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Supreme Court to hear Sonny Bono Copyright Extension case

>From Salon.com

Mickey Mouse vs. The People
How an antiquarian bookseller and a Nathaniel Hawthorne fan ended up before
the Supreme Court.
Feb. 21, 2002

By Damien Cave

"Neither Eric Eldred nor Laura Bjorklund intended to become warriors in
the battle over copyright. They simply wanted to publish old books;
Eldred's Web site <http://www.eldritchpress.org/> has hosted versions of
old Nathaniel Hawthorne novels and Robert Frost poems since 1995, while
Bjorklund's tiny Massachusetts publishing company
<http://www.higginsonbooks.com> focuses on genealogy texts and
out-of-print histories.

"But on Oct. 27, 1998, President Clinton, urged on by a Disney Corp.
mindful that its Mickey Mouse copyright was about to expire, passed a law
that extended copyright protection for an additional 20 years. Eldred and
Bjorklund were outraged. In their view, the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension
Act harmed the public by retroactively taking information from the public
domain and putting it back under the control of copyright holders.
Corporations would benefit, but small publishers and the general public,
they argued, would suffer.

"Lawrence Lessig, then a law professor at Harvard, heard their call and
took on the case pro bono. Eldred and Bjorklund became the first two
plaintiffs in a suit aimed at overturning the copyright extension. On Feb.
19, after nearly four years of litigation, the Supreme Court agreed to
hear the case. " See link above for full article

Another article on the case in Salon by Damien Cave- April 15, 2002

In defense of copyright

A top intellectual property lawyer argues that the Supreme Court's decision
to review the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act is plain wrong.


"Morton David Goldberg's name is hardly a household word for technology
geeks worried about the corporate drive to take ownership of intellectual
property to unprecedented heights. But Goldberg, a partner at Cowan
Liebowitz and Latman <http://www.cll.com/home/> in New York, has spent
nearly 50 years working as a copyright attorney. He's also lectured at
Stanford, served as president of the Copyright Society of the U.S.A. and
advised the World Intellectual Property Organization. "


"At issue is whether Congress -- with the constitutional authority to
issue copyrights and patents "for limited times" to "promote the progress
of science and useful arts" -- overstepped its bounds by passing the Bono
Act. The previous law, passed in 1978, protected an author's work for 50
years after an author died, while works for hire -- such as Mickey Mouse,
which was created for a corporation -- were protected for 75 years. The
Bono Act extended both categories by two decades. "

See article for full details.

article identified in "In the News"   the DIGITAL-COPYRIGHT Digest 70 by
Olga Francois.