Last week the IPKat wrote the differences in terms given to sound recording on both sides of the Atlantic. Now he reads in the New York Times about the effect of differences in copyright terms in literary works has on the internet. The article points to the problem that has befallen Project Guttenberg, a volunteer attempt to make the world’s great works of literature available online. An Australian division of the project posted the text of Gone With the Wind online. However, after receiving a letter from the lawyers of the estate of the author Margaret Mitchell, the text appears to have been removed. Although Gone With the Wind is no longer protected by copyright in Australia since it is more than 50 years after the author’s death, in the US it doesn’t enter the public domain until 2031.
Says the article:
"The issue of national sovereignty over the Internet has not been firmly established, either by trade agreement or by court precedent, some legal experts say, and conflicts continue to be settled individually".The IPKat realises it’s chaos out there. However, he’s not convinced that standardising the copyright terms worldwide is the best solution. Instead, it may be better to make special provisions to solve this problem that limit the effect of any compromises to use of copyright materials on the internet.
Stop press. The IPKat's friend Professor David Vaver (St Peter's College, Oxford) writes:
"Under the Australia/US Free Trade Agreement, due to come into force on 1 January 2005 (assuming an exchange of notes between the countries certifying internal compliance), the general copyright term in Oz becomes life plus 70 years. I haven't checked whether this applies to pre-2005 works but I suspect it does. Margaret Mitchell's Australian copyright may therefore in a couple of months Return with the Wind".Margaret Mitchell here
Other wind-related copyright works here, here and here