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The Courts Government News

Supreme Court Accepts Eldred Case 649

Patrick Fitzgerald writes: "The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to intervene in a fight over copyrights, deciding whether Congress has sided too heavily with writers and other inventors. The outcome will determine when hundreds of thousands of books, songs and movies will be freely available on the Internet or in digital libraries." Openlaw's Eldred v. Ashcroft page has more information about the case, which seeks to challenge the most recent retroactive extension of copyright terms.
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Supreme Court Accepts Eldred Case

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  • The Jury (Score:2, Funny)

    by zpengo ( 99887 )
    The jury selection process has been completed, and a leak from a reputable source indicates that Dr. Dre, Eminem, and members of the band Metallica have already been selected....
  • My ideas (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Saeculorum ( 547931 )
    Maybe this will mean copyrights will no longer be enforced after authors are dead, or that the government will no longer try to prevent people from copying a CD for their person use, or maybe even that a computer class could examine source code without having to sign non-disclosure agreements and sell their soul to the devil. Copyright is essential, but it has been taken a bit too seriously lately.
    • Re:My ideas (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kerrbear ( 163235 )
      Copyright is essential, but it has been taken a bit too seriously lately.

      Agreed. From the article at the New York Times:

      If it wasn't for the law, ``digital archives could inexpensively make the other 9,853 books published in 1930 available to the reading public starting in 2005,'' he wrote. If the law ``still stands, we must continue to wait, perhaps eternally, while works disappear and opportunities vanish.''

      Once again we see that money interests in Washinton continue to threaten our culture and freedoms. Lobbyists for publishing industries keep upping the anti on copyright duration for their own greed and pride. Meanwhile the works themselves come under threat of extinction. I hope there can be some kind of rebound effect soon.

      • From the article at the New York Times:
        If the law ``still stands, we must continue to wait, perhaps eternally, while works disappear and opportunities vanish.''

        Ironically, one of the arguments for the Disney copyright act was that an extension would give the owner an incentive to preserve the work.

  • I was wondering how long it would be before copyright law come up before the Supreme Court. Copyright law does need to change to something more sane and comprehensible. Perhaps we will be so blessed to see copyright reform...or am I getting my hopes too high?


    If you were going to propose a reform to current US copyright, what would you do? On the top of my list is that stupid law that says that a work is not public domain until 75 years after the author's death. That, in my opinion, is ridiculous.


    :Peter

    • Are they really going to decide if 75 years are too much?

      I don't think so. The major argument is if the change can be retroactive to works already produced.

      • There is some reason to have a little hope. The people who wrote the Constituton were skeptical of their experiment with intellectual property. The new law could fall too far outside what the founders ment by "limited."

        They may also take note of the fact it is publishers and not authors or inventors who lobbied this extension.

        The left/right split on this will be interesting. The conservatives could cop out and claim they don't want to mess with Congress. Or they could draw an original intent line in the sand.
        • First, it is 70 years, not 75. Second, here's the real issue: in 1978, the law was changed to extend copyright terms to 50 years after the death of the author. In 1998, the law was changed to extend copyright terms an additional 20 years. What happens if in 2018 the law is changed to extend copyright terms an additional 20 years? Then the idea behind "limited" terms is completely abandoned. That's the grounds for getting this law thrown out.
          • First, it is 70 years, not 75. Second, here's the real issue: in 1978, the law was changed to extend copyright terms to 50 years after the death of the author. In 1998, the law was changed to extend copyright terms an additional 20 years. What happens if in 2018 the law is changed to extend copyright terms an additional 20 years? Then the idea behind "limited" terms is completely abandoned. That's the grounds for getting this law thrown out.

            Exactly. If the Supreme Court has a brain (or brains), they'll see these two facts:

            • Congress has the sole power to set the limits on copyright (subject to the Constitution).
            • However, one of the limits implicit in the Constitution is that these limits can only apply to future works.
  • The key here (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PowerTroll 5000 ( 524563 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:29PM (#3032608)
    The Constitution authorizes Congress to give authors and inventors the exclusive right to their works for a "limited" time. In 1790, copyrights lasted 14 years. Now it's 70 years after the death of the inventor, if the person is known.

    Lawrence Lessig, attorney for the challengers, said the latest 20-year extension approved by Congress in 1998 is ill-timed and unconstitutional.


    Key to this is limited times. The current copyright laws are nigh limitless, as far as human lifetimes are concerned. And it only takes an act of Congress to extend terms again, 20 years at a time. (Thanks, Sonny Bono!)

    I do believe that authors and artist should profit from their works. But there should be a balance struck between the rights of producers of IP, and the consumers. Reverting to shorter terms (perhaps the original) would fill the bill nicely.
    • Re:The key here (Score:5, Interesting)

      by csbruce ( 39509 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:39PM (#3032680)
      My thoughts are that a corporate copyright should last for 50 years, and that an individual copyright should last for the lifetime of the author plus 20 years. Any copyright that was ever owned by a corporation shall always be classified as a corporate copyright.

      Fifty years is plenty long enough for a corporation to reap its rewards, and an individual should be entitled to rewards for his entire lifetime. We wouldn't want copyrights to end at an author's death, because then an industry would spring up for bumping off authors of important works.

      There should also be provisions for abandonment. For example, if a copyrighted work is not available for sale (including for $0.00) from its copyright holder to the public for a total of ten years, then it is considered to be abandoned.
      • Re:The key here (Score:5, Insightful)

        by GemFire ( 192853 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:50PM (#3032741) Homepage
        Copyright should not depend upon the lifespan of the producer. Life +20, for instance, means the possible equal of a corporate copyright if the author is 50 or younger. What if the author is 90 and on his deathbed upon publication? That means the work only qualifies for a 20 year copyright.

        Or, here is another case. Your great grandfather was a famous writer. Your parents never did anything with the property where his house was, but when you inherited it, you went up there and found a first draft, never been published, masterpiece. But it has been far more than 20 years since he died and publishers refuse to publish it because it is already public domain. Which gives you NO financial incentive to see the work published.

        All works should have the same set copyright period. I'd pick 20 years (the same period patents enjoy.)
        • All works should have the same set copyright period. I'd pick 20 years (the same period patents enjoy.)

          So when I'm forty, I no longer have the rights to something I wrote when I was twenty? How is that a logical, financially viable, and potentially useful solution?

        • Re:The key here (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:43PM (#3033132)
          > Or, here is another case. Your great grandfather was a famous writer. Your parents never did anything with the property where his house was, but when you inherited it, you went up there and found a first draft, never been published, masterpiece. But it has been far more than 20 years since he died and publishers refuse to publish it because it is already public domain. Which gives you NO financial incentive to see the work published.
          >
          >All works should have the same set copyright period. I'd pick 20 years (the same period patents enjoy.)

          (Side note - I agree with your "should have the same copyright period" comment)

          Where I differ with you is the "no incentive to publish" bit. That's what's changed in the past 30 years.

          There once was a time when "publish" meant "spend a lot of money printing dead trees, or shining light through acetate films onto photosensitive compounds". Today, that family could see to it that the masterpiece was "published" by spending an hour scanning the document through some OCR software and posting it to USENET.

          As for Mickey Rat, Disney could still use trademark law to sue the fsck out of anyone selling Mickey merchandise, or making new Mickey cartoons, by saying "Mickey is a trademark of Disney, Inc."

          All that shortening the copyright term to 20 years would do allow you to say "Click here to download an MPEG of Steamboat Willie, ca. 1928".

          Disney could still make new Rat products, they could still make money selling Rat products back to the '80s. Hell, they could still make money selling a "Limited Edition DVD of Steamboat Willie". (Want the DVD? Buy it from them. Just want the video stream? Download it from some d00d who copied it.)

          The other Good Reason (IMNSHO) for shortening copyright terms is because, for intellectual property, there's no longer any substantial difference difference between the aims of copyright and patent law.

          Both were intended to give inventors temporary monopolies in order to promote invention/innovation/science/art. But today, they're treated radically differently.

          Patent: I'm Mr. Pfizer, and I invented Viagra. Here's my patent application, which shows you how to make your own. In exchange for sharing my discovery with the world, the government grants me a 17-year monopoly on producing it. Until that time is up, you gotta buy it from us, or pay us royalties to let you make it yourself. After 17 years, you can make a generic version all by yourself, and we'll have to compete on price. We're willing to do that because we think we can make back our R&D costs in 17 years.

          Copyright: Here's my song! Here's my movie! Here's my program! I tell everyone how to replicate it by distributing the bitstream on shiny plastic disks. In return, the government gives me a 75-year-plus-life-of-creator monopoly on those bits? What the fsck?

          If the company that invents a cure for AIDS is expected to make their money back in 17 years, why can't we ask the same of the company that markets big-titted lip-syncing chicks and goddamn cartoon mice?

      • A better solution (Score:4, Interesting)

        by browser_war_pow ( 100778 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#3032806) Homepage
        Why not have a two phase copyright system as follows:

        phase 1: full monopoly on terms of distribution and reaping of profits. Lasts 50-60 years for a corporation and 70 years to life for an individual.

        phase 2: full credit for the creation must still be given to the creator when distributed, but no monopoly on distribution exists anymore
      • One viewpoint (Score:3, Informative)

        by zpengo ( 99887 )
        Fifty years is plenty long enough for a corporation to reap its rewards...

        That's your opinion. Disney, who is still reaping plenty of rewards from Mickey Mouse, might think a little differently...

      • Re:The key here (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:09PM (#3033329) Homepage
        • an individual should be entitled to rewards for his entire lifetime

        Why?

        It's not a frivilous question. Creators can produce work for hire, and copyrights can be bought and sold. Copyright is a "thing", a commodity that can be traded like any other. There's no reason to end / extend it to match the creator's lifetime. What if they sell rights for forty years with a reversion clause, then die five minutes later? How long do the purchaser's rights last? Forty years? Twenty years past the creator's death? Their own lifetime plus twenty? The lifetime of their corporation?

        Copyright law is in a big old mess as it is, what with work for hire and corporate ownership screwing up the notion of when it should expire. Then there's the convoluted issue of copyrights of images of artifacts (see how many claims of copyright you can find for images of the Bayeux tapestry, for example). Copyright laws need to be simplified and unified.

        First, copy rights in all media need to be unified. That means no distinction between music, still pictures, moving pictures, images of art (interpretive or otherwise), or text. One law for all.

        Second, one law for all needs to be applied to the rights. Copyright is a "thing". It can be bought and sold. Duration should not depend on who owns the rights. The clock should start ticking the moment the work is created, and it should stop after a fixed time, regardless of who owns the rights at that time.

        Third, shorter terms. Twenty years is reasonable. Yes, that would punish some creators, but the vast majority of work is forgotten within twenty years. We're talking about punishing a small minority, admittedly the people who make the very best content.

        But isn't the best content exactly the sort that should be entering the public domain?

        There's an argument to be made that if you shorten terms, cynical creators might deliberately produce content that's designed to be disposable and not last the test of time. I refer you to my earlier point: we're already swamped with mediocre, disposable content. The best people will continue to create the best content for the best reason of all: because they want to, not because they think that they'll still be raking in royalties in fifty years time.

        Incidentally, I'm an author. And I still think 20 years is a reasonable duration. Five years is a good run for most books. Translations in other territories can extend that, but, hey, a translation is an interpretive derivation; it's only common sense courtesy among publishers that ensures that most authors are paid for translations right now!

        I've thought this through, by the way. If I write a book that's good enough to be remembered in 20 years time, and if Hollywood decides to make a $500 million film of it and to not pay me a penny for it, then I could live with that. The one right I would want to retain would be the right to be credited as the original author. If I can't leverage that publicity to make a killing on the chat show circuit, or to sell a new bunch of books, then that's nobody's fault but my own.

      • Re:The key here (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stripes ( 3681 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:52PM (#3033664) Homepage Journal
        There should also be provisions for abandonment. For example, if a copyrighted work is not available for sale (including for $0.00) from its copyright holder to the public for a total of ten years, then it is considered to be abandoned.

        While that's a nice idea, it has a lot of holes in it. Have you ever seen a professional photographer work? They take a lot of pictures in the field (or even studio) later they go over them very carefully and select the best ones for publication (or to try to sell as stock). It's not uncommon to have less then one "keeper" in a roll of film (i.e. less then one out of 36). A lot of that is because several shots are of basically the same thing but the exposure, angle, or other things are just a little different. There isn't a lot of point to trying to sell all of those, just pick the best one and be done with it. Under your scheme the "almost perfect" shots not being available to the public have been abandoned, and after ten years anyone can use them. Even if the one selected image is a very valuable piece of stock, and the alternate is almost as good... (yes it would require a bit of dumpster diving to get the rejects, but it can happen; and no digital cameras won't solve this since many pros write all their stuff to CD before they sort -- who knows when a "discard" shot of an unknown woman hugging the President may come in handy months after the fact when the woman hits the news...)

        Or in a less commercial realm, what if you take pictures of your wife or girlfriend that you (and she!) don't want anyone else to have? Since they are not available to the public at any price the guy at the lab who made an extra copy ten years ago can now sell it...(yes digital cameras make this exact story less likely, but you can get to the same bad place via a different route...)

        Ah! On a more geeky note WoTC removed a number of cards from Magic because they were too powerful. Just wait ten years and they can come right back!

        Copyright is used for more then just sucking money out of people.

    • Re:The key here (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Eccles ( 932 )
      Thanks, Sonny Bono!

      Don't blame Sonny too much, he was dead at the time the bill was passed. (Although his death was cynically used to get it passed by those who pushed for it.)
  • Great Name (Score:4, Funny)

    by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:29PM (#3032614) Homepage
    The 1998 copyright changes, known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, bring U.S. rules in line with those in the European Union.

    With a name like "Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act", it's got to be bad news...

    • Re:Great Name (Score:2, Informative)

      It's called that because he helped write and sponsor the bill. It was lobbied heavily for by Disney, since their characters were approaching the public domain.

      More info here [wikipedia.com].
    • by Wintersmute ( 557244 ) <(Isaacwinter) (at) (hotmail.com)> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:43PM (#3032701) Homepage
      Many scholars in the legal community have taken to referring to the Sonny Bono Act as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, reflecting the fact that every time major corporate interests in IP (such as Disney's in its early content) threaten to fall into the public domain, these interests run to Congress for another extension.

      Of course, this wasn't really about bringing us in line with EU directives; it was just a convenient cover to save Mickey's ass. Hence, you can bet your bottom dollar that in twenty years, when the most recent extension runs out, the IP lobbyists will once again descend on Capital Hill.

      What this case is all about is whether this is unconstitutional. Activists like Prof. Lessig and others have argued that the Copyright Clause of the Constitution is limited by the First Amendment. Because IP rights have to be granted in the name of "advancing progress", there's a real question about whether or not giving Disney another two decades of revenues advances anyone's interests but their own.

      Also, because the Constitution only grants authors rights for "limited times", granting an unlimited number of extensions, (20 years, every 20 years) constitutes a grant of an unlimited right.

      And I don't think anyone needs to be a lawyer to figure that one out.
  • by Seth Finkelstein ( 90154 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:33PM (#3032633) Homepage Journal
    Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2002 11:27:11 -0500

    To: openlaw-announce [at-sign] eon.law.harvard.edu
    From: Wendy Seltzer
    Subject: [openlaw] Eldred v. Ashcroft to the Supreme Court

    From Lawrence Lessig and the Openlaw team:

    We are extremely pleased to report that the Supreme Court has today granted cert in Eldred v. Ashcroft. After the case was listed on the court's conference calendar 4 weeks in a row, the court decided to hear the full range of issues in the appeal.

    We have gotten this far because of the extraordinary work and support of many many people -- especially the plaintiffs in this case, but also the extraordinary pro bono work of the law firm of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue.

    We would also not be here but for the extraordinary help of a wide range of law professors and volunteer lawyers, who have used the Openlaw process to make our work better. Those professors signed the amicus briefs in this case, as did the Eagle Forum and Cato Institute.

    There's just one more step in this process of reversing Congress' mistake: After getting 0 votes in the District Court, 2 votes in the Court of Appeals, and now at least 4 votes in the Supreme Court to hear the case, we now need just 5 to prevail.

    Thank you for your continued interest and support. Read more background on the case and join the Openlaw process at http://eldred.openlaw.org/ [openlaw.org]

    Sig: What Happened To The Censorware Project (censorware.org) [sethf.com]

  • two points (Score:4, Informative)

    by cats-paw ( 34890 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:35PM (#3032651) Homepage
    1. If you read the _original_ ruling in this case you will find that the judges said something to the effect of - it's not up to use to determine if 70 years is "too long". Utter hogwash of course, it is up to them to determine whether a specified amount of time is constitutional under the limited time provision. The whole ruling was just ridiculous - you are encouraged to read it. Pay particular attention to the comments of the (lone) dissenter.

    2. If the supreme court rules in favor of the copyright extensions it's going to be a dark day indeed - there will be no _legal_ recourse left to the forces of good.

    • Re:two points (Score:2, Informative)

      by kovacsp ( 113 )
      No legal recorse perhaps. But as we all know, when the government refuses to act in the interests of its people, it is our moral obligation to disobey those unjust laws.
    • I should have been more specific :

      The original ruling I am referring to is the ruling of the DC court of appeals, which I believe is the most recent ruling.

      Here is a link to the text [uscourts.gov]

      There is also some nice excerpts on the open-law page.

  • by Deagol ( 323173 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:36PM (#3032658) Homepage
    I'd love to see copyright tamed down a little. But if you read the petition [harvard.edu], you'll see that under the Statement of the Case:

    Petitioners are various individuals and businesses that rely upon the public domain for their livelihood. Some, such as the lead plaintiff Eric Eldred, build free Internet libraries based upon public domain works; others, such as Dover Press, publish public domain works in high-quality commercial editions. All depend upon a rich public domain to support their work, and many make their work freely available to others.

    Isn't this about another group of people that thinks it needs to make a profit? Sure, the current handling of copyrite is absurd, but do we want to see a case won in this way? Couldn't a case be made for the enhancememt of society as a whole -- not some company -- that would justify the taming of current copyrite practices?

    I guess my question is, in the fight against bad laws, do the ends justify the means if we're to score a trule moral victory in court?

    • by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <[dvdeug] [at] [email.ro]> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:01PM (#3032807)
      Isn't this about another group of people that thinks it needs to make a profit?

      Most people do need to make money to eat and stuff like that. What's your problem with that? Somebody was needed with clear grounds to press the suit, and they were it. Dover Press help make college affordable, with $1-$2 public domain books (that look like crap sometimes, but the text is all there.)

      Also, did you miss the part about "many make their work freely available to others." This isn't just the companies here.

      Rest assured, however, they are pressing the loss to society and all that in their case.
    • The plaintiffs are a diverse group who use public domain works in different ways -- some commercial and some not. Eric Eldred's Eldritch Press is a free online archive; a church choir director wants to perform works of Charles Ives and Ralph Vaughan Williams; a not-for-profit history press wants to publish geneaologies; a music publisher wants to sell scores; Dover wants to sell paperbacks.

      The point of including such a range is to show that expanding the public domain isn't anti-commercial. Limiting copyright terms "promote[s] progress" for the public and commercial users better than locking works under copyright control for another 20 years. (In addition, to get to court at all, plaintiffs had to demonstrate standing, meaning they had to show concretely how they are harmed by the law they are challenging.)

    • There needs to be some balance here. Copyrights are not granted for the benefit of the owners of IP, they're granted for the benefit of society as a whole. History clearly shows a curve where no IP rights harm society (since few people are motivated to create new IP), as does excessive IP rights (since the IP holders ruthlessly suppress any competitors and progress stagnates). In contrast, society benefits when people have enough rights to get a good return on their effort, but can't suppress others for long.

      14 or 28 years after publication is good - the new book that had a profound influence on you as a teenager can be the basis of your own book in middle age. But with the current rules, it's pretty much guaranteed that nobody will live long enough to respond in the same way to anything published once they were old enough to understand it.

      On the commercial side, look at Dover Books. The original publisher has usually failed to publish the book for years because of limited sales... often because they're continuing to publish the work in hardcover editions, legal expenses in determining who would get residuals, etc. These expenses are so great that most books are unpublished and unpublishable.

      Once it enters the public domain, Dover can publish the book in cheap paperback editions. The book is available, the book is affordable, Dover makes enough profit to make the effort worthwhile. Everyone benefits.

      Is the original IP owner out of money? Not really - you can't make any profit if you don't make any sales. In the worst cases, the original IP owner may actually make more money once the material enters the public domain since it frees the IP from other legal encumberances.

      Of course, that raises the question of the residuals paid to the original author. Again, there's not much of a difference between no money because the IP wasn't sold and no money because the material is now in the public domain. And even if there were sales, it's hard to justify people getting money for something their great-great-great-grandfather wrote 120 years ago (assuming he lived another 45 years and the 75-year rule was in affect). That's uncomfortably close to the classes of nobility that the US Constitution explicitly forbids.
  • by PHAEDRU5 ( 213667 ) <.instascreed. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:40PM (#3032687) Homepage
    There's an old saying that there's nothing new under the sun. I think the publishing industry would like to repeal that notion. In fact, if the publishing industry had its way, you'd have to pay to find out that the saying existed.

    Consider, if copyright is extended indefinitely, then there could never be the notion of "classic" literature, freely available in many forms. Instead, there would be controlled literature that could be served up time and time again to a paying public.

    Indefinite residuals. An attractive notion.
  • This [harvard.edu] is a cool chart showing what could happen to the amount of public domain work available if Public Domain is unrestricted by term extension. It really shows how we (as a people) are crippling ourselves and restricting knowledge.

    Pretty interesting concept. Is a greater public domain worth the cost of less restrictive copytights? I think so. You may not, and that is fine. But just think of the possibilites.

    • This [harvard.edu] is a cool chart showing what could happen to the amount of public domain work available if Public Domain is unrestricted by term extension.

      That's an awful graph. What exactly is it measuring? Copyright extensions don't take stuff out of the public domain, so why does the unrestrained line keep climbing while the hindered line drops to zero. Why is it linear? I'm unhappy it's being used for my side - it's obviously meaningless.
  • As a writer... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by christurkel ( 520220 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:42PM (#3032691) Homepage Journal
    I like having protections for my works but there are limits. Generally, unless you are a Stephen King, a book will go out of print in 5-7 years, usually less, as sales fall to a trickle. Additionly, once an author is dead, who really cares? Books are written to read, appreciated and shared. I don't care if people steal my book, as long as they read it. And read really, if no one is reading your book, or if you are dead, why not release into the public domain. Copyrights should last 25 years, no renewals. Coporate copyrights should last even last less, to spur innovation and inprovement of abandoned product s(Really, why would really want to keep the source code to CP/M in a vault for 99 years)? Just my .02
    • Really, why would really want to keep the source code to CP/M in a vault for 99 years

      To keep that ugly beast from coming back?!?!?

      *shudder*

      Ech, CP/M. DEC Rainbow. Bleah.

      Soko
    • Additionly, once an author is dead, who really cares?

      Apparently you have no children. Many authors do, and would like to leave them something.
      • Re:As a writer... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <[dvdeug] [at] [email.ro]> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:19PM (#3032925)
        Apparently you have no children. Many authors do, and would like to leave them something.

        Many engineers have children, too, and would like to leave them something. Money, bonds, real estate, all work.

        I'd have to agree with Jordan's solution. 20 years after death, and then any kids will be adults, and should be able to take care of themselves, and if not, they have the same recourses as the rest of society.
  • I predict.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Wiwi Jumbo ( 105640 )
    ...that we're all going to be disappointed by the outcome... there's too much money on the line for it to go the other way....
  • by lyapunov ( 241045 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:47PM (#3032724)
    I am glad that this case will be heard, the application to the sciences will be great. It is unfortunate that there are resources wasted in abundance trying to further lines of research when that research has already been done by other companies or agencies.

    I agree that creators should have exclusive rights to their material for a while (everybody needs to make a living) and then it should be pushed out in public domain.

    Capitalism is the best system available for the short term allocation of resources, but I believe we need to rethink parts of it if we are going to have better long term goals and plans for the whole of humanity.
    • Devil's advocate. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FreeLinux ( 555387 )
      I definitely suffer the "free is for me" mentality, but.......

      First off, copyrights and other restrictions are a cornerstone of capitalism. The make it free to everyone approach is the foundation of communism, not capitalism.

      The second thought, is that if I devote my life to a project and produce a great work, shouldn't I be able to enjoy the spoils and decide the future of that great work? Shouldn't I be able to go to my grave, comforted by the fact that my magnum opus will provide for my children's future?

      Let's face a little fact that we keep forgetting. Rarely, if ever, is a great work supressed or lost. Most often the works *ARE* available to any and everyone. But, you *do* have to pay for it. If it's not worth it to you, then perhaps it is not such a great work. Even the touted "research" that gets bandied about so often *is* available. But, alas you do have to pay Bayer or Pfizer millions to license it.

      This is capitalism at its finest. Accept no substitute as you may be the one that is disappointed.
      • Shouldn't I be able to go to my grave, comforted by the fact that my magnum opus will provide for my children's future?

        No, you should not. First off, your children should have to make thier own way in the world. While its a nice thought to provide for them, i think that people are better off providing for themselves.

        Second, copywrites should expire just for that reason. You'll be forced to write another great novel to feed yourself. And then later another. You continue to live off your talent, and in the end we have a library of great works, not just one
      • by Proaxiom ( 544639 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:18PM (#3032914)
        The make it free to everyone approach is the foundation of communism, not capitalism.

        Name one communist system that was based on free dissemination of knowledge.

        Your argument relies on the belief as copyright as a natural property right, but this is very difficult to credibly argue. Communism is based on sharing of resources because those resources are scarce.

        Knowledge is not scarce. In fact the more you share it, the more of it there is for everybody.

        Rarely, if ever, is a great work supressed or lost. Most often the works *ARE* available to any and everyone.

        How would you know how many great works have been lost?

        What was Lessig's number? Something like 10,000 books were published in 1929, and around 1% are still in print.

        shouldn't I be able to enjoy the spoils and decide the future of that great work?

        You can if you want. Just don't share it with anybody. Then you have absolute rights over that work. But the second you give it to someone else, they can do what they want with it.

        That is how natural rights and natural law work. Our law allows you limited time copyright, designed for the sole reason of encouraging further work. There is no notion of being able to control your work for some 'just' and 'fair' reason. That would you be restricting the rights of others.

        Shouldn't I be able to go to my grave, comforted by the fact that my magnum opus will provide for my children's future?

        No. They should have to work for themselves. Why should we support a system that encourages laziness?

      • is that if I devote my life to a project and produce a great work, shouldn't I be able to enjoy the spoils and decide the future of that great work? Shouldn't I be able to go to my grave, comforted by the fact that my magnum opus will provide for my children's future?

        Yes, no, and no.

        Spoils? Yes, if someone is making money off your work, you deserve a cut. Control its future? No; it is not only immoral, but impractical to attempt to control what others do with ideas that happen to arise first in your particular 1500cc of meat computer. Your heirs? No; immoral and unconstitutional.

        This is capitalism at its finest.

        At its clearest, perhaps, as it shows how capitalism is reliant upon the state to create, define, and defend artificial property rights.

  • by chinakow ( 83588 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @12:52PM (#3032758)
    So correct me if I am wrong here but, if a copywrite gives a copywrite holder exclusive rights to their work then why does anyone even need 20 seconds much less 20 yeas of copyright after they are dead? are they collecting royalties in the after life? Do you need protection from copying when you are dead?



    the answer is no, if your dead then you also are not doing any business and have no need to make money, the only thing that you need to do after death is to decompose so the flowers can grow thats it, anyway IANAL and i am not sure if rights transfer but it just doesn't make sense to me.


    Jon
    • It allows a widow and orphaned children to be provided in case the copyright holder dies early.

      It also keeps people from knocking off a copyright holder to open up his exclusive use rights to the public.

      • It also keeps people from knocking off a copyright holder to open up his exclusive use rights to the public.

        Murder is already a crime. Let us not write millions of laws outlawing things that "might lead to murder" in our perpetual fear of murder. For then we will have disallowed all human activity, because it "might lead to murder".

        One principle, one law. That is enough.

        --Bob

    • why does anyone even need 20 seconds much less 20 yeas of copyright after they are dead? are they collecting royalties in the after life?

      In a way, yes. The rights can pass to your next-of-kin, that is, your estate, or whomever you may have given it to explicitly in your will. They are the ones who would continue to collect.

      That's my understanding anyway. IANAL neither.

    • why does anyone even need 20 seconds much less 20 yeas of copyright after they are dead?

      It provides protection for the sake of the copyright owner's estate. Donald Knuth might not finish The Art of Computer Programming if he didn't think it would help his wife and kids.

      It avoids providing an incentive to kill owners of valuable copyrights.

  • I know it's a little late in the game, but who has ideas on how we can help get the Sonny Bono act shot down? To whom should I give money? Should I try to write editorials and get them published in the judges' home town newspapers? Is there someplace to send comments?
  • by Hostile17 ( 415334 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:00PM (#3032801) Journal
    I think the core of Eldred's case should focus not on Mickey Mouse, because as Valenti said, who cares if Mikey isn't in the public domain for another 1000 years. The argument should focus on the 10,027 books published in 1930, of which only 174 are still in print. Who is being harmed by these works being put into public domain ? Certainly Disney isn't hurt, nor the owners of the copyrights, since they aren't making any money anyway. We the people, thats who, each year there are less and less readable copies of these books. If these books are not put in the public domain, we are in real danger of loosing them. Project Gutenberg certainly isn't going to spend thousands of dollars to find out who owns a copyright, just to be told, no. As Lessig pointed out, it also stifles creativity, because no derivitive works can be done. He also pointed out two instances where an author has written a piece based on an older work, spent real money to find the copyright holder and been told NO, not, I will licence it to you for X amount of money, but NO. If we allow these extensions to stand, we get Mickey Mouse, if we don't let it stand, we get to preserve a whole body work for all time and we get a whole new body of work, which will never happen otherwise. This lawsuit should really be called Humanity vs Disney.
    • by stubear ( 130454 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:12PM (#3032873)
      Even if Disney loses their copyright to Mickey Mouse, they surely must hold a trademark on Mickey Mouse. As trademarks do not expire, though they have to be guarded more closely, Disney should have an eternal "copyright" on Mickey Mouse as long as he is used as the symbol for the Disney corporation or any properties they own (Disney World, Disney Land, etc.)
  • by blamanj ( 253811 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:00PM (#3032802)

    It's very interesting to note how the AP story spins the issue. The very first sentence:

    The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to intervene in a fight over copyrights, deciding whether Congress has sided too heavily with writers and other inventors. [Emphasis mine.]

    The phrase "writers and inventers" conjures up images of individuals, working alone, and immediately draws our sympathy. The fact is, that the major beneficiaries of the law are corporations, a fact that never comes out in the article. And, of course, "inventors" is completely irrelevent, since inventions are covered by patent law, not copyright.

    Indeed, the article's favoring of the status quo shows up even more when they note that the Bono law brings us "in line with the EU," (those Europeans, always hip and up to date), and their characterization of the supporters of repeal as "businesses that specialize in former copyrighted material," (clearly a group that leeches off of those writers and, um, inventors.)

    I don't know who'll win the war, but in the propaganda battle, Lessig et al, doesn't seem to have a chance.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:00PM (#3033275) Homepage Journal
      Actually, the effect of endless copyright extension is worse than indifferent to creative people -- it is limiting. After all -- who is it who would be creating derivative works? Consider the following Disney films: Snow White, Sleeping Beuaty, Pinnochio, Robin Hood, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, all the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. What do they have in common? They're all derivative works. Of course Disney has an interest in maintaining exclusive rights to exploiting its older works, and on balance this outweighs the advantage of gaining access to other people's recent works. However, this has no effect on their current production of new material. On the contrary, they'd have to create more new material to make up for lost monopolistic revenues on the old ones.


      Creative people have an interest in the balance between copyright protection and expiration. Author's life plus twenty, or mayby twenty-five years is reasonable on unassigned copyrights. Corporate copyrights and assigned copyrights should expire in fifteen years, maybe twenty on the outside. What kind of business decision have you ever seen that has a fifteen year horizon? Very, few.


      To avoid economic calamity, I'd phase in a change in corporate copyright terms this way: existing corporate copyrights would extend fifteen years from the adoption of copyright reform, and new works would be copyrighted twenty years from their creation.


      There is no rational public interest in extending corporate copyrights further.

      • Interestingly, Disney has been increasingly deriving its works from folklore and myth, since this neatly avoids having to pay any kind of license to a creator.

        This is a case of the pigeons coming home to roost. Disney has helped to create a culture of artists that is particularly sensitive to the market for licensing derivative works. As it becomes harder for them to license original work with acceptable margins, they turn to...the public domain.
  • by overunderunderdone ( 521462 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:00PM (#3032803)
    I am often in disagreement with the most zealous anti-intellectual property sentiments found on this board. Perhaps because my livelyhood depends on my ability to copyright and sell the reproduction rights of my work (graphic design and illustration). Copyright and patent protections are important to protect financial interests of the creators and inventors in society. Information may "want to be free" but until food, clothing, shelter and a college education for my kids is free too I want to get paid. If you make my information "free" you will get a letter from my lawyer (I've had one company attempt to "liberate" illustrations I did even before the net. They just photocopied product illustrations I had done for their competitor & put them in their own ads.)

    But, the current length of copyright protection is obnoxious - and counter-productive. 70 years past the life of the author has nothing to do with encouraging or protecting creativity and invention. It has to do with protecting the interests of estates and corporations that do nothing creative at all but live off of the efforts of some long dead ancestor. Most of the time these buzzards, in their efforts to get the last scrap of meat off the carcass basterdize and demean great works of art. How many times have you heard of an estate or corporation (usually a publisher) doing something with a work of art that must surely have the artist rolling over in his grave.
  • by Sabalon ( 1684 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:07PM (#3032846)
    Okay...if I was to write a book tomorrow and it had to wait until 75 years after my death, then we're talking (optimistically here) about 110 years. Now, assuming that I am like everything else - just a one-hit wonder flash in the pan - chances are that my book will not still be published 110 years from now, or even 11.0 years from now.

    To me it seems that public domain makes works avail to people that would otherwise just be stored in a vault and not avail.

    So, perhaps it should become public domain 1-2 years after last sale (sale being the time that a publisher made the item avail to a store for resell). This way if the publisher doesn't think enough of the item to keep trying to move it (ie. a useless item, not profitable) then it becomes public domain and the public can decide if it's worth it or not. This way, one way or another it is avail to the public. If it is a marketable item, then the creator is still making money. If it is not, then nothing is lost.

    Books - well, if it hasn't been published, then the text of the book becomes public domain. This way if a book becomes a classic (Lord of the Rings) then every year or two it gets republished. Still avail to the public.

    CD's - this would have to be done on a song by song basis - that way "Safety Dance" could be published on a "Greatest Hits" CD every so often, but any other song that noone's heard of (except possibly Pop Goes The World) would fall into the public.

    Movies - same as books really - keep it avail to the consumer or let go.

    I guess it comes down to shit or get off the pot with the items. Either use it because it is a valuable property like you claim, or let others use it.

    Of course there would probably have to be stipulations in there that producing a one-off of a movie, selling it to yourself doesn't count, etc... and there should still be a max limit.

    Just my idea. I dunno.
  • by stubear ( 130454 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:09PM (#3032852)
    First, the Supreme Court could just as easily side with Copyright holders making the current extension of Copyright legitimate. Many fail to face this reality, assuming their "moral high ground" argument will automatically win the case for them.

    Second, when the original framers of the Constitution wrote the copyright clause, 28 years was a lifetime. The average life expectancy wasn't that long and assuming you didn't actually have the funding to create your inventions, scientific discoveries, author books or songs, or paint pictures until you were 30, add 28 years to this and you might expect to live 10 years without copyright protection. Put in this light, the copyright extensions isn't that much of a stretch, we just happen to live longer.

    If the Supreme Court sides against copyright holders, it STILL won't be a boon for applications like Napster given that the material transferred over these networks was generally current works and applications, images and music sent over other peer to peer networks would still be protected under original copyright provisions. This will NOT be a free for all, grab the intellectual property you want some here seem to be making it out to be.

    My proposal would be to keep the extensions but make them renewable every 15 years after the first 45 or death of the author, whichever comes first. At the beginning of each renewal period, if it can be shown by a third party that the works are no longer profitable and releasing them into the public domain is the only recourse to ensuring the works will be around for the public to benefit from in the future then the works are released.

    By placing the burden on third parties to argue for the public, this will hopefully alleviate the pressure on the legal system as each and every copyright will not likely be contested, only the ones there is a strong case for the public to benefit from. After the current copyright period is up (life + 70) there can no longer be any extensions and the intellectual property will be released to the public.
  • IP law is wrong (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jon_c ( 100593 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:26PM (#3032987) Homepage
    The briefing a little to nebulas for me to grok, so i googled up this [go.com] link on copyright extension, this one is regarding Disney.

    I think the main problem with IP law is that it is too cut and dry. For example I agree that Disney should be able to hold it's copyright to Mickey Mouse, but disagree that movies made by MGM 70 years ago are still not public domain.

    Mickey Mouse is a very important piece of Disneys brand, and Disney is a brand based company, so it's essential to their survival. Where movies from 70 years ago are simply rotting away, and will probably vanish.

    I think IP law needs to be based of need. A auction system would work better. Where after a relatively short period, say 20 years. the rights to the IP would become public domain, but are then up for auction. Disney would only have to be the highest bidder, which they could probably do, being that it's more important to them then to anyone else. The public needs to set a price however on buying it back, in case no-one else shows up to bid. I don't know how that would work exactly, but i imagine something based of it's past worth like 20% of the generated revenue from the IP. Of course calculating revenue from an IP isn't cut and dry either.

    While IP that companies don't care about are not worth the time or money to renew, and then become public domain. A good example would be old video games, the company that holds the IP have essentially forgotten about them. When the time is up, they either have to buy it back from the public, or give it away.

    -Jon
    • "Mickey Mouse is a very important piece of Disneys brand"

      Yes. Mickey is a very important Disney trademark. Releasing the copyright on specific Mickey Mouse films does not jeopardize their ongoing trademark use of Mickey. In fact, it would enhance the value of their current exploitation considerably.
  • Copyright Escrow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:37PM (#3033080) Homepage
    One of my biggest gripes about our system is the fact that works can completely disappear before they enter the public domain. I would suggest that anyone who wishes to apply for a copyright be required place a high-quality, unencrypted, unrestricted, and preferably digital (or easily digitized) copy of their work (1st-gen film print, HTML for books, 24+ bit audio masters, digital TV masters, etc...) in escrow with the Library of Congress, to be released into the public domain at the end of the copyright. This way, no matter how far they push the copyright, nothing will be truly "lost" in the long run. Under the current system, companies have a nasty habit of locking things away after their marketable life to prevent older stuff from competing with newer stuff-- which results in things disappearing completely.

    This is not a solution to the problem of ever-expanding copyright terms, but it does prevent us from losing things irretrievably.
  • by EricEldred ( 175470 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:52PM (#3033204) Homepage
    The government's case in Eldred v. Ashcroft depends on at least three lies. We need to expose them and debate the real issues in order to have an informed public decide on proper copyright law.

    1. CTEA "harmonizes" U.S. law with the E.U. No--it is not possible to have the same copyright term as the E.U.'s, because until 1976 term was measured from first publication, not from author's death, in the U.S. but not the E.U. The 1998 retroactive extension was not harmonization. In any event, E.U. term still differs substantially in works for hire, film productions, and anonymous works. As an example, a work first published in 1923 might be in the public domain in the U.S. if not renewed, but protected until 70 years after death if author was European. No way to harmonize this--it is just protectionism for U.S. works in Europe, for which the U.S. public pays.

    2. Perpetual or lengthy terms are needed in order to preserve old films and other material. Not so--currently, film studios don't preserve even all the films they own copyright on--you see ads on TV where they try to collect money from the public for preservation. In fact, two plaintiffs in Eldred v. Ashcroft are film preservation groups who argue that the term extension makes it impossble from them to find copyright owners in order to preserve old films.

    3. Authors benefit from longer terms. No--the difference between 50 years after death and 70 years is not enough incentive to cause anyone to write a book now. See the brief by Berkeley economist Hal Varian at http://openlaw.org/eldredvreno.

    We assert that the ones who benefit from the CTEA are large corporations not authors--they are the ones who lobbied for the bill and paid large sums to campaigns of legislators to buy the bill.

    The ones who will be hurt if we fail are authors who wish to prepare works that are derivative or try to enjoy fair use of existing works. And the public will not enjoy the fruits of their publication--innovation will be stifled if the public domain is privatized. The Internet now and the next Internet, whatever it will be, will be threatened--instead, big corporations will own all content and license our popular culture to us as pay-per-view.

  • Copyright Win-win (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pgrb ( 121829 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @01:57PM (#3033250)
    Let's apply some government moderated capitalism here.

    Copyrights are obviously valuable, otherwise corporations would not be prepared to spend so much defending them. However, they cost nothing to create. The government is missing an obvious source of revenue here - simply tax the ownership of a published copyrighted work that is itself sold. If you don't pay the tax, it becomes public domain. Copyrights for free items would be free of this tax.

    To add spice, double the tax each year the copyright runs. For example:

    Tax in year 1 - 1 cent
    Tax in year 2 - 2 cents
    Tax in year 3 - 4 cents
    ...you know where this is going.

    An up-front fee (or pre-payment of tax) of $10.23 protects your copyright for 10 years.

    An up front fee of $327.67 preserves your copyright for 15 years.

    But you can see that after 25 years, the next fee is $335,544.32 - you need a serious income to preserve the copyright. If you don't pay, it becomes public domain.

    You get the opportunity to profit. The government gets a revenue stream, and items become public domain after a reasonable time.

    Obviously, the starting point and the exponential could be varied, but explaining it with a pile of pennies and a chessboard - move one square per year and double the number of pennies - keeps it simple. The fees in the early years are very reasonable, encouraging people to profit from their work quickly.

    Problems?
  • by Dr.Dubious DDQ ( 11968 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @02:30PM (#3033515) Homepage

    I was doing a bit of searching lately (specifically, I was wondering if the classic silent film "Metropolis" had dropped into the public domain yet. According to one "Public Domain Movies for sale" site (LSVideo.com [lsvideo.com]), the answer boils down to "probably"...), and stumbled on a couple of sites offering "public domain" material.

    This one [retrofilm.com], to my surprise, actually offered a number of cartoons that seemed shockingly recent (heck, I think I have some of them on commercial VHS!) - including even a handful of Disney shorts. Apparently, there was a window of time before copyright extension became automatic, where a lot of works evidently didn't get renewed, and therefore hit the public domain.

    Unfortunately, that site vehemently denies any availability to normal people (i.e. they are a company tailored for and catering only to broadcasters with professional equipment who want some public domain material to broadcast).

    Anyone know if archive.org will be getting any of this material? And for that matter, good pointers to other "public domain material" sites?

    • by Dr.Dubious DDQ ( 11968 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @05:24PM (#3034700) Homepage

      Heh...just been poking around in writings online about public domain, one of which pointed out the peculiar phrase everybody (including me - see the subject of my parent post) has been using about this - "falling" into the public domain. As if to imply that a public domain work is somehow "less" or "degraded" due to finally being released from the copyright-protection asylum...

      Therefore, I think I'll be making an effort to call it "'Maturing' into the public domain" instead...unless someone has even better suggestions?

  • by thumbtack ( 445103 ) <thumbtack AT juno DOT com> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @03:08PM (#3033777)
    After reflecting on the concept of copyright the past several months, wading through legal documents and laws, and the process that brought it to where it is today, I have begun to ask myself very serious questions about the direction the concept of copyright has traveled in the past 40 years or so. Initially, when copyright was first introduced to this country, the means to distribute copyrighted works was really quite simple? It was by horse or by foot. If it was sent, by mail or messenger, it arrived by horse or foot. This meant that it literally could take months or years to distribute to the "maximum market". The copyright term of 14 years plus 14-year extension must have been determined in part by the physical constraints created by the ability to distribute the work in a timely fashion. For the creator of the work to see rewards for his work would take years, simply because of the inability to get the work to the potential buyers any more quickly. It could take 14 years or 28 years to realize a return. Now fast forward to 2002 and here we are with copyright extension after extension, to the point where individual copyright is now life plus 70 years, and corporate copyright is 95 years. Yet, here we are with the internet, satellite TV, cell phones, Ipaqs, wireless networks, cable TV, newspapers are distributed to the regional printing plant electronically, Ricochet, Aircard, that literally provide instant access to distribution. Airplanes, UPS, Fedex, 18 Wheelers, fax machines, distribute products in mere days (if not minutes) rather than months or years. Rather than extending copyright, shouldn?t we be shortening copyright? Say to 7 and 7? Same thing with corporate copyright, shouldn't they be shortened as well?

    As they say in academic circles "Publish or die" Talk about an incentive to create! If you can't sit back on your laurels, then you must continue to create. This would benefit the culture greatly. One has to ask what would Disney have come up with if Mickey and his pals where going into the public domain as scheduled? What would Mike Stoller and his partner Jerry Leiber produced in the years since "Stuck in the Middle with You" (1972), had there been an incentive to keep creating? At the very least in 1979 they would have started working again to produce more of those wonderful tunes they were so adept at producing in the 50's and 60's.

    It's my hope at least one court in this land of ours has some common sense, and interpets the intent of the law.
  • Disney bites itself? (Score:3, Informative)

    by RulesLawyer ( 245442 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @03:47PM (#3034023)
    IAAL, and I saw "Return To Neverland" yesterday (don't bother... very dull). The most interesting part of the film came at the start of the closing credits:

    "Walt Disney Productions is grateful to the Hospital for Sick Children - Great Ormond Street, London - to which Sir James M. Barrie gave his copyright of Peter Pan."

    The US Peter Pan copyright was originally set to expire in 1987. But because of the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, the copyright was extended to 2007.

    I don't know whether Disney actually paid royalties to the Hospital, but I bet they did.

    (In the UK, parliament passed a special act [hmso.gov.uk] giving the hospital an eternal copyright in Peter Pan. It's debatable whether the Berne convention extended this ininite protection to all Berne convention countries.)

  • by stinkydog ( 191778 ) <sd@stran[ ]og.net ['ged' in gap]> on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @04:12PM (#3034204) Homepage
    What is to keep a MegaCorp from stockpiling authors to keep their copyrights intact. I envision an X-Files room under corpHQ with rows of authors, poets and musicians in cryotubes with hearts beating once a minute. "See, they are still alive!"

    SD
    • I envision an X-Files room under corpHQ with rows of authors, poets and musicians in cryotubes with hearts beating once a minute.

      Hey, provided they properly do the research to achieve this and properly patent the technology (so that it becomes public domain in 20 years!) I could cope with this. Something like this would be quite handy to the medical community, I suspect.

      On the other hand, the sorts of corporations we're talking about here would probably just freeze the bodies solid, and then warn everyone that the "thawing them out again" technology is still under development, so you can't try to thaw them to see if they're still alive because the process can kill them (and if you try, you get flung in jail for manslaughter, AND get sued by the corporations for loss of potential income they claim the author/artist would have earned them...)

      I'd better stop, I'm scaring myself... :-)

  • by Artagel ( 114272 ) on Tuesday February 19, 2002 @04:12PM (#3034205) Homepage
    The "limited time" argument in terms of saying whether it should be 10, 30, 50, 70 or 100 years is not the kind of question that the Supreme Court can well put itself in the position of answering. The "rational basis" test is really a very deferential one that takes little to satisfy. True, the current Court has taken to rapping Congress on the knuckles for overreaching a lot in the past 20 years, but not with the tool of the rational basis test.

    The extension of pre-existing copyrights is the best attack based on rational basis review. It is a big transfer from my ability to read and disseminate to the ability of authors to maintain their works in a grip-of-death.

    We could well end up with a decision that "you can do that, but you can't do it retroactively." As for the "IP is bad" crowd, only Justices Breyer and Stevens are particularly sympathetic, and even they limit their depredations to narrowly construing copyright. (See Tasini case.) They are not Justices that are disposed to limiting Congressional power under the Constitution.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Wednesday February 20, 2002 @12:09AM (#3036465) Homepage
    Well, it seems like at least four Supremes want to rule on the Sonny Bono Copyright Extention Act of 1996. Great. A more egregious example of influence peddling would be hard to find.


    My argument is that the CREA96 is that the term granted was not shown "to Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts" are required by the US Constitution. In fact, it can be fairly shown it hampers said progress since no incentives it gave could possibly have influenced past creativity yet the extention reduces creativity of those who would use the materials once they enter the public domain. Somebody might want to make a competing "Mickey Mouse" comic strip!


    IMHO, copyright term should reflect the use of the work, and the likely motive behind creating it. For projects made for commercial exploitation (most mass media), this period should match that used by the company's financial analysts or stockholders. They seldom look beyond 20 years simply because the power of compound interest reduces the value of any future revenues to insignificance. So I would make the copyright period 20 years after first sale. This is generous, because most investors demand 2-5 year pay-back! For unsold works, some of which are potentially private papers, I would make the period longer, say life of the author plus 20-50 years.


    Unfortunately, the "takings clause" doesn't apply since that only forbits the uncompensated taking of private property for public use, while CREA96 takes public property for private use :(

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