May 18, 2006  ·  Lessig

So the British are considering extending the terms of copyrights for recordings from the current term of 50 years to 95 years — this to “harmonize” with the US, after the US extended its term to “harmonize” with Europe. Anyway, you know my views about term extensions for existing works, so I won’t repeat all that here.

But last night in the British Parliament, there was an extraordinary breakthrough in thinking about this issue. While the best rule would be that copyrights of existing works would never be extended, a second-best rule would be that, at a minimum, any extension should be limited to those copyright holders who take steps to claim that extension. And so has Mr. Don Foster now proposed.

This is the first such proposal that I’ve seen a government official make. (If I’m wrong about that, please let me know.) But it is fantastic progress in the second-best world we inhabit.

  • Phil Rodgers

    In fact Don Foster is an opposition MP, rather than a member of the government.

  • http://edu.blogs.com Ewan McIntosh

    There is no ‘British’ Parliament. There is Westminster and there is Holyrood, with assemblies in Cardiff and Northern Ireland. There’s even a Scottish Creative Commons to show the difference between the oldest legal framework (Scots law) and the younger cousin (English law).

    Indulge me – I don’t get a chance to be pedantic that often ;-)

  • http://www.zenatode.org.uk/ian/ Ian Gregory

    I would like to indulge Ewan’s pedantry but feel obliged to respond. Lawrence linked to a page at parliament.uk where the website of “The United Kingdom Parliament” is hosted – that is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So, whilst it is not exactly the British Parliament, it does claim to represent Scotland and Wales as well as England. Of course, Ewan may have a problem with “The United Kingdom Parliament” referring to itself as such but that is not something over which Lawrence has much control:-)

  • pb

    The post needs to be corrected: this is not a government proposal.

    Don Foster is a backbench MP belonging to the third largest party. He also backs a copyright extension to 95 years:

    Mr. Foster: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He will be aware that about 4,500 musicians have signed up to PPL’s demands. However, I support a move that will extend copyright to 95 years.

    What exactly are we supposed to be celebrating? Or did Mr Lessig merely skim read Hansard without thinking?

    The internet is doing wonders for literacy.

  • http://www.mysociety.org Tom Steinberg

    Please, Lawrence. If you believe in the power of our freedom to take public data and do better things with it, at least you could link to the *good* version of the debate:

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2006-05-17a.331.0

    You can annotate bits you’re interested in too.

  • http://www.mysociety.org Tom Steinberg

    Please, Lawrence. If you believe in the power of our freedom to take public data and do better things with it, at least you could link to the *good* version of the debate:

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2006-05-17a.331.0

    You can annotate bits you’re interested in too.

  • someone

    yes and they are also introducing an entirely new class of restrictions related to IT, network management, and cryptography. Why? How much do you want to bet that Amerikkka will use the ‘harmonization’ excuse to push this here in the land of free/brave home?

  • http://www.tekstadventure.nl/branko/blog/ Branko Collin

    Could somebody explain what the UK parliament hopes to achieve with this law? As far as I am aware, EU law supersedes UK law, and EU law says the term for recordings is 50 years after creation. (Directive 93/98/EEC.)