This afternoon, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) will introduce the "Public Domain Enhancement Act." This important new legislation will ensure that works that now enjoy an additional 20 years of copyright protection under the 1998 "Copyright Term Extension Act" (CTEA) would enter the public domain 50 years after publication unless the copyright owner files an electronic form with the Copyright Office. The Copyright Office would then maintain a public directory of titles that would remain under the additional 20 years of copyright protection.
As a result, libraries, archives, researchers and creators alike would be able to easily and quickly search this database to determine whether or not a particular work remains under copyright protection or is in the public domain. The CTEA has significantly limited the ability of libraries and archives to republish and disseminate works that now enjoy the additional 20 years of protection. Few of these materials have any commercial viability. In fact, the Congressional Research Service has estimated that only 2% of works published between 1923 and 1942 have any commercial value.
First, AALL strongly supports the "Public Domain Enhancement Act." We sent the following letter to Rep. Lofgren to demonstrate the support of the library community at today's press conference. Many more House cosponsors are urgently needed now so that we can build momentum for this important legislation. Please contact your representative as soon as possible, using the talking points in the letter below, to urge that he/she cosponsor the bill.
Second, Larry Lessig, professor of law at Stanford Law School and a key supporter of this Act, has established an online petition to Congress, "Reclaim the Public Domain," that currently has more than 15,000 signatures. Please take a look at the petition and consider signing onto it.
Keith Ann Stiverson
Chair, AALL Copyright Committee
Mary Alice Baish
AALL Washington Affairs Office