Thursday, July 10, 2008

Copyright Law

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution understood that copyright was about balance — a trade-off between public and private gain, society-wide innovation and creative reward. In 1790, the U.S.’s first copyright law granted authors a monopoly right over their creations for 14 years, with the option of renewing that monopoly for another 14.

Current copyright laws last 70 years past the authors lifetime. It was a battle that Sony Bono fought for while in Congress. What I remember is it became known as the "Free Mickey" bill. Mickey Mouse's copyright was set to expire about the time I was studying for my Paralegal certificate. The topic came up in a discussion with my parents because I had a copy of Alice in Wonderland that had no publication date or copyright date on it. We have no idea how old our copy is, even when it was published. When we looked at the binding no pages appear to be missing. The question then became when was copyright law enacted? My quick search has revealed the above. A little further looking shows that the Sonny Bono acted increased the lifetime of copyrights in a complicated format depending on the topic being copyrighted, when it was copyrighted, etc. It's good as a writer to know what my rights are and I guess I better dig into it a little further. I know when I was in IT, we simply put a copyright notation on all our documents. Whether it had legal foundation or not is another matter. Most people wouldn't mess with a document that looked copyrighted by us. I wonder what they would have done if they thought it had no legal foundation.

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