Shooting Stars in the Night Sky

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The night sky is in the public domain – no one owns it, it is free to look at and take photographs of, and it can be seen no matter where you are on the Earth. As claimed by Margaret Rouse, the definition of Public Domain is:

“Public domain is a designation for content that is not protected by any copyright law or other restriction and may be freely copied, shared, altered and republished by anyone.”

However, is the sky really a copyright free public domain when individualism, control and monetisation get involved? Probably not.

There are websites that have been popping up in my personal Facebook feed (especially around Valentines Day) that promote people buying their loved ones a star, and registering a name for that specific star. These stars can cost hundreds of dollars and come with a gift pack.

Gogh, Vincent van: The Starry Night
Vincent Van Gough’s “Starry Night”

Although there is a large online debate about whether star naming is a hoax or reality, the deeper issue is human obsession with control and power. Humans never ‘own’ anything on the earth, we simply use the materials we have available to survive. Hypothetically, if an individual were to own the sky, would it become illegal to take a photo and post it on Instagram and illegal for artists such as Van Gough to paint the sky without paying a patent? When looking deeper into the issue, it is legal to take pictures of the sky (even if it was owned by individual people), as long as the photographer is standing in a public place:

“It’s legal to take photos in a public place. There is no right to privacy that forbids you taking a person’s photo so long as you are standing on public property. You can even take a photo of someone in their house or backyard so long as you don’t step on their private property.”

Copyright laws aim to suppress creativity across a culture, as ideas grow when exposed to more and more individuals. If ideas such as the internet, or even a wheelie bin had a patent placed upon them, how could art be produced in today’s society? It would be impossible. Yet society seems O b S e S s e D with owning things. The video below further explains copyright law, and questions whether the creative industry has been challenged due to tighter laws surrounding creativity and content:

 

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