Copyright Principles Project
The Copyright Principles Project: Directions for Reform
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While we understand some reasons why copyright terms have become so long and recognize that some CPP members believe longer terms to bejustified, most CPP members believe that the duration of copyright nowadays is longer than is needed to achieve the normative goals of a good copyright regime, and indeed, that the overlong duration of copyright is impeding some important goals of the copyright regime. The switch to a life-plus-years model and the twenty-year extension have contributed, for example, to a growing societal problem; namely, those wishing to license older works often cannot locate the rights holders even after a reasonably diligent search (often referred to as the “orphan works” problem). This problem inhibits appropriate reuses of older works that may be important to preserve as part of our cultural heritage.
We were not able to reach consensus on shortening the copyright term or restoring the “initial term of years plus renewal term of years” model for measuring duration, as some of us would prefer. We could, however, reach consensus on some duration-related issues. To mitigate one of the social harms arising from the lengthened term of copyrights, we suggest in Part III some new incentives for registering copyrighted works, which would make it
easier than it is today to locate rights holders for licensing purposes. We also support legislation to allow uses of “orphan works,” that is, works that are still in copyright, but whose rights holders cannot reasonably be identified or located in order to obtain permission to make use of the works. A third measure that would help mitigate the social costs of lengthened copyright durations would be to adopt an easy procedure for authors to dedicate their works to the public domain. Part III sets forth some reform proposals as to registration incentives, orphan works, and public domain dedication to make duration-related rules more consistent with good copyright principles.
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