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I am writing to ask you to oppose bills currently pending in Congress to extend the term of copyright -- S. 505 and H.R. 2589. If you are currently supporting these bills, I ask you to withdraw your support.
These bills are often referred to by the commercial copyright community as "noncontroversial no-lose" legislation, but there is another often ignored side to this legislation and other copyright legislation designed to further strengthen copyright rights. The primary purpose of the United States copyright laws as stated in the Constitution and affirmed by the Supreme Court are to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts." The promotion of science and the useful arts requires ready access to a vast amount of copyrighted information that will not be valuable enough to the copyright holders to ensure that it will remain published and available to the public and scholars for the entire current term of copyright much less an expanded term.
After the changes made with the 1976 Copyright Act and the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1989, copyright protects a vast amount of material ranging from E-mail messages, photographs and package labels to letters, obscure leaflets, out of print books, limited run movies and no longer current sound recordings in addition to the all time classics like Snow White. While Disney will make sure that Snow White is preserved for generations to come, the longer the copyright term is the less likely it is that the rest of what is copyrighted will be preserved by small non profit organizations, research libraries and publishers who specialize in reprinting public domain materials. Every extension of term or resurrection of copyright that passes Congress puts these preservation activities in further jeopardy.
I urge you to carefully read the enclosed statement in opposition of these bills. It addresses many of the arguments that proponents make in favor of the bills and lays out additional arguments in opposition. There is considerable opposition to these bills including the more than 50 intellectual property professors who signed the statement and the following organizations: the Society of American Archivists, the American Association of University Professors, the American Film Heritage Association, and Project Gutenberg. I urge you to listen to these organizations which don't have the money to pay a lot of high powered lobbyists but who do represent the needs of many of your constituents back home.
Mary Brandt Jensen