the European Union started this sad game of extending the copyright terms,
not all countries have yet followed their very poor example. Japan,
Canada, and Australia remain under a life + 50 system. However, it
now appears that, pushed by U.S. trade negotiators, the Australians are
about to capitulate, and it is likely that Japan will follow suit.
This page contains some links to developments in these and other countries
that are considering extending their copyright terms.
Pushes Australia to Adopt a Life + 70 System
concerning a new U.S./Australian free-trade agreement indicate that the U.S.
successfully insisted on including a copyright term extension in
Australia. See Office of the United States Trade Representative, Free
Trade "Down Under," Summary of the U.S.-Australia Free Trade
Agreement, Feb. 8, 2004. It is yet another example of how the
protectionist forces operate. These trade agreements are negotiated
behind close doors, with little if any public input. The Australian
government has sacrificed the long-term interests of its own people in vibrant
cultural development to obtain short-term trade advantages (because the longer
copyright term will still be in place after the entire world goes to a true
free-trade regime). See Australian National University Media Release, Trade
Deal Extends Powers of Dead Authors, Feb. 10, 2004, quoting the
remarks of Law Lecturer Dr. Matthew Rimmer.
Canadians going down the same road?
Legislation has been introduced in the Canadian Parliament to extend the term
of copyright protection for previously unpublished works - a term that was
itself extended just a few years ago. What Mickey Mouse is to the United
States, Anne of Green Gables is to Canada, so the unpublished works of its
author, Lucy Maud Montgomery (who died in 1942) continue to have economic
value. Historical research is likely to be severely impeded if this law
is adopted. Here are a few links: Mouse in the House,
a National Post article by Howard Knopf; Estates' rights in Canadian copyright re-examined,
a Globe and Mail article dated Sept. 23, 2003 by James Adams (describing
attempts to derail the statute); An analysis of the impact
of the bill on public archives; and an incomplete directory
of historical figures whose works will be removed from the public domain
by the bill.