Wednesday, January 15, 2003
I hit the trifecta: Mark the date and time! Today, probably for the first and last time, I agree with: The New York TImes editorial page and Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer.
Everyone, take a deep breath -- I have not been taken over by pod people. The issue is Congress' desire to create perpetual copyright control in defiance of the Constitution, which gave the government the 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." [emphasis added]
According to Breyer:
The economic effect of this 20-year extension--the longest blanket extension since the Nation's founding--is to make the copyright term not limited, but virtually perpetual. Its primary legal effect is to grant the extended term not to authors, but to their heirs, estates or corporate successors.
I concur with the Times' assessment of the impact of the court's decision:
Artists naturally deserve to hold a property interest in their work, and so do the corporate owners of copyright. But the public has an equally strong interest in seeing copyright lapse after a time, returning works to the public domain ? the great democratic seedbed of artistic creation ? where they can be used without paying royalties.
In effect, the Supreme Court's decision makes it likely that we are seeing the beginning of the end of public domain and the birth of copyright perpetuity. Public domain has been a grand experiment, one that should not be allowed to die. The ability to draw freely on the entire creative output of humanity is one of the reasons we live in a time of such fruitful creative ferment.
It just goes to show you, that even a broken clock is right twice a day.
[An aside: How much longer will it be before that phrase goes out of the societal memory because of the proliferation of digital clocks?]