The Troubles with CTEA

ZDNet has an interesting Story on the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. The act works to extend copyright for yet another 20 years. Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, is challenging the law, saying works in the public domain strengthen the \"cultural environment\" and offer potential savings to consumers.

\"Defenders of the CTEA cite the necessity of bringing the U.S. copyright term—previously 50 years after an author\'s death—to parity with European law, which in 1993 extended copyright protection to 70 years after an author\'s death.\"
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\"But Lessig points out that American law stems from a different tradition of copyright than European law.

\"There\'s a conception that a copyright owner should have the right forever to control his work and that it\'s somehow criminal to imagine work being turned over to the public domain. That just sounds un-American,\" he says. \"But the fact is that our constitutional power to grant copyright protection is founded on a fundamentally different principle. That principle was that we create an incentive for people to produce works, and once those works are produced and we\'ve paid off the producer, those works get turned over to the public domain.\"

In his 1997 testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, Fritz Attaway, senior vice president of government relations and Washington general counsel for the Motion Picture Association of America, claimed the law would benefit the public: \"Term extension will not adversely affect the users of copyrighted material. In most cases the very opposite is true. This is because copyrights not only give owners the incentive to create works, they also provide continuing incentive to distribute them.\"

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