Copyright Term Extension
In 1998, Congress extended the term of copyright protection by 20 years, applying the extension to copyrights then in existence and future copyrights. For works created by individuals, the term of copyright protection is now life of the author plus 70 years. For works made for hire, the term of protection is now 95 years from the date of first "publication" (distribution to the general public) or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first.
Professor Larry Lessig of Stanford Law School filed a lawsuit seeking a judicial determination that the copyright term extension law was unconstitutional. His clients in the case are several companies that use public domain works. The plaintiffs' primary challenge to the term extension focuses on the "Copyright Clause" of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "The Congress shall have Power . . . to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
YES, TWENTY YEARS IS O.K.
The plaintiffs contended that the extension of the copyright term by 20 years violates the constitutional requirement that copyright protection be granted only for "limited times." The federal district court rejected the challenge, and the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed, holding that the quoted language is not a limit on congressional power and that the term extension is constitutional.
J. Dianne Brinson is a copyright attorney specializing in intellectual property. She is author of "Internet Legal Forms For Business" ($24.95 plus $5 p&h), and "Internet Law and Business Handbook" ($44.95 plus $7 s&h). Anyone wishing to order the books may call 1-800-523-3721, or go to Dianne's website: www.laderapress.com. Her website includes a free primer on intellectual property law. Ladera Press, 27 Berenda Way, Portola Valley CA 94028. LaderaPress@aol.com.
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Rohn Engh, Photosource International.