Mar. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Constitution lays it out. "To promote the progress of science and useful arts" we give creators an incentive; an opportunity to profit from their work for "limited times."
After that, the work enters the public domain. It's the bargain we've made; the balance between the interests of the creator and the public.
So what entered the public domain this year? Well, nothing. What should have entered the public domain? Thousands of works from 1956.
Movies: Godzilla, King of Monsters!, The Ten Commandments;
Books: Minority Report, Diamonds are Forever;
Music: Long Tall Sally; Roll Over Beethoven.
Even the first issue of MAD magazine to feature Alfred E. Neuman prominently on the cover.
However, in both 1978 and 1998 Congress extended copyright, disrupting the balance and leaving the public domain barren. As Duke Law Professor James Boyle pointed out you can't create an incentive to create if the creator is dead. (Source: Bloomberg)