American Bar Association to Endorse Retroactive Copyright Extensions

by Don Marti

The American Bar Association's Intellectual Property Law section is reporting that the association plans to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court claiming that the 1998 retroactive extension of the term of copyright is constitutional.

"The case could present a field day for those who have an anti-IP sentiment--those who say information wants to be free, less protection is necessarily better, the public domain promotes the progress of science and useful arts better than IP [intellectual property], and when technology advances, IP rights must be cut back," the site says.

But leaving aside the fuzzy-headed "Booga booga! John Perry Barlow wants to take your copyrights away!" stuff for one minute, look at the actual case. [Eldred v. Ashcroft], the case actually before the Supreme Court, does not seek to cut back the original rights of any copyright holder. The case simply challenges the 1998 retroactive extension of copyrights beyond the term originally granted to the copyright holder.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act extended the term of copyright from 50 years after the death of the author to 70 years or from 75 years to 95 years for corporate copyright holders. In other words, it takes the original copyright bargain, which authors obviously found fair, and extends it. How long will copyright term extensions go on?

Don Marti is Technical Editor of Linux Journal.

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