Magazine article Academe

Congress Adopts Copyright Extension Act

Magazine article Academe

Congress Adopts Copyright Extension Act

Article excerpt

IN LATE SEPTEMBER, THE 105TH CONgress voted to extend copyright protection from fifty to seventy years after the death of an author. Named for the late Republican representative from California, the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act will give libraries and educators limited rights to use noncommercial copyrighted material during the final twenty years of protection. Still, many fear the new extension-which was pushed by owners of copyrights on motion pictures and sound recordings about to come into the public domain-will hinder the dissemination of knowledge for the public benefit.

Proponents of the measure argue that copyright extension is necessary to provide incentives for new creative work, to align United States law with international copyright standards, and to protect the balance of trade in intellectual property. They cite the recent addition by the European Union of a "life-plusseventy-years" term for copyrighted material, and the EU's "rule of the shorter term," which allows EU members to recognize another nation's shorter copyright term for works from that nation.

The AAUP opposes copyright extension, and points to the purpose of copyright law under the U.S. Constitution. According to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution, Congress has the power to secure "for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." But the Constitution states that the law is meant to promote useful knowledge, and that the benefit to the public is paramount. …

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