for this link. ]

"Most states have laws governing what is to be done with property that has been abandoned. In one state the amount of time before something is considered abandoned ranges from a mere 2 years up to 15 years. After that maximum -- depending on the type of property -- the property can be put up for auction, absorbed by the holder of the property, or possibly revert to the state, again depending on the property in question. The laws vary between states, but the principle is there. Property that is not claimed after a reasonable amount of time ceases to belong to the owner."

"Think of how this might apply to intellectual property. Copyright law allows an inordinate amount of time before works revert to the public domain -- author's life plus 70 years, and 95 years on corporate copyright. But, what if the owner of this property had to make sure it was kept available in order to keep the copyright? Any work that has been out of print for more than 15 years probably isn't going to earn its owner anything more anyway. What if these works automatically reverted to the public domain? Couldn't this be a compromise between the entertainment industry and the public? Either the work must be kept available for purchase or else it is available for free, but it is always available."

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