Government Funded, Public Domain

Earlier today, Jesse Brown (this week’s guest blogger on Boing Boing and host of the TVO podcast Search Engine) posted the first of his blogs: All publicly funded content should be in the public domain. In the article he says:

In Canada, movies are supported by Telefilm, TV by the Canadian Television Fund, books and art by The Canada Council for the Arts, and so on. But most of this stuff isn’t distributed very well or for very long, and you can only get your hands on a fraction of it.

So I want to put forth one more contrarian position: I think that any publicly funded content should (within, say, 5 years of its creation) be released to the public domain.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  The truth, in fact, is that I am of two minds on the subject.

First and foremost, as a consumer of copyrighted materials (ie: reading books, watching tv shows, watching movies, listening to music), I am a firm believer that our copyright system needs a major overhaul, with looser copyright restrictions, and a thriving Public Domain (which we don’t have; when was the last time a copyrighted work fell into the Public Domain?).

To state that all government funded content should be in the public domain is a pretty bold statement, however.  All publicly funded content?  I don’t know about in other countries, but in Canada, that’s a pretty broad cross section.  Because there aren’t many aspects of the arts (which creates the content) that aren’t publicly funded.  Almost every TV show, movie,  and play are funded with government money.  Novels are written, magazines are published, music is composed.  There is not one aspect of the arts that government funding does not touch.  Does that mean that all this “content” should be in the public domain?

Maybe.  How many TV and Radio shows created by CBC have been relegated to the vaults, never to be seen again?  Why not put these shows out into the public domain so that everyone can enjoy them? How many plays are written, given a few weeks to run in a theatre, and then never seen again?  Why not make publicly funded work available in the public domain after 5 years (or maybe even, in the case of television, 5 years after the show goes off the air).

What do you think?