Paul Heald on the public domain

Paul J. Heald

April 23, 2013

Paul J. Heald, professor of law at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, discusses his new paper “Do Bad Things Happen When Works Enter the Public Domain? Empirical Tests of Copyright Term Extension.”

The international debate over copyright term extension for existing works turns on the validity of three empirical assertions about what happens to works when they fall into the public domain. Heald discusses a study he carried out with Christopher Buccafusco that found that all three assertions are suspect. In the study, they show that audio books made from public domain bestsellers are significantly more available than those made from copyrighted bestsellers. They also demonstrate that recordings of public domain and copyrighted books are of equal quality.

Since copyrighted works will once again begin to fall into the public domain starting in 2018, Heald says, it’s likely that content owners will ask Congress for yet another term extension. He argues that his empirical findings suggest it should not be granted.

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