The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which is also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act as well as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, extends the copyright terms in the United States by 20 years. Before this act, the law lasted for the life of an author plus fifty years or seventy-five years for corporations. Now, the copyright lasts for the life of an author plus seventy years of ninety-five years for corporations. In 1998, Disney representatives came to Washington looking for help in order to protect Mickey Mouse from going into the public domain in 2003.
This is the act in question for my argument. Disney wanted to protect their creation of Mickey Mouse and prohibit it from entering the public domain, so they called for the CTEA. Congress and President Clinton, who received lavish donations from Disney, signed the act in 1998. Whether or not the act should be upheld is the question I argue in my paper.
This is the text of the 1997 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which lengthened the the term of American copyrights. It extended the term to the life of the author plus seventy years, and for corporate copyrights it lengthened the term to the longer of one hundred and twenty years after creation or ninety five years after creation. The original laws governing copyright guaranteed only fourteen years protection (with the ability to renew it for another fourteen year term if the author was still alive) for books, charts and maps. It did not even cover music.
This law shows what copyright has become and how it differs from its original intent. Instead of its original goal to promote the creation of new ideas it has now become all about protecting old copyrights by continually extending the term. Lobbyists like the RIAA have considerable power in Washington and are able to push through legislature like the Copyright Term Extension Act which benefits their industry but also limits potential invention and new ideas. Our lawmakers are too beholden to the people and industries that pay for their election campaigns to make sure copyright fulfills the duty the writers of our original laws intended.
I am going to use this act, as well as the MGM-Grokster as an introduction to show what our current copyright law looks like. This sets the stage, showing how our government has sided with big business when it comes to copyright legislation, and how the government has sided with the RIAA when it comes to mixtapes as well.
Also referred to as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act or disapprovingly as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States by twenty years. Previously, copyright lasted the life of the author plus fifty years, or seventy-five years for a work of corporate authorship; this act extended copyright to the life of the author plus seventy years and ninety-five years, respectively. Basically, this act halted the advancement of the public domain.
Supported by big media companies like Disney (ironically, considering many of Disney's famous and timeless creations are borrowed ideas) and by self-concerned artists' widows like Mary Bono, the proposal for this legislation hit the floor with a bang. At one point during debate Bono stated that Congress should consider the MPAA's Jack Valenti's proposal of a copyright term of "forever less one day." After supporting arguments such as the increasing length of human life expectancy and the negative global effects on the entertainment industry of differences between American and European copyright terms, Congress passed the legislation with a 105 to 298 vote.
However, as opponents of the act argue, this act is unconstitutional because such an act is not "necessary and proper" in accomplishing the Constitution's stated purpose of "promot[ing] the progress of science and the useful arts." In addition, a strong case can be made that under perpetual copyright, some works would not be created that would have been under limited-time copyright. This is due to the fact that few creators of distantly derivatives works have the money and resources necessary to seek out the original work's copyright owner or to purchase a license, and often enough original owners might even refuse a license. Thus it is made clear that a rich and constantly replenished public domain is necessary for the continuation of artistic creation.