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Appeals Court Upholds Copyright Extension

The U.S. federal appeals court has upheld a 1998 ruling, which extended the length of copyrighted material another two decades. In a 2-1 ruling, the three judge panel ruled that Congress does have the right to extend the time of a copyright. The arguments against the ruling were brought forth by a group of individuals and companies dealing with public domain works stating that the extension infringed on their First Amendment rights. Judge Douglas Ginsberg, in the court's opinion, wrote, "The plantiffs' First Amendment objection fails because they have no cognizably First Amendment interest in the copyrighted works of others." However, Judge David Sentelle, in his dissenting opinion, wrote, "It is impossible that the framers of the Constitution contemplated permanent protection, either directly obtained or attained through the guise of progressive extension of existing copyrights. The power granted by the clause again is the power 'to promote the progress of science and the useful arts.' As stated above, Congress is empowered to accomplish this securing for limited times the exclusive rights. Extending existing copyrights is not promoting useful arts, nor is it securing exclusivity for a limited time." Nonetheless, the ruling upholds the 1998 extension which pushed the length of protection for movies and other works for hire created after 1978 to 95 years from the year of publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever comes first. Previously, work created before 1978 was only protected for 28 years with a renewal term of 47 years, however the renewal was pushed to 67 years, making the total protection length 95 years. For work created in 1978 or later, to which an individual author holds the copyright, the new law extended the copyright term to 70 years after the author's death. The new copyright lengths are more in tune with Europe, which are 95 years. For years the Walt Disney Co. has been a big lobbier for the extension due to the nearing copyright expiration of STEAMBOAT WILLIE. Due to have run out in 2003, WILLIE's newly extended copyright now gives Disney control over where Mickey Mouse's image from WILLIE is used until 2023.

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