On 04/02/06, Matt Brown <morven(a)gmail.com>
On 2/4/06, Michael Snow
Less than that, or slightly more depending on how
you look at it. It was
originally 14 years from the time of publication, with a one-time right
of renewal for an additional 14.
I always think it's a shame the renewal requirement was dropped in
copyright law. It ensured that stuff that nobody cared about enough
anymore fell into the public domain quicker. I guess it did make
things a lot more complicated, though.
It did, however, mean that even stuff which people did care about
slipped through the net, often through no fault of the copyright
You may remember, back in summer 2004, a popular flash cartoon which
parodied "This Land Is Your Land". The copyright owners demanded it be
pulled, on the grounds that it was first copyrighted in 1956 and
renewed in 1984. The legal wrangling which ensued then ran across a
copy of it from 1945 (it was first written in 1940) with a copyright
notice on the end... meaning that the copyright actually expired in
1973, and wasn't renewed. Ooops.
(Personally, I'm happy it's in the public domain - it's what the
author probably wanted! - but it does serve as a good example...)
I appreciate the renewal difficulties that arose. The key rationale
given for its repeal was to conform with the treaty requirement that
registration is not a prerequisite to a valid copyright. That's fine.
The US now only requires registration if you are going to take action
against an infringer. This is why I put reprinting unmaintained
copyrights in terms of fair use rather than total loss of copyright. A
copyright could be recoverable by a simple act of republication. My
10-year suggestion was involved an arbitrary time period, but anything
published after that time elapsed would be fair use, but this would not
apply to any usage after a new publication had reset the time limit.