Thursday, May 31, 2007

US Copyright Law

Hal Varian has written a nice piece for the NYTimes about the state of copyright law in the United States.

Here’s a quiz question for authors: To copyright a written work in the United States, you must (a) register it with the Copyright Office; (b) insert a notice that says “Copyright © 2007”; (c) insert a notice that says “All rights reserved.”

Answer: none of the above. Under current law, a work is automatically copyrighted the moment it is “fixed in tangible form.” And these days, that copyright lasts virtually forever: 70 years after the death of the author, in most cases.
This applies only to American copyright. In Russia, for instance, the Beatles catalog is already in the public domain. Most media companies are lobbying for a 50 year or greater extension to the current copyrights. Some want copyright to last forever.


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