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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Okiemockbird The Purpose of Copyright (76* d) RE: 'The Purpose of Copyright' 11 Feb 00

SeanM, The mechanisms you describe sound like what are known as "paying public domain" and "compulsory licenses" There are a number of compulsory licenses in our copyright law now (for example, the mechanical license allowing you to record a song that has already been once recorded.)

At the time the recent copyright extensions were discussed, in Europe and in the USA, there were lots of proposals which would have made "life + 70" friendlier to the actual heirs of the authors, but these proposals were ignored in favor of legislation that benefits the copyright holders (mainly corporations, though some prudent authors left their copyrights in control of trust funds.)

Some discussion of the European extension can be found< a href=>here in a book review by Richard Morrison, and here, in an essay by professor Jerome Reichman, who notes that:

"A more enlightened view might have installed an additional twenty-year domaine public payant, during which period users might have enjoyed free access to works that had otherwise entered the public domain on condition that they paid equitable compensation directly to authors, but not to publishers. Needless to say, the publishers' lobby defeated this sensible proposal and beat back a last minute push to retain the life-plus-fifty formula as well." (Section 2 of the essay, near footnotes 139 and 140).

Professor Reichmann's essay goes on to propose,

"Congress...should take steps to strengthen the author's termination rights under existing law. This is necessary to ensure that authors, rather than publishers, reap the benefits of such a policy. The potential benefits and disadvantages of a 'paying public domain' also deserve study. However, the term of protection currently afforded works made for hire should not be further extended, lest U.S. law become overly protective in comparison with the relevant foreign laws."

Proposals like these were shunted aside. Indeed, the extension of the term for works-for-hire (studio-made movies are works-for-hire under US law) was one of the primary objectives of the bill.

My own view is that life+70 years for author copyrights and 95 years for corporate copyrights is too long regardless of any compulsory licenses or other mechanisms that might be used to soften it. Softening mechanisms can be useful, but they are no substitute for copyright expiriation.


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