Senator Patrick Leahy’s Statement Before Congress
United States Senate, March 20, 1997

Mr. President, I am glad to be working with Senator Hatch as original cosponsors of this, the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1997. We worked together on this matter last Congress to craft a bill that was reported by the Judiciary Committee to the Senate by a vote of 15 to 3.

I raised a number of questions and concerns during our Judiciary Committee hearing on this issue back in September 1995. I spoke of a letter I had received from Prof. Karen Burke Lefevre of Vermont and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She expressed reservations, as a researcher and author, that Congress not extend the term for unpublished works beyond the term set by the 1976 Act. This category of materials is set to have its copyrights expire in 2002. They include anonymous works and unpublished works of interest to scholars. In section 2(c) of the bill we introduce today, we accommodate these interests and preserve the public availability of these materials in 2003, if they remain unpublished on December 31, 2002.

I want to thank Marybeth Peters, our Register of Copyrights, for supporting this improvement in the bill, and Senator Hatch for working with me on it.

I am concerned about libraries, educational institutions and nonprofits being able to access materials and provide access in turn for research, archival, preservation and other purposes. We have also made progress in this area as reflected in section 3 of the bill. Copyright industry and library representatives have narrowed their differences. I ask for their continued help in crafting the best balance possible to create public access for noncommercial purposes during the extension period without undercutting the value of copyrights.

At our hearing I also raised the notion of a new right of termination for works where the period of termination in current law has already passed and the 20-year extension inures to the benefit of a copyright transferee. This bill creates such a right of termination in section 2(d) of the bill.

At our hearing, I was still considering whether there was sufficient justification for extending the copyright term for an additional 20 years. At that time we were considering the European Union Directive to its member countries to provide copyright protection for a term of life plus 70 years by July 1, 1995. While many of our trading partners had not extended their terms by July 1995, they have acted to do so in the past 2 years.

I received a letter from Bruce A. Lehman, the Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, in which he reported that Austria, Germany, Greece, France, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom had complied with the EU Directive on Copyright Term. Sweden, Portugal, Finland and the Netherlands were reported to have legislation to do so pending, as well. With so many of our trading partners moving to the longer term but preparing to recognize American works for only the shorter term, I believe it is time for us to act.

This bill also now includes a revised version of legislation that passed the House last Congress but was stalled in the Senate to clarify the Copyright Act of 1909 with regard to whether the distribution of phonorecords may be held to be a divesting publication of the copyright in the musical composition embodied therein. The revision is intended to clarify the law while not affecting cases in which parties have litigated or are litigating this issue. Finally, I feel strongly that the extension of the copyright term should include public benefit, such as the creation of new works or benefit to public arts. Senator Dodd, Senator Kennedy, and I have been concerned about finding an appropriate way to benefit the public from this extension and continue to do so. Along these lines, the Copyright Office is examining how the extension in this bill will benefit copyright industries, authors and the public.

Given the changes made to meet the concerns that I raised with an earlier bill and in light of the international developments that are disadvantaging American copyrighted works, I cosponsored the Committee substitute at our Judiciary Committee executive business session last Congress and pressed for its consideration by the Senate. Unfortunately, this bill was not considered by the Senate during the 104th Congress.

Accordingly, I join with Senator Hatch to reintroduce this copyright term extension legislation to this Congress and look forward to working with him to see to its enactment, without further delay.

Senator Patrick Leahy, March 20, 1997


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