Not everything is horrible about the new Family Entertainment and Copyright Act. The latest from the Hollywood Reporter:

The FECA law also renews the Library of Congress’ film preservation program. It also corrects a drafting error in the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act that will allow libraries to create copies of “orphan works”–copyrighted materials that are in the last 20 years of their copyright term and are no longer commercially exploitable.

Related: Text of FECA and Walt Crawford’s FMA: Watching the Way You Want.


  1. What is the definition of “no longer commercially viable”?

    Also, when is it really the “last 20 years” of an item’s copyright term? Considering copyrights seem to get extended every few years, the effective copyright term these days is infinite.

    While it is good to see that libraries will be able to copy _some_ works before their copyright officially expires, it does nothing to address the loss of a source of public domain material which can be used by other artists. Copyright was originally intended to be a _short_ term monopoly, the current state of copyright laws makes a mockery of that goal.

  2. [Paraphrasing Michael Hart] I know way less about copyright than I should, and way more than I ever wanted to.

    American copyright achieves a lot of its devious goals through the threat of punishment. For instance (and as an aside), the reason why there is no such thing as moral rights in the US is IMHO because it is not necessary; the copyright owner can wield the club of huge fines (up to 250,000 US$ per incident, IIRC).

    This is IMO the only reason why copyright is such a minefield in the US: because you do not want to draw legal fire.

    Having said that, I think it is pretty clear what is meant with “the last 20 years”, and only the most stubborn copyright owner will read “infinity minus 20” in that. If it makes them feel safe, librarians should stay away from copying the works of the most stubborn copyright holders.

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