Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Court upholds copyright law on 'orphan works'

From ZDNet | Court upholds copyright law on 'orphan works'

A U.S. appeals court has rejected a bid by Internet activists to roll back federal laws that extended copyright protection over orphan works, or books and other media that are no longer in print.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower-court decision to dismiss Kahle v. Gonzales, which argued that legal changes made in the 1990s had vastly extended copyright protections at the expense of free-speech rights.

Orphaned works are a hot-button issue for the publishing industry, which has resisted efforts by Web companies Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the Internet Archive--working with major academic libraries--to scan orphaned and out-of-copyright works to make them available for free on the Web.

Prior to 1978, the number of orphaned-copyright works was limited by requirements that intellectual-property holders renew their rights within a certain period of years. Otherwise, ownership of these works would pass into the public domain.

Amendments to U.S. copyright law in the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1992 made renewal registration optional, rather than mandatory, in order to preserve copyrights. A 1998 amendment further extended the renewal term to 67 years.

Critics of the changes had mocked the law as an effort to prolong Walt Disney's copyright hold over Mickey Mouse....

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