Court squashes 'net copyright reform attempt

Bad news for the internet, bad news for culture, bad news for the liberty of ideas. In an era of shrinking funds for schools and bricks-and-mortar libraries, a federal judge rules against efforts to open access to knowledge on the 'net.

The case, Kahle v. Ashcroft, pitted two archive groups — the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library, and the Prelinger Archives, which preserves films — against the U.S. Justice Department. The archivists argued that four copyright laws are collectively keeping people from gaining access to "orphan"
works: out-of-print books, old films, and academic articles that have little or no commercial value.

The laws that the archivists fault are the Copyright Act of 1976, the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, the Copyright Renewal Act of 1992, and the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998. A central part of the archivists' argument is that laws granting copyright protection to all works, even those for which the creators have not sought protection, have radically altered the "traditional contours of copyright."

Link to SF Chron story. And snip from John Borland's coverage on CNET:

Kahle said Wednesday that the decision would be appealed, and that they had always planned to fight the primary battle in the appellate courts. The court had not directly addressed what he said was the primary thrust of the case–a change in laws to automatically renew copyrights, instead of requiring copyright holders to reregister, he said.

"The key component of the district court ruling is that the judge did not consider the main aspect of this case, which is the changing of the contour of copyright law from opt in to opt out," Kahle said. "That has dramatically changed what's under copyright, and even more ominously, changes the nature of what can be put on the Internet."

Link to CNET story. Link to court's decision in PDF format. Link to a related /. thread.