Saturday, September 1, 2018

Further US copyright extension unlikely this year

Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again | Ars Technica - Timothy B. Lee:

January 8, 2018 - "On January 1, 2019, every book, film, and song published in 1923 will fall out of copyright protection — something that hasn't happened in 40 years. At least, that's what will happen if Congress doesn't retroactively change copyright law to prevent it — as Congress has done two previous times.

"Until the 1970s, copyright terms only lasted for 56 years. But Congress retroactively extended the term of older works to 75 years in 1976. Then on October 27, 1998 — just weeks before works from 1923 were scheduled to fall into the public domain — President Bill Clinton signed legislation retroactively extending the term of older works to 95 years, locking up works published in 1923 or later for another 20 years.

"Will Congress do the same thing again this year? To find out, we talked to groups on both sides of the nation's copyright debate.... To our surprise, there seemed to be universal agreement that another copyright extension was unlikely to be on the agenda this year....

"The rise of the Internet has totally changed the political landscape on copyright issues. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is much larger than it was in 1998. Other groups, including Public Knowledge, didn't even exist 20 years ago. Internet companies — especially Google — have become powerful opponents of expanding copyright protections.

"Most importantly, there's now a broad grassroots engagement on copyright issues — something that became evident with the massive online protests against the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012. SOPA would have forced ISPs to enforce DNS-based blacklists of sites accused of promoting piracy. It was such a bad idea that Wikipedia, Google, and other major sites blacked themselves out in protest.... The protest against SOPA 'was a big show of force," says Meredith Rose, a lawyer at Public Knowledge. The protest showed that 'the public really cares about this stuff.'

"The defeat of SOPA was so complete that it has essentially ended efforts by copyright interests to expand copyright protection via legislation. Prior to SOPA, Congress would regularly pass bills ratcheting up copyright protections.... Since 2012, copyright has been a legislative stalemate, with neither side passing significant legislation.

"And that means that advocates of a new copyright term extension bill wouldn't be able to steamroll opponents the way they did 20 years ago. Any term extension proposal would face a well-organized and well-funded opposition with significant grassroots support.... Of course, copyright interests might try to slip a copyright term extension into a must-pass bill in hopes opponents wouldn't notice until it was too late. But ... 'The likelihood of it slipping by unnoticed' is low, Rose said.

"And even some content creators aren't keen on ever-longer copyright terms. The Authors Guild, for example, 'does not support extending the copyright term, especially since many of our members benefit from having access to a thriving and substantial public domain of older works,' a Guild spokeswoman told Ars in an email. 'If anything, we would likely support a rollback to a term of life-plus-50 if it were politically feasible.'"

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