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osOpinion: What Every American Should Know About Copyright

Sep 29, 2000, 07:20 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Susan Aker)

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"Due to Napster and DeCSS, copyright has found its way into the spotlight, at least in some Internet circles. Unfortunately, this has happened almost 25 years after the major portion of the damage was done."

"Before I explain that comment, let's take a little look into history, all the way back to the creation of the Constitution of the United States of America. How many have read it? If you have, you're one of less than 25 percent of the American people (assuming you're American). Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 deals with copyright and reads as follows: "The Congress shall have Powers To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

"That is the basis for all copyright law in America and is, supposedly, the article that Congress looks to every time they decide a change to copyright law is warranted. Of course, the wording leaves some points open to interpretation, but the entire Constitution was designed that way (one of the main reasons George Washington wouldn't support it.) Still, the Congress of the time interpreted the "limited times" portion as meaning 14 years, which was renewable for a second 14 years and a maximum of 28 years. The average person would see a favorite work reach the public domain in his/her lifetime."

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