Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Well, so much for the public domain. If Disney can legally extend their copyright retroactively now, they can in perpetuity; and if they can, then anybody else with cash can. Personally, my views on this echo the dissenting opinions of Stevens and Breyer:

Stevens accused the majority of "failing to protect the public interest in free access to the products of inventive and artistic genius."

He said the court abdicated to Congress "its principal responsibility in this area of the law."

Breyer said the law will restrict dissemination of copyright works in traditional forms and in new technology.

"It threatens to interfere with efforts to preserve our nation's historical and cultural heritage and efforts to use that heritage, say, to educate our nation's children," he said.

Breyer said the law benefits the private financial interests of corporations or heirs who own copyrights, but not the public.
What'll be really interesting is when this sort of thing starts smacking up against the reality of other countries not sharing the American interest in copyrights extending into perpetuity. Considering that the DeCSS kid is free and the Internet is only becoming more and more international rather than America-centric, I wonder whether or not the next faultline between states will be IP laws. Most will no doubt fall into line with the U.S., of course. Still, what happens if (and when) states that are interested in asserting their independence from the U.S. and its abdication of its responsibility to the public domain and the rights of information consumers decide to do things differently?

I mean it's not like the U.S. can go crying to the U.N. over something like this, and while the American market is important, it's probably not going to retain the absolute importance that it has right now; and Americans aren't going to want to have to deal with the repercussions of trade wars with countries whose products they desire, either, especially if the trade war is at the behest of, say, Disney and AOL/Time Warner. It seems a little far fetched right now to think that the conflict between the desires of American corporations and foreign states could become a serious issue, but it's another possible issue across which the U.S. and its foreign allies (and competitors) could become even more alienated.

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