Dan Gillmor has filed a special column, telling us all what we lost with the Supreme Court's rejection of Eldred:
Who got robbed? You did. I did.
Who won? Endlessly greedy media barons will now collect billions from works that should have long since entered the public domain.
Like public lands and the oceans, the public domain is controlled by no one — a situation that infuriates people who believe that nothing can have value unless some person or corporation owns it. The public domain is the pool of knowledge from which new art and scholarship have arisen over the centuries.
The Constitution talks about granting rights to creators of "science and useful arts" but only for limited periods. After that, the works can be used freely by anyone.
Walt Disney understood the value of the public domain, and used it precisely as other great artists had done. He updated an out-of-copyright character to create Mickey Mouse, for example, and launched an empire.