Home » Copyright/Intellectual Property » Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again

Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again

11 January 2018

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.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

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

Copyright/Intellectual Property

6 Comments to “Why Mickey Mouse’s 1998 copyright extension probably won’t happen again”

  1. Terrence P OBrien

    Before crediting activists, I’d take a look at the economic value of the stuff from before 1923.

  2. The Mouse has not roared . . . so far.

  3. I want everything before 1929 to fall out so I can write Buck Rogers novels.

    • Oooh! That would be awesome.

      Let’s hope that copyright doesn’t get extended again. I think life of the creator plus 75 years is plenty for any heirs to benefit. For me, that will likely be 100+ years from now. With no grandchildren, nor nieces and nephews (other than from blended families), there’s not a living soul related to me by blood who would conceivably benefit beyond half that time.

      Of course, I can avoid all this by following my plan to live forever. 😛

    • The problem with Buck Rogers is that it is a trademark for newer mixed media products. (Movies, TV, COMICS
      On the other hand, ARMAGEDDON 2419 and Anthony Rogers might be fair game.
      But it’ll be tricky. It’s a minefield.

      Might I suggest working in Philip Wylie’s Worlds? GLADIATOR is PD already and WORLDS COLLIDE will be soon. Both are ripe for follow ups…

  4. Over at the Digital reader, a commenter pointed out that any copyright law big media might squeeze through Congress is likely DOA at the WH given the “warm” relations of the prez and big media. 🙂

Leave a Reply