Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
United States

US Extending Copyrights 30

AMK writes "An Open Source Books campaign has been started, which aims to fight the recent extension of US copyrights to 95 years after the author's death, instead of 75. This doesn't benefit the authors, who are dead, after all, but does damage efforts like Project Gutenberg. See this Wired story for more information, and add the "Open Source Books" icon to your Web page. "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

US Extending Copyrights

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward

  • This is great news. The copyright extension act (passed at the behest of Disney and the Gershwin heirs, who cynically manipulated the death of Sonny Bono to their own ends) was a bad law. What's more, I think it is an unconstitutional laws. Whatever you think of copyright, the law in the US is clear. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution provides Congress the power to grant copyright solely for the public benefit. It is part of what has been called the "copyright bargain". The public gives up for limited times the freedom to copy the work, in return for the production of new works as a result of the exclusive copying incentive. Retro-actively extending existing copyrights by definition cannot encourage the production of new works, which is a major justification for copyright law. (The companies will surely argue in friend of the court briefs that giving them additional copyright time will cause them to keep old works in distribution, which is a public benefit. We'll have to see how this plays out).

    Companies like Disney don't need gov't subsidies. The Gershwin heirs should go get jobs. Authors already had life+50 years protection before the new law. How much more can you want?

    I hope the Supreme Court slaps this one hard.
  • Posted by K8_Fan:

    If a work was well-loved enough to generate income in the artist's lifetime, that should be enough. The idea that art exists to produce dynasties is offensive.

    The children of a coal miner suffer more than the children of the even the most wretched painter or writer. But they don't deserve any special "protection" for what they've given up.

    No, we need to return to the original term of copyright, 14 years with the option of a single renewal. The framers of the Constitution did not mention protecting the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of creators. Their sole purpose was to grant a limited right to encourage creativity.

    If an artist can't create something else worthwhile in a 28 year period, then the continuing income of a copyright will not do anything to "encourage" them to create more. Has the copyright on "Catcher In The Rye" done anything to encourage J.D. Salinger to write another novel?

    The period of Patents, defined in the same area of the Constitution as Copyright, has not been extended because inventors know the value of being able to look through old, out-of-patent ideas for new applications.

    If the music of Gershwin is not allowed to fall into the public domain in the same way that the music of someone like Stephen Foster has, the loss to music will be immeasurable. There are a finite number of pleasing combinations of notes. Composers do not invent them. They discover them. Every great composer borrowed themes and melodies from other composers and folk songs.

  • If one person disobeys they go to jail. If 10,000 disobey the jails can't hold them.

    Mickey Mouse would expire in 2002. The US constitution prhibites grandfather laws, which this can be argued (probably not successfully, but you can put some doubt into minds) Therefore if every /. reader finds mickey mouse mpegs and videos, the orginials that would ahve expired and copues them and gives them away there is nothing they can really do. Make sure your public about it, and make sure enough people are. The difficult part is you can't work alone, you will go to jail unless there are enough other people helping.

  • I think Mickey Mouse probably falls under the relm of a Trademark which does not expire as long as you keep using it. Now the film "Steamboat Willy" may be about to become Public Domain
    --Zachary Kessin
  • The company is not dead yet so if they own the copyright, then this whole Disney angle is moot.
  • So that innovation can be freely shared and built upon to improve technology in general after it's inventor has cashed in on his own genius.

    Should this not be how it works for copyright law too?

    Also, software ages at an incredible rate and its copyright should expire after no more than 20 years. Who benefits today from Atari 2600 Combat beinf officially locked for all practical eternity by current copyright law?
  • Paraphrasing someone's sig, life is tough, and then you day. And 95 years after that, people will still be making money on you. Oh boy, as a writer this disturbs me a lot. I will have to start shipping my works with a license.
  • The Jeffersonian model of copyright was never intended as a property right. It is gradually being turned into one by powerful corporate IP interests, bent on privatising culture. If this is left unchecked, it will lead to in perpetua copyrights, the IP equivalent of land titles. The very fact that copyrights expire at all goes against the mentality of the IP barons, who have money enough to bribe politicians and brainwash the public.
  • If they manage to pass this, the new limit should only apply to new copyrights. Anything which was copyrighted before it was passed would have the old 75 year limit.

    One effect then would be that from 2075-2095 Project Gutenberg would have no new material.

    Of course, they will try to enforece it right away, grandfathering it. In that case, expect it to get the supreme court.

  • As we've seen with encryption laws, the US seems to be able to convince other countries to pass the same dumb laws they have.
  • According the to actual text of the bill at http://thomas.loc.gov, these new extensions only apply to works created on or after Janurary 1, 1978, with an exception for phonorecordings. All published works created before 1978 still expire a maxiumum of 75 years after the work's *creation*. That means the recent bill will not have any effect on Project Gutenberg until 2053.
  • Not a solution. Copyrights, like munitions trading, are also subject to international agreements between countries. It's only a matter of time before attempts are made to harmonize duration of copyright across countries, much as the Wassenaar agreement attempted to harmonize crypto export rules. If that happens, switching countries won't help. (But I do hope that we can manage to prevent Canada from doing this.)
  • This is true. I saw a documentary on this on Undercurrents about a month ago that Disney was quietly lobbying congress to do this. The real irony is that Disney has made a lot of money exploiting works whose copyright has run out - Jungle Book, Hunchback, Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, etc. Now they're using that money to prevent the same laws that benefitted them from benefitting others.

    Maybe the Southern Baptists were on to something after all - boycott Disney!
  • If an author's family/heirs keep on the ball, a collection of text can be kept under copyright indefinitely.

    Example: Charles Dicken's estate still holds the rights to the novel "David Copperfield". All they do is make sure to have an intro or foreword rewritten, or perhaps add an index (stupid?), change the typeface or pagination, whatever. The resulting *different* work is then copyrighted, but contains the original work as a subset. Fits through the loop-hole nice and technical, like.

    As long as someone wants to retain and defend the rights to a work, they can find a way to do it.

  • I respectfully disagree with your statement about books not having a source. By the popular definition of source, or source code, you are correct.
    Like software, the source or inspiration of a book lay within the mind of the author. I've stopped referring to software as a "program" anymore for just this reason - the program is abstract, in the mind of the creator. The implementation is what we find as C, C++, etc. code.
    Copyright laws make no sense from a philosophical perspective, which leads me to believe that the free software movement is philosophically grounded rather than based on a rebellion against corporate America or hate for authority in general. Think of it this way: As I write this comment, the "sources" for it are my thoughts. My thoughts are free, and it's perfectly acceptable that someone else may have a similar inspiration and write a similar comment.
    Copyright laws, as currently enforced, attempt to protect the inspiration for something, whether a book or software. To me, this is nonsensical. What they _should_ protect is simply the implementation of ideas, not the inspiration behind the implementation (which could strike another person as well).
    If I design a software implementation of an algorithm to digital encode audio from my own thoughts, without pirating someone else's implementation, why should I have to fear a lawsuit from a foreign company who also designed a means to encode audio? The copyright laws are tipsy-turvey, and ultimately only serve to protect the jobs of corporate lawyers and line the pockets of pointy-hair types.
  • I have some simple logos available at my web site [vnet.net], and even have them in .png format for those of you who don't want to use GIFs (also available). It's a little hard to download the .png files from Netscape (I'm using 4.5), easier from IE 4.0, and neither handle them as graciously as GIFs, but both will display them when included in HTML code.

    As for the comment that "Open Source Books" doesn't quite make sense, well, I tend to agree, but Eric Eldred does make a fairly good argument for it. Personally, I'm using Liber [vnet.net] which is Latin for both "freedom" and "book".

    Regardless of what you call it, though, please get involved now, before it is too late.

    Australia and Canada are considering taking the lead of the U.S. and Europe: Please try to stop it now while you can. One of my logos, incidentally, features Henry Lawson. Perhaps I will do another one with Robert Service, both authors whose works I have put online. Many of Service's later works are still under copyright. Lawson is a prime example of how copyright benefits publishers rather than authors. He sold his early works outright before he understood that he could get royalties, and died broke, despite being a best-selling author -- so well loved that he once appeared on the Australian $10 bill. A strange irony, that.

    There is much that can still be done, if only there is sufficient public awareness. You can bet that the big media won't get involved. Some of them are the ones behind this assault on our basic freedoms.

    Alan R. Light

  • Now I now why. Project Gutenberg is a great project. I don't like anybody screwing them over (their job is pretty near thankless anyway).

    Next thing you know, Shakespeare's estate will be suing over the all expressions he coined. Oh, well, all's well that ends well. Ooops..
  • If you read the actual commentary in the congressional record, the point of the copyright extension was to make our copyright protection laws consistent with European laws.

    Will targeting the U.S. alone actually make a difference? Otherwise, Open Source Book projects still won't be able to legally export their texts outside the U.S.
  • by Kludge ( 13653 )
    I read the court brief. It's very good.
    Watch out people, or corporations will own everything.
  • A signal that some people out there really do get it can be found in an interview with the girl that developed the radically faster encryption technique:

    She had no plans to patent her work as current systems are free. "It's good to share your ideas with the science world. By patenting it I'd be hindering that process," she said.

    See http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,30930,00.html?st .ne.ni.lh for more.
  • AMK wrote that extending copyright protection past the holder's lifespan is useless because the holder receives no benefit from his work after death.

    I disagree. The economic value of a copyright is a function of its longevity. Let's say, for example, that I write the Great American Novel. I decide that I want to sell/license the copyright forever and use the money to buy a jet. Any potential buyer will base his offer for my work on the basis of how much profit he can make from selling it. Since my novel will be read in English classes for generations, the length of the copyright is significant in this computation (I know, the present value of those payments will be low, but still significant). Thus, there is value for the holder in extending the current copyright length.

    I am NOT arguing that the concept of intellectal property is valid/ethical/moral. I only state that an extension of the copyright length is rational.

  • I apologize if I misused the term. I have tried to clarify all this at http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/open_source_books.ht ml

    some people are confused by the terms. i don't believe our common struggle should be put off track by the vocabulary--we are essentially, i believe, fighting the same fight against the big publishers that Open Source (tm) Software is fighting against Microsoft.

    but if you can think of a better term, please let us know. we need some phrases that can teach us about the proper role of the public domain and freely accessible intellectual property.

    Eric Eldred
    Eldritch Press
  • as the originator of the "Open Source (tm) Books" campaign, i must now state that i have retracted my suggestion to use that phrase.

    i now propose the simpler, "Support Online Books!" and suggest a link to http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/support.html

    at some point, i feel, the "Open Source (tm)" movement that started with software needs to be generalized to books and other digital media. but right now it has not been well thought out, and some small disputes about the term's applicability may detract from discussion of the main points of what counts as "open" in this context.

    it is true that most of us might not have joined this discussion if the phrase "Open Source (tm)" had not been attached. but i wish to publicly regret my use of the term and call your attention to the need to apply the trademark symbol to it, and to link to http://www.opensource.org/ or http://www.opencontent.org/ whenever you use it.


I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.