Fri, 27 Jun 2003 05:59:28 GMT

Lessig/Eldred Bill Seeks To Loosen Copyright Law’s Grip. Okay, I’ve been proven wrong. With all the hype that went into Larry Lessig’s petition to change copyright law, I thought most politicians would see it as a bunch of geeks protesting nothing. However, today, Lessig-friendly Congressional representatives Zoe Lofgren and John Doolittle have (extraordinarily quickly) introduced exactly the legislation Lessig wanted. I’m impressed and happy to be wrong in this instance. The bill is called the Public Domain Enhancement Act and will require anyone who owns a copyright that is over 50 years old to pay a $1 fee, to avoid having it fall into the public domain. If the owner fails to pay the fee, the works go into the public domain. This means that Disney can pay out a buck, and keep control of Mickey Mouse, but the majority of other works that received copyrights back then, which are now out of print or out of circulation completely, would enter the public domain. The more I think about this law, the more sense it makes (I wasn’t so sure at first, I’ll admit). The only one in the article here who complains is (of course) the MPAA, who has clearly misunderstood the bill. They say that it will actually harm consumers, because any works that fall into the public domain no one has any incentive to do anything with them. Yeah, you can’t make a dime off of Shakespeare any more, can you? Oh wait, how many movies in the last few years were simply remakes of Shakespearian stories? Anyway, the point is that the works that would fall into the public domain are ones that no one is promoting anyway – so to suggest that this law makes them less likely to be promoted is ridiculous.

This is good news. At least it got introduced. I’ll be ecstatic if it gets further and ever becomes law. It is just too common-sensical to actually make it through our current governmental makeup.