October 29, 2009 by Jonathan MacKenzie
Jonathan MacKenzie is an LLM candidate at Osgoode Hall and is taking the Intellectual Property Theory course.
Since its first significant formal uses – in the 1896 decision of Singer v. June and the United States’ 1909 Copyright Act – the term “public domain” has become a key component of the North American IP legal regime. Over the last century, the “public domain” concept has both facilitated as well as circumscribed the incorporation of prior creative works into new artistic products. Today, the popularity of art forms that depend on reshaping previous works (such as the 2008 mash-up, “Elton’s Glasses”, which combines the musical compositions of Elton John and Phillip Glass, or the 2007 post-modern biopic, “I’m Not There”, which recreates shot-for-shot scenes from the 1967 documentary, “Don’t Look Back”) makes questions about the nature, content, and practical application of the public domain more relevant than ever.