Back in January, I (and many other people) were appalled at the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Sonny Bono Act, extending copyrights and essentially preventing anything from entering the public domain.
This morning, Kirsten pointed out that Prof. Larry Lessig (who had been arguing against the Sonny Bono Law) is still working on finding a solution that will both allow Disney (one of the primary lobbyists for the copyright extention) to keep control over Mickey Mouse, and would allow the majority of works to enter the public domain after a limited time period.
The idea is a simple one: Fifty years after a work has been published, the copyright owner must pay a \$1 maintanence fee. If the copyright owner pays the fee, then the copyright continues. If the owner fails to pay the fee, the work passes into the public domain. Based on historical precedent, we expect 98% of copyrighted works would pass into the public domain after just 50 years. They could keep Mickey for as long as Congress lets them. But we would get a public domain.
At the moment, the proposal is ready to go, but Mr. Lessig is in need of a congressperson willing to present the bill. In that vein, he is asking everyone with an interest in this case to write their Representative and Senators to ask for their help.
Hopefully, with a little work, we can see our way to a compromise that satisfies the media conglomerates, and yet still allows more and more work to find its way into the public domain for all of us to have access to.