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Jonathan Morse <[log in to unmask]>
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Mon, 14 Sep 1998 09:40:44 -0400
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Dear colleagues,
 
FYI, I append a pair of letters about the implications of some proposed
changes in American copyright law. The first is from me to my department;
the second is a reply from Dennis Karjala, the expert on copyright law
whose article instigated mine. I can also recommend Charles C. Mann's
general article about the current state of copyright, "Who Will Own Your
Next Good Idea?," in the September _Atlantic Monthly_ (www.theatlantic.com).
 
Jonathan Morse
Department of English
University of Hawaii at Manoa
[log in to unmask]
 
(1)
 
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Date: Sun, 06 Sep 1998 20:02:45
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Jonathan Morse <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Keeping twentieth-century masterpieces available
Cc: [log in to unmask]
 
In 1994, a panel at the "T. S. Eliot at the Turn of the Century" colloquium
concluded that "the difficulty involved in getting permissions and the
'tremendous' cost of these permissions are obstructing scholarship,
discouraging new scholars from taking up Eliot, and contributing to the
general dissatisfaction with him" (_American Literary Scholarship 1994_, p.
140).
 
In 1995, Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris included _The Waste Land_ in
the table of contents of their University of California Press anthology
_Poems for the Millennium_, but not in the body of the book. Getting
permission to reprint was just too much of a hassle.
 
But as of 1998 you can buy a legal copy of _The Waste Land_ for $1 in a
Dover Thrift Edition.
 
Why this wonderful change? Simple: _The Waste Land_ was first published in
1922, and in 1997 its copyright expired. Similarly with _Ulysses_;
similarly with text after text from the great period of twentieth-century
literature. But in 1976 the period of copyright was extended from 56 years
to 75, and a bill now under consideration in the Senate (S.505, the
Copyright Term Extension Act of 1997), will extend the current limit by
another two decades. Having already passed the House, the Senate version
has bipartisan support; it was introduced by the conservative Senator
Hatch, but its co-sponsors include the liberal Senators Leahy and
Feinstein. Big money is involved; one of the major lobbyists for the
extension is Michael Eisner, who doesn't want to see Mickey Mouse follow
Santa Claus and Uncle Sam into the public domain.
 
In England, another group in favor of copyright extension is composed of
the collateral descendants of Jane Austen, who died childless in 1817. But
as my Eliot example will demonstrate, copyright extension can do us in the
universities nothing but harm. That's why the Society of American
Archivists and the American Association of University Professors oppose it;
that's why _The Washington Post_ and _The New York Times_ have
editorialized against it. Dennis S. Karjala (law, Arizona State University)
has summarized the problem interestingly in an _Arizona Republic_ article
which is reprinted in the September 5 _Honolulu Star-Bulletin_, B1+; those
of you
interested in reading more about it, and perhaps writing a few letters to
Washington, will find lots of useful information on Karjala's Web page,
 
www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala/index.html
 
Jonathan Morse
 
 
(2)
 
From: "Karjala, Dennis" <[log in to unmask]>
To: "'Jonathan Morse'" <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: RE: Fighting copyright extension
Date: Mon, 7 Sep 1998 16:46:21 -0700
X-Mailer: Internet Mail Service (5.0.1458.49)
 
        Thanks very much for the email and the very useful example from
the writings of T.S. Eliot.  I'm always on the lookout for new and
better examples to bring home the main points of this ridiculous idea of
extending the term.  It's not that the basics aren't fairly clear, and
your letter to your colleagues says it all beautifully.  But it can get
very complex as soon as one tries to get into the details of copyright
law.  There is nothing like cogent examples to cut through lots of the
bull that gets thrown around in this debate.
 
        I wonder if Senator Inouye might be willing to lend a hand.  Do
you or any of your colleagues know him or anyone on his staff?  He's not
on the Judiciary Committee, and most Senators who are not usually say
that we should speak to those who are, because (for some reason)
Judiciary is in charge of IP matters in both houses of Congress.
However, I've not had tremendous success with the members of that
Committee.  Senator Kohl of Wisconsin is opposed to term extension, but
unless he gets some support his staff tells me that he's unlikely to "go
to the mat" on term extension.  I'm working on my own Senator Kyl, but
so far with only equivocal success.  Senator Durbin of Illinois is also
a hope, but so far he's uncommitted.  The thing is, as I understand it
(and I've a novice at legislative politics), in the Senate any small
group of 3-5 Senators can stop essentially any copyright legislation.
The reason is that the stuff is considered so complex that the Senate
relies on the Committee to work things out and basically just passes
whatever the Committee recommends.  But this procedure requires
unanimous consent in the Senate, so in theory even just one Senator and
in practice a small group can stop term extension.  We really need to
try to get some folks outside Judiciary worked up about this and willing
to take a stand.
 
        If you could forward your letter to other groups of English
professors, that might help, too.  In any event, I much appreciate your
willingness to get involved.  It sometimes seems like a fairly lonely
fight!
 
                                        With best wishes,
 
                                                Dennis
 
Dennis S. Karjala
Professor of Law
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona 85287
602-965-4010
602-965-2427 (fax)
[log in to unmask]
Visit the "Opposing Copyright Extension" web page at
<http://www.public.asu.edu/~dkarjala>