Copyright regulations, particularly the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act get a lot of negative press here on the TeleRead blog. It would be fairly easy to get the impression (as I did) that this piece of legislation puts the US above and beyond all or most other nations in terms of copyright restrictions.
After a few hours of slogging through legal documents from 80+ countries, using the UNESCO national copyright laws site, I discovered that the US copyright term as such is not uncommon; it is shared by at least 33 other countries. My complete findings are now part of a greatly expanded Wikipedia entry on the topic, though I can’t vouch for the validity of most of the entries I myself didn’t make (check the page history to find the specific changes).
What is not reflected in the legal documents, but still relevant for the practical application of copyright, is the extent to which the laws are enforced. This is an important factor that I believe sets the US apart from a number of other countries with the same copyright term. You don’t hear much about Malta or Bosnia and Herzegovina cracking down on copyright infringement.
A few interesting copyright factoids follow:
- An author who died for France gets a 30-year extension on his French copyright term
- According to the 1928 Soviet copyright law, copyright was only life of the author + 15 years
- In the 1961 Soviet copyright law, the State could compulsorily purchase all rights from the author or his heirs
- In current Iraq copyright law, reading of the Koran are protected
- Finland has a specific provision for making copies of radio/TV programs for temporary use in hospitals, senior citizens’ homes, prisons, and “similar institutions”
- The official title of the Brunei copyright law is “Emergency (copyright) Order, 1999”
- Guatemala and Honduras have one of the longest copyright terms, at 75 years
- Hate copyright? Move to the Maldives, Marshall Islands, Swaziland, or Laos