Supremes to decide copyright terms


The Supreme Court will decide whether companies can own copyrights for 95
years and individuals can own them until 70 years after their deaths, the court
said Tuesday.

In 1998, Congress extended copyright terms by 20 years. Companies and
copyright owners want to keep the extended copyrights, while challengers want
free access to formerly copyrighted products, such as TV shows, songs, movies
and characters.

'We have absolute confidence that the Supreme Court will uphold the decision
of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the wisdom of the Congress, confirming
that Congress acted within its authority in extending the term of copyright
protection by 20 years to maintain term parity with the EU [European Union] and
other nations that have extended copyright terms,' Motion Picture Association of
America president Jack Valenti said.

Content providers in Europe own their copyrights for 95 years -- a right they
earned from the EU prior to 1998.

Companies such as The Walt Disney Co. are concerned about losing the rights
to characters such as Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, which are big revenue
drivers for them.

And last year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld
copyright extensions, saying that the Constitution clearly leans toward solid
rights for copyright holders.

Meanwhile, makers of copying devices want copyrights to expire sooner so that
the public can access more material.

'Considering that the Constitution provides artists exclusive rights for a
`limited' time, one must question if lawmakers have not overlooked the equal, if
not greater, responsibility to preserve the public domain, which is prerequisite
to future growth and creativity,' Consumer Electronics Association president
Gary Shapiro said.

'It is highly doubtful that the framers intended the `limited' term of
copyright to be extended on a routine and regular basis,' he