Donald Trump has wrung many concessions out of Justin Trudeau on the NAFTA renegotiation, but none is more nonsensical and potentially damaging than a 20 year copyright term extension that will bring copyright in line with the US's extreme copyright system, where copyright endures for the life of the author plus 70 years, meaning that nearly every work created in US history will disappear due to commercial irrelevance, rather than being made available for scholars and other users by libraries and other nonprofits.
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Back in March, the House passed the Music Modernization Act, a welcome bill made it easier for musicians to get paid reliably for digital streaming.
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In 1998, Disney led an entertainment industry lobbying effort that resulted in the term of copyright being extended by 20 years, even for works that had already been created -- a law with an incoherent basis, given that the US copyright system is constitutionally constrained to passing laws to promote new creative works (giving creators more copyright on works they've already created doesn't get them to make new ones, and it reduces the ability of new artists to remix existing works, the way Disney did with the Grimm's fairy tales).
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When the USA decided to retroactively extend the term of copyright, it deprived itself of free, open access to important cultural treasures that new creators could build upon as creators have done since time immemorial.
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When Congress amended US copyright law in 1976, they extended the copyrights on works whose creators had produced them with the promise of not more than 56 years. Since then, almost nothing has entered the US public domain. Read the rest
Jesse writes, "Like you, I've been following the TPP news with much trepidation. My partner is a librarian-archivist, so I'm keenly away of how difficult copyright law can make the job of the average archivist. I put together a piece explaining how the TPP's copyright extension will hurt Canadian city archives, and the galleries of historical city photos we love so much." Read the rest
An official New Zealand government bulletin on yesterday's conclusion of the still-secret Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations accidentally confirmed something we all believed was in there all along: an extension of copyright terms to match the USA's bizarre, evidence-free, century-plus terms. Read the rest
Tim Harford, the Financial Times's Undercover Economist, writes about the Happy Birthday to You court case, which finally settled the question of whether the familiar birthday song was still in copyright (it isn't) and uses that as a springboard to ask the question: how long should copyright last? Read the rest
It'll go from 20 years from publication to 70 years after the photographer's death, and it's retroactive, meaning that millions of presently public domain photos reproduced online and in books will suddenly become copyright violations with gigantic penalties for all concerned. Read the rest
Jamaica now has the third-longest copyright term in the world, and the term extension has been imposed retrospectively, all the way back to works created in 1962, the year ska burst on the public scene.
The new term only binds on Jamaicans, meaning that the currently public domain Jamaican works that are going back into copyright will be free for foreigners long before they're free for Jamaicans again, a situation that will apply to all Jamaican works produced from 1962 onward.
Jamaica has also committed to enforcing copyright on foreign works that had entered the public domain in Jamaica, meaning that Jamaicans will have to pay for imports they currently get for free.
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If Jamaica hoped that this measure would bring in additional royalties for its musicians from overseas markets, then the tactic that it chose to pursue was doomed to failure from the outset. Foreign users of Jamaican copyrights are not bound by the extended copyright term; only Jamaicans are; but conversely, Jamaicans are now obliged to honor foreign copyrights for the full extended term.1 As opposition spokesperson on culture Olivia Grange put it during debate on the new law, “what will happen is that we will, in fact, be paying out to foreign copyright holders in foreign exchange for the continued use of foreign works in Jamaica, while our own rights holders will only benefit up to the 50, 70 or 80 years that exist in other countries”. So all that this measure has accomplished is that citizens of Jamaica, a developing country, will be paying more money into Hollywood's coffers, while Jamaica's own rich cultural heritage draws in not a penny more in return.
Michael Geist writes, "Randy Bachman found himself embroiled in a public fight with Prime Minister Stephen Harper last year when Harper used his song 'Takin' Care of Business' as a theme song for a major speech. Bachman said he probably would not have granted permission to use the song, since 'I don't think he's taking care of business for the right people or the right reasons.'" Read the rest
To celebrate both Internet Freedom Day and MLK Day, we made a video containing the complete 17-minute 'I Have a Dream' speech... so people can share it on Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. Doing just that is a small act of civil disobedience to celebrate the freedom that Dr. King fought for and make sure his words reach people around the globe this weekend. Dr. King said, 'one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.'