The REAL reason behind the SBCTEA:
Everyone knows (or should know) by now that the Sonny Bono Copyright... Act extended copyrights by 20 years, starting in 1998. This means the term is now 70 years past the author's death (or 95 past publication for anonymous/pseudonymous/works for hire). Many speculated that this was because Disney pushed for the extension, because Mickey Mouse was almost in the public domain. I have uncovered the REAL reason behind the copyright extension. (No, seriously, hear me out on this. You'll want to know it.) I recently opened a book to read, and looked at the copyright date. 1949, renewed 1977. OK, that is probably covered by the SBCTEA. So I look online at the text of the copyright law, expecting to find the usual 70-years-after-the-authors-death law. As it turns out, this book falls into a narrow loophole in the SBCTEA: "Any copyright still in its renewal term at the time that the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act becomes effective shall have a copyright term of 95 years from the date copyright was originally secured." (22.214.171.1244(b))
That means that this book, and any other published between 1942 and 1949 (inclusive) receive 95-year copyrights. Not the (already outrageous) 70 years after the author's death that every other book gets (which would have put this book at 2020), but NINETY-FIVE YEARS, regardless of when the author died. That means this particular book, which should have entered the public domain this year(2005), or at the latest 2020, is under copyright until 2044, 39 years after it should be in the public domain. I don't know about you, but I find that fact extremely frightening. Why? Because I believe the loophole was put there on purpose, for this specific book.
Which book, you ask? Can you guess?
[Update 21.10.05] I looked more closely, and all works published before 1978 get 95 years from publication, instead of 70 from the author's death.