Copyright Watch - Public Domain Enhancement Act Introduced To Congress

A few weeks ago, we ran a story about a petition asking Congress to reconsider the effects of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act; the Act is felt by many to have harsh effects on the preservation of older material of cultural significance. Yesterday, Representatives Zoe Lofgren and John Doolittle introduced the alternative Public Domain Enhancement Act to Congress, proposing a itiny taxi method of extending copyright. Under the Enhancement Act, the copyright owner must either pay a small fee to retain copyright, or relinquish that copyright and permit the work to fall into the public domain.

A press release passes on the Representativesi comments:

"Our Founding Fathers recognized that society has an interest in the free flow of ideas, information and commerce," said Lofgren. "That is why copyright protection does not last forever. This bill will breathe life into older works whose long-forgotten stories, songs, pictures and movies are no longer published, read, heard or seen. It is time to give these treasures back to the public."

"Opening access to historical works for restoration and rehabilitation is essential toward ensuring that classics will be appreciated and cherished for future generations to come," said Doolittle. "I am proud to join my colleague Zoe Lofgren in sponsoring this common-sense legislation and greatly appreciate the broad base of support it has received."

Meanwhile, a second press release details the reactions of the supporters and architects of this alternative:

Also today, the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Association of Research Libraries sent a letter to Congress expressing their support for the Act. The letter states in part, "It is difficult and costly for libraries to track down copyright holders of older materials." According to the libraries, the provision of the Act that creates a database of copyright holder who have paid the Eldred fee will assist libraries by providing "a single database that could be easily and quickly searched to determine whether or not a particular work remains under copyright protection or is in the public domain." This will allow libraries to continue their mission "to promote the advancement of knowledge by digitizing materials and preserving our history and cultural heritage for future generations."

In addition to the libraries, filmmakers and archivists that support this bill, over 15,600 citizens have made their feelings known. You can learn more about this bill and the reasons for its proposal at the Eric Eldred Act Web site.