By Bill Ivey
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Additional resources for Arts, Inc.: How Greed and Neglect Have Destroyed Our Cultural Rights
The limited term of copyright is also important, because the intent of the framers was not to institute a variation of property rights—like rights to a tract of land—that would secure ownership in artworks and inventions forever, but rather to encourage creativity. So once the term of copyright ends, work enters the “public domain” and can be used and reconﬁgured by anyone without permission—a steady ﬂow of old art into new that, presumably, promotes progress. When our cultural industries were created, and for three-quarters of the twentieth century, that “limited” time was twenty-eight years, renewable for a second term of the same duration.
Are market forces enough, ﬁrst, to preserve heritage and, second, to make it available to enrich the expressive lives of citizens? heritage 37 Let’s look at Corbis again. As already indicated, the company controls 17 million images in its Bettmann Archive alone, with total holdings having surpassed the 100 million mark. Of course, not all these are cultural treasures; as with any massive historical collection, a signiﬁcant percentage of the whole probably possesses little or no lasting historical value.
Is part of a global archive of more than 100 million images exploited for proﬁt by a super-mogul of the computer software industry? Should the public see iconic images from our nation’s past only if an author, magazine publisher, or television producer pays a price set by the marketplace and enforced by companies that control copyrighted heritage? In a hundred-year-old arts system deﬁned by an unfettered marketplace, tension between culture as asset and culture as heritage is inevitable. But when a company makes available only what it thinks will sell and then demands the maximum payment possible, the public interest is not well served.