by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 8th 2007 5:45pm
William Patry points us to an article covering the debate going on in Japan about whether or not the country should extend copyright terms to life plus 70 years, rather than life plus 50 years. If this sounds familiar, it's because plenty of other countries, including the UK, have recently gone through similar debates. The problem is that in the 90s Disney freaked out that the copyright on Mickey Mouse was going to go into the public domain. So, it pushed for Congress (via Sonny Bono) to extend copyrights out an extra 20 years. This made very little sense. After all, the purpose of copyrights is to create an incentive for the creation of new works. If the incentive is sufficient at the time of creation, then clearly it worked. There is no reason to then extend that incentive long after it succeeded -- other than if you incorrectly believe that copyright is actually a welfare system for content creators. As the article points out, does anyone really believe that some people will only create content if they know it will be protected to 70 years past their death rather than 50? And, if that's true, then why don't the laws only protect newly created content? The content that was already created was created under the bargain that it was life plus 50. It would appear to be a violation of the pact that was made with the public (who give up the content from the public domain) to change those terms after the fact.
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