July 11th, 2012

Copyright currently grants a personal monopoly for the extraordinarily long term of the entire life of the creator plus 70 years (or 95 years if the creator was an employee). These lengthy terms prevent people from building on our common culture. This bill proposes shortening copyright terms to life of the author plus 50 years, or a flat 50 years if the author was an employee.

Copyright Terms Now

Although originally set at 14 years (with an optional to renew for a second 14 year term), a succession of laws have extended the length of copyright protection for most works to the entire life of the author plus an additional 70 years.

Continually expanding the term of copyright comes at a cost. By giving an author a monopoly on an expression, it prevents other people from building on that expression to create new works.

How to Shorten Copyright Terms

This bill is designed to enrich the public domain by shortening the term of protection, while still maintaining compliance with international treaty obligations.

1. Shorten Copyright Terms

This proposal shortens copyright terms to the life of the author plus 50 years for most works. It also reduces the term of protection for anonymous works, pseudonymous works, and works made for hire to 50 years from first publication (or 75 years if the work remains unpublished).

These are the minimum terms established by the 1886 Berne Convention on the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. While these terms may still seem high to some, dropping below these minimums would create additional international legal complications.

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