Fight Copyright Corruption
Take Action To Restore Some "Public Domain" Assets
Lobbyists for private interests seized billions in value away from the public when they persuaded Congress to extend copyright terms by 20 years for free. As a partial way to reclaim a little of this value, some public-minded groups have proposed to let some neglected copyrights expire sooner.
This is a mild step in the right direction. Let's support it. Here is a description of the measure, supplied by the American Library Association.
In the summer of 2003, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced the Public Domain Enhancement Act (HR 2601), a bill to make it easier for older and endangered copyrighted works to fall into the public domain.
Representative Doolittle (R-CA) co-sponsored the bill, which is intended to reform lengthy terms of copyright protection. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added another 20 years of protection to what had previously been a 50-year term of protection for copyrighted works.
HR 2601 creates a simple mechanism by which copyright owners who wish to avail themselves of the additional 20 years of protection would be required simply to pay a $1 fee 50 years after the work was published and every 10 years thereafter. Thus, materials -- currently those published between 1923 and 1942 -- that would have gone into the public domain but for the 1998 law and that copyright holders do not intend to exploit commercially during the additional 20 years of protection, would enter the public domain. This process would not be an undue burden for the copyright holders (who today must pay a fee when they register with the U.S. Copyright Office) and would realize significant and important public benefits.
Under provisions of this act, the U.S. Copyright Office would establish a user-friendly, efficient electronic filing procedure to process forms to extend the term of protection; collect the minimal $1 maintenance fees; and make the forms broadly available to the public so that there is one centralized directory of titles that remain under the additional twenty years of protection. Today it is onerous and costly for libraries to track down copyright holders of older materials.
It is estimated that after 50 years from the time of publication, 98% of copyrighted materials are no longer providing any economic benefit to the copyright holders. The latter provision is especially crucial to libraries, archives and the public as it would provide a single database that could be easily searched to determine whether or not a particular work remains under copyright protection or is in the public domain.
Professor Larry Lessig of Stanford Law School, who worked with Representative Lofgren on drafting the legislation, presented her with a Petition to Claim the Public Domain with 15,000 names of bill supporters.
Please click this special link to contact your representatives and urge them to co-sponsor HR 2601, the Public Domain Enhancement Act.
- To sign a petition, go to http://eldred.cc, a website that serves as the focal point for information about the campaign to pass this bill.
- For a big set of questions and answers that explain this bill in more detail, click here
- For further information from the American Library Association on this subject, go to www.ala.org/copyright and click on copyright news.
For a broader look at the whole subject of public interests versus private seizure, visit the Common Assets Headquarters
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