From Ars Technica:
On January 1, 2019, every book, film, and song published in 1923 will fall out of copyright protection—something that hasn’t happened in 40 years. At least, that’s what will happen if Congress doesn’t retrospectively change copyright law to prevent it—as Congress has done two previous times.
Until the 1970s, copyright terms only lasted for 56 years. But Congress retroactively extended the term of older works to 75 years in 1976. Then on October 27, 1998—just weeks before works from 1923 were scheduled to fall into the public domain—President Bill Clinton signed legislation retroactively extending the term of older works to 95 years, locking up works published in 1923 or later for another 20 years.
Will Congress do the same thing again this year? To find out, we talked to groups on both sides of the nation’s copyright debate—to digital rights advocates at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge and to industry groups like the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America. To our surprise, there seemed to be universal agreement that another copyright extension was unlikely to be on the agenda this year.
“We are not aware of any such efforts, and it’s not something we are pursuing,” an RIAA spokesman told us when we asked about legislation to retroactively extend copyright terms.
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Presumably, many of the MPAA’s members would gladly take a longer copyright term if they could get it. For example, Disney’s copyright for the first Mickey Mouse film, Steamboat Willie, is scheduled to expire in 2024. But the political environment has shifted so much since 1998 that major copyright holders may not even try to extend copyright terms before they start to expire again.
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The rise of the Internet has totally changed the political landscape on copyright issues. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is much larger than it was in 1998. Other groups, including Public Knowledge, didn’t even exist 20 years ago. Internet companies—especially Google—have become powerful opponents of expanding copyright protections.
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Most importantly, there’s now a broad grassroots engagement on copyright issues—something that became evident with the massive online protests against the infamous Stop Online Piracy Act in 2012. SOPA would have forced ISPs to enforce DNS-based blacklists of sites accused of promoting piracy. It was such a bad idea that Wikipedia, Google, and other major sites blacked themselves out in protest. The digital rights activist group Demand Progress emerged from the SOPA fight and has gone on to play a key role organizing protests over network neutrality and other issues.
The protest against SOPA “was a big show of force,” says Meredith Rose, a lawyer at Public Knowledge. The protest showed that “the public really cares about this stuff.”
The defeat of SOPA was so complete that it has essentially ended efforts by copyright interests to expand copyright protection via legislation.
Link to the rest at Ars Technica