Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre, University of New South Wales
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Perpetual Copyright

There are certain issues in society that come up time and time again, often without any real resolution. In the real world, these issues include the death penalty, abortion, and whether the reality television show Big Brother is any good this season. In copyright, one of the major issues that comes up time and time again is perpetual copyright.

Mark Helprin, an American author, has published an opinion piece in the New York Times about why perpetual copyright is worthy of greater consideration. See it here. To me, Melville Nimmer in his 1970 article, "Does Copyright Abridge the First Amendment Guarantees of Free Speech and the Press", really encapsulated the issue of perpetual copyright when he stated, "If I may own Blackacre in perpetuity, why not also Black Beauty?" Helprin concludes that "Congress is free to extend at will the term of copyright. It last did so in 1998, and should do so again, as far as it can throw."

Obviously, here at the House of Commons we are against further term extension and perpetual copyright, because both are not only seriously detrimental to the public domain but create further problems, including that of orphan works. As part of my thesis work at the moment I'm actually looking at the permissibility of perpetual copyright in Australia and whether it is constitutional - but that is a post for another day!

Hat Tip: Freedom to Differ.


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