The Real Problem With The Google Book Settlement Isn't The Settlement, But Copyright Law Itself

from the fix-that-and-there's-no-problem dept

In Congressional hearings on Thursday about the Google book settlement, most of the news reports focused on two particular things: (1) the fact that Marybeth Peters, head of the US Copyright Office, spoke out against the settlement, claiming that it violates copyright law and (2) Google's "concession" in letting other booksellers offer up the "orphan works" that Google would scan. Both are interesting, if not particularly surprising developments. Indeed, the controversy over the question of orphan works in the Google books settlement is a big one. But the real issue isn't the settlement, but copyright law itself. The whole problem of "orphan works" is solely a result of the continual and ridiculous level of copyright expansion over the years that has created these so-called "orphan works." It seems that the only person who actually seemed willing to discuss that was Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who actually used the occasion to call for a repeal to the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act, noting that it was a large part of the problem. While that has almost no shot of actually happening, it's great to see at least one person in Congress recognizing that the problem was created by Congress (at the demand -- and funding -- of the entertainment industry).
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Filed Under: book scanning, copyright, orphan works
Companies: google

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  1. icon
    Matt (profile), 11 Sep 2009 @ 11:17am

    Re: Root cause?

    I seriously doubt that there were payoffs, but Disney did participate aggressively in both the DMCA and the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. Someone (Karjala?) created a graph showing the dates of copyright term extensions as compared with the date that Disney's "Steamboat Willie" (the first instance of Mickey Mouse singing in sync with the film) would enter the public domain under the status quo copyright regime. Consistently, as Mickey gets close to the public domain, he is "rescued" by Congress.

    In an interesting aside, several people, beginning with Karjala, have demonstrated that "Steamboat Willie" was probably in the public domain at the time of publication, because the required copyright formalities were not observed.

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