Founders Copyright

From Creative Commons
Jump to: navigation, search

Founders Copyright

The Founders Copyright project at CC is no longer active. This page contains a small amount of information for historical purposes.


The Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that copyright was about balance -- a trade-off between public and private gain, society-wide innovation and creative reward. In 1790, the U.S.'s first copyright law granted authors a monopoly right over their creations for 14 years, with the option of renewing that monopoly for another 14. The Founders Copyright initiatiative was created to help restore that sense of balance -- not through any change to the current laws -- but by helping copyright holders who recognize a long copyright term's limited benefit to voluntarily release that right after a shorter period.

How it Worked

Rather than adopting a standard U.S. copyright that would last in excess of 70 years after the author's lifetime, Creative Commons and a contributor entered into a contract to guarantee that the relevant creative work would enter the public domain after 14 years, unless the author chose to extend for another 14. To re-create the functionality of a 14- or 28-year copyright, the contributor would sell the copyright to Creative Commons for $1.00, at which point Creative Commons would give the contributor an exclusive license to the work for 14 (or 28) years. During this period, Creative Commons would list all works under the Founders' Copyright, along with each projected public domain liberation date, in an online registry.