After forty years of old works not tipping over into the public domain, it appears the Term-Extenders-That-Be are opting not to push for an extension this time around, anticipating that they'd face much more significant pushback.
Guest post by Mike Masnick of Techdirt
Last week, in writing about how this should be the last year (for forty straight years) that no old works have moved into the public domain in the US due to repeated copyright term extensions, I noted that there did not appear to be much appetite among the usual folks to push for term extension. Part of this is because the RIAAs and MPAAs of the world know that the fight they'd face this time would be significantly more difficult than when they pushed through the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act 20 plus years ago. Not only do they know it would be more difficult, they know that they'd lose. Unlike last time, this time the public is paying attention and can mobilize on the internet.
Indeed, we were surprised a few years back when then Copyright Office boss, Maria Pallante -- who has long pushed for copyright maximalism in many different areas -- suggested one tiny aspect of potential copyright reform could be to make the last twenty years (the life plus 50 to life plus 70 years) sort of optional. Even this very, very minor step back from the idea of automatic life plus 70 years (or more!) was fairly astounding for what it represented. Copyright interests have never been willing to budge -- even an inch, and here was a tiny inch that they indicated they were willing to give up.
Tim Lee, over at Ars Technica, has now (incredibly) got three of the biggest copyright maximalist organizations on the record to say that they will not lobby for copyright term extension, and (even more incredibly) got the Authors Guild (the perpetually pushing for crazy new expansions of copyright law freaking Authors Guild!) to even say that they think maybe we should scale back to life plus 50 again:
The Author's Guild, for example, "does not support extending the copyright term, especially since many of our members benefit from having access to a thriving and substantial public domain of older works," a Guild spokeswoman told Ars in an email. "If anything, we would likely support a rollback to a term of life-plus-50 if it were politically feasible."
The RIAA and MPAA were slightly more muted, basically saying they "are not aware" of any efforts or proposals and it's not something they're pushing:
"We are not aware of any such efforts, and it's not something we are pursuing," an RIAA spokesman told us when we asked about legislation to retroactively extend copyright terms.
"While copyright term has been a longstanding topic of conversation in policy circles, we are not aware of any legislative proposals to address the issue," the MPAA told us.
Of course, those statements are kind of funny, because they both know damn well that the only way such proposals would even be a topic for discussion is if they were pushing for them. That won't mean some nutty copyright holder won't push for an extension, but the RIAA and MPAA's recognition that they would lose (and lose spectacularly and embarrassingly) means that no such proposal is going to go anywhere.
Now, let's see what it will take to get them on board with the Authors Guild plan to start to move copyright terms in the other direction.