securing public {interest|domain}

Phil Gengler
2003-06-04 02:43:15

Well, the FCC vote is in, and as expected, it was 3-2 in favor of the changes. This result isn't a shock to most people, though it definitely wasn't what people were hoping for. The outcry from this decision is far and wide, just like the opposition to it was before the vote.

All is not lost, though. Senator Hollings is working on legislation that will prevent many of the approved changes from actually taking effect, and also would also codify certain restrictions, like the 35% ownership cap, so that certain restrictions would no longer be under the FCC's control. I've written to Senator Hollings, Senator Corzine, Senator Lautenberg, and Representative Menendez about the vote, and about any legislation that may be brought about as a result. The letters are available in the files section for your reading convenience.

FCC commissioner Jonathon Adelstein also had something to say about the changes, which he voted against. In his statement, he talks about how the arguments put forth for the changes were invalid, and why these changes didn't and don't need to happen. He also talks about the massive public response to the vote, and how he only received one piece of correspondence supporting the changes out of 750,000. I definitely recommend reading this statement, though it can be infuriating at times when he points out something that runs completely contrary to the stated reasons or justifications for these changes.

But, as always, the FCC isn't the only thing in the news. Larry Lessig has started a petition to garner support for a law which would slightly change the rules of copyright. The idea is that, after 50 years under copyright, a copyright holder would have to pay a small fee ($1 is the number tossed around most frequently) to keep the work under copyright; if the fee is not paid within a 6 month period at the end of 50 years, then the work would pass into the public domain. Response to the proposal is mixed, with some people opposed to it because it seems to condone the current copyright term length, and other supporting it for a number of reasons, chiefly that any change is progress, and needed to cause larger change. As of this writing, the petition has nearly 6000 names, quite a significant number, considering that it was just started earlier this morning.

My feelings on this are also mixed. On the one hand, this does seem to accept the legitimacy of the current copyright term, and doesn't get to the root of the problem. I also think that it doesn't go far enough in it's changes to make a significant difference, but on the other hand, it's unlikely that a complete reversal of legislative copyright policy is going to be reversed in the blink of an eye. If this were to pass, it's progress toward returning copyright term lengths to a reasonable level. One concern I see here is that if this were to pass, and then down the line, a bill to shrink the copyright term was floated, the major corporations with copyrights at stake would point to this and say that there's already a measure of control over the length of copyright, and lowering the term would be unnecessary.

Also in the copyright news of late is the Supreme Court's decision in the case of Dastar vs. 20th Century Fox. The case was over Dastar's use of public domain material originally created by 20th Century Fox, without crediting Fox as the original creators. The Supreme Court ruled in Dastar's favor, that it was not necessary for Dastar to indicate the original creator, since the work was in the public domain.

Lastly, in site news, look for a redesign sometime this week or coming weekend, followed by a new feature.