Monday, July 7, 2003

Get it out of the way early.

I finally got around to reading the text of the Public Domain Enhancement Act, which was introduced by Lofgren in late June, influenced in part by the Eldred Act Petition.

Based on the original proposal, I'd been wondering about an apparent loophole. It occured to me that a copyright holder could decide, at the time of initial publication, to submit for extension immediately instead of waiting the 50 years. This would preemptively extend the term whether or not the work ended up being commercialy viable. At a cost of only $1, it's hard to imagine a self-interested copyright holder who wouldn't try this.

Thus, I assumed the Act would somehow prohibit early submissions. For example, the window for extension might be between 49 and 50 years after publication. But the Act as written only says "[t]he fee shall be due 50 years after the date of first publication," which seems to allow for submissions the day after publication.

Maybe that sort of thing doesn't need to be in the Act, and it would arise when the Register of Copyrights "establish[es] the procedures." But if it doesn't, then the Act is basically useless.

Even if they enforce a narrow submission window, there's the chance that a company will spring up which offers, for a low price today, to automatically extend your term 50 years from now. This too would make the Act effectively useless. Is there any way to prohibit that sort of thing?

1 comment:

  1. Well, there's an excellent chance that such a company (one auto-registering copyrights) would go out of business well before that. Also, if the company holding the copyright goes out of business, or (in some cases) legally changes hands before that, the re-reg company is more likely not to have the legal right to make that re-registration.