Tuesday, October 28, 2008

U.S. Copyright Law

"Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet"
Mark Twain.

Copyright Law is a form of intellectual property protection that is granted by the federal government.

Copyright protection subsists only in original works of authorship if the work is also fixed in a tangible medium of expression from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.

Copyright protection, however, does not and cannot exist for an idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described or embodied.

Are you confused about copyright law? If so, you are NOT alone. It can be helpful to see the FLOW of copyright legislation over time...

1790: Congress enacts first copyright law with 14 year initial term and 14 year optional renewal (28 years max).

1909: Renewal term increased to 28 years (56 years max).

1976: Renewal term extended an additional 19 years (75 years max). This revision of U.S. Copyright Act states that all creative media: literature, music, dramatic works, pantomimes and choreographic works, dance works, photos, graphics, sculpture, paintings, motion pictures, sound recordings, and all types of audio-visual and multimedia works are automatically covered by Federal copyright law.

Result: It became no longer necessary to register your claim to be copyright protected; it is inherent in the act of creation.

1992: Removed renewal requirements (now automatic).

1998: Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act: This law extended copyright protection to life of the author plus 70 years.

The Digital Millinium Copyright Act (DMCA) was also passed in 1998. This law requires Internet service providers (ISPs) to remove any content and subscriber who has "allegedly" committed copyright infringement.

The copyright holder is granted legal right to issue subpoenas to copyright infringers located and identified through their ISPs. ISPs must furnish the names and addressed of alleged "pirates".

Result: Corporate entities are given the power to regulate copyright infringement on the Internet. Accused must defend their innocence against the powerful corporations and their lawyers. This is a "guilty until proven innocent" system.

The trend in copyright law has been to extend copyright protection. Copyrights for intellectual property can be owned, purchased and profited from long after the death of the original owner. This results in REDUCED media content entering the public domain.

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