A colleague pointed me to this very interesting article in the Dec 31, 2013 Washington Post written by Brian Fung. The article highlights some of the significant differences between the duration of copyright protection versus patent protection. And also points out a number of iconic works that would be in the public domain now except for Congressional extensions of copyright protection.
The title of the article is: “If not for Congress, Superman, Lassie and Scrabble would be free for anyone to reproduce tomorrow”.
After the copyright extensions by Congress in 1998, works before 1978 can have copyright protection for up to 95 years!!
The author points out that:
“On Jan. 1, a whole raft of artistic and intellectual works will be making their way into the public domain — or they would be if Congress hadn’t extended copyright terms for the umpteenth time in 1998. At its core, copyright is meant to protect authors and creators. But as we’ve seen recently with a battle over Sherlock Holmes, copyrights can sometimes prevent well-meaning fans from showing the depth of their appreciation for a work by becoming creators themselves.”
“These days things that were published before 1978 enjoy copyright protections of up to 95 years, but that wasn’t always the case. Under the rules Congress made before the most recent term extension, rights-holders of older works were protected for just 75 years — at which point the work would enter the public domain and be free for anyone to use or riff upon.”
See the full article for more details: