Copyright originated in early 1700s England as a contract between authors and society, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times [28 years] to Authors … the exclusive right to their respective Writings.” After that point, the public was free to mix, remake and build upon an author’s creative idea. In short, to evolve culture.
For a time, that scheme functioned well for members of the art-making and -appreciating public on both sides of the Atlantic, including Walt Disney, who built his animation empire with stories that had entered the public domain. But then, corporations seeking greater profits lobbied for the extension of copyright life far beyond the original length of three decades, and cultural evolution was stymied for their financial benefit.
As C.G.P. Grey, author of the video below, argues: “This near-infinite control subverts the whole purpose of copyright which is to promote the creation of more books and movies, not to give companies the power to stop people making new creative works based on the efforts of their long-dead founders. New directors and authors need the freedom to take what came before to remake and remix. And they should be able to use creative material from their own lifetimes to do so, not just be limited to the work of previous generations.” —ARK