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Re: NYT Editorial: The Coming of Copyright Perpetuity
As an employee of the house o' copyright (Library of Congress) I
have to say that these comments are my own and in no way reflect the
Library of Congress bla bla bla.
Having won this battle, we can only expect the various
entertainment companies of the world to continue their assault on the
Public Domain. Not only do I expect a perpetual copyright for those
things still under copyright (further short extensions and then 1000
year extensions and the like) but I would not put it past these
companies to attempt to recall items out of the Public Domain. Olsen, in
his defense of the government's position, stated explicitly that he
believes it is Congress's (and those who own it) right under the
constitution to do so.
The only hope that remains for the American Public Domain in the
near future is competition from Europe and other markets. If Congress
sees that American companies, archives and institutions are at a
disadvantage to their European counterparts, they may decide to put an
end to this madness. But this hasn't stopped them so far. European
companies may freely re-issue classic American jazz and country music
and this does not seem to have an effect on Congress. Rather the big
companies are, from what I hear, attempting to shut down Europe's
What can be done in this situation?
writing as individual, not as LC employee. Hi Mr. Pointdexter!
>>> checker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 01/16/03 11:01AM >>>
The Coming of Copyright Perpetuity
January 16, 2003
In 1998 Congress was the scene of a battle over public
domain, the public right of common, free and unrestricted
use of artistic works whose copyright has expired.
Corporations like Disney, organizations like the Motion
Picture Association of America, and dead artists' families
wanted to extend copyright. Advocates of public domain
wanted to leave copyright protection as it was, which would
have allowed many early 20th-century works, including
corporate creations like Mickey Mouse, to slip into the
public domain. The copyright owners won, and yesterday they
won again when the Supreme Court, by a vote of 7 to 2,
decided that Congress was within its constitutional rights
when it extended copyright. The court's decision may make
constitutional sense, but it does not serve the public
Under that 1998 act, copyright now extends for the life of
an artist plus 70 years. Copyrights owned by corporations
run for 95 years. Since the Constitution grants Congress
the right to authorize copyright for "limited times," even
the opponents of an extended term were not hopeful that the
Supreme Court would rule otherwise. This decision almost
certainly prepares the way for more bad copyright extension
laws in the future. Congress has lengthened copyright 11
times in the past 40 years.
Artists naturally deserve to hold a property interest in
their work, and so do the corporate owners of copyright.
But the public has an equally strong interest in seeing
copyright lapse after a time, returning works to the public
domain - the great democratic seedbed of artistic creation
- where they can be used without paying royalties.
In effect, the Supreme Court's decision makes it likely
that we are seeing the beginning of the end of public
domain and the birth of copyright perpetuity. Public domain
has been a grand experiment, one that should not be allowed
to die. The ability to draw freely on the entire creative
output of humanity is one of the reasons we live in a time
of such fruitful creative ferment.