Senator Orrin Hatch’s Introduction 0f
The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1997

Mr. President, the purpose of the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1997 is to ensure adequate copyright protection for American works abroad by extending the U.S. term of copyright protection for an additional 20 years. It also includes a provision reversing the Ninth Circuit decision in La Cienega Music Co. v. ZZ Top that calls into question the copyrights of thousands of musical works first distributed on sound recordings.

Except for the La Cienega provision, the substance of this bill is identical to S. 483, the Copyright Term Extension Act, which was passed by the Judiciary Committee on May 23, 1996, with overwhelming bipartisan support. This legislation also has the strong support of the Administration, as expressed by both the Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Bruce Lehman, and the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, in their testimony before the Judiciary Committee in the last Congress.

Twenty years ago, Mr. President, Congress fundamentally altered the way in which the U.S. calculates its term of copyright protection by abandoning a fixed-year term of protection and adopting a basic term of protection based on the life of the author. In adopting the life-plus-50 term, Congress cited three primary justifications for the change. 1) the need to conform the U.S. copyright term with the prevailing worldwide standard; 2) the insufficiency of the U.S. copyright term to provide a fair economic return for authors and their dependents; and, 3) the failure of the U.S. copyright term to keep pace with the substantially increased commercial life of copyrighted works resulting from the rapid growth in communications media.

Developments over the past 20 years have led to a widespread reconsideration of the adequacy of the life-plus-50-year term based on these same reasons. Among the main developments is the effect of demographic trends, such as increasing longevity and the trend toward rearing children later in life, on the effectiveness of the life-plus-50 term to provide adequate protection for American creators and their heirs. In addition, unprecedented growth in technology over the last 20 years, including the advent of digital media and the development of the National Information Infrastructure and the Internet, have dramatically enhanced the marketable lives of creative works. Most importantly, though, is the growing international movement toward the adoption the longer term of life-plus-70.

Thirty-five years ago, the Permanent Committee of the Berne Union began to reexamine the sufficiency of the life-plus-50-year term. Since then, a growing consensus of the inadequacy of the life-plus-50 term to protect creators in an increasingly competitive global marketplace has led to actions by several nations to increase the duration of copyright. Of particular importance is the 1993 directive issued by the European Union, which requires its member countries to implement a term of protection equal to the life of the author plus 70 years by July 1, 1995.

According to the Copyright Office, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Sweden have all notified their laws to the European Commission and the Commission has found them to be in compliance with the EU Directive. Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Austria have each notified their implementing laws to the Commission and are awaiting certification. Other countries are currently in the process of bringing their laws into compliance. And, as the Register of Copyrights has stated, those countries that are seeking to join the European Union, including Poland, Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, are likely to amend their copyright laws to conform with the life-plus-70 standard.

The reason this is of such importance to the United States is that the EU Directive also mandates the application of what is referred to as the rule of the shorter term. This rule may also be applied by adherents to the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention. In short, this rule permits those countries with longer copyright terms to limit protection of foreign works to the shorter term of protection granted in the country of origin. Thus, in those countries that adopt the longer term of life-plus-70, American works will forfeit 20 years of available protection and be protected instead for only the duration of the life-plus-50 term afforded under U.S. law.

Mr. President, I’ve already cited some statistics about the importance of copyright to our national economy. The fact is that America exports more copyrighted intellectual property than any country in the world, a huge percentage of it to nations of the European Union. In fact, intellectual property is our third largest export. And, according to 1994 estimates, copyright industries account for some 5.7 percent of the total gross domestic product. Furthermore, copyright industries are creating American jobs at twice the rate of other industries, with the number of U.S. workers employed by core copyright industries more than doubling between 1977 and 1994. Today, these industries contribute more to the economy and employ more workers than any single manufacturing sector, accounting for nearly 5 percent of the total U.S. workforce. In fact, in 1994, the core copyright industries employed more workers than the four leading noncopyright manufacturing sectors combined.

Clearly, Mr. President, America stands to lose a significant part of its international trading advantage if our copyright laws do not keep pace with emerging international standards. Given the mandated application of the rule of the shorter term under the EU Directive, American works will fall into the public domain 20 years before those of our European trading partners, undercutting our international trading position and depriving copyright owners of two decades of income they might otherwise have. Similar consequences will follow in those nations outside the EU that choose to exercise the rule of the shorter term under the Berne Convention and the Universal Copyright Convention.

Mr. President, adoption of the Copyright Term Extension Act will ensure fair compensation for the American creators whose efforts fuel the intellectual property sector of our economy by allowing American copyright owners to benefit to the fullest extent from foreign uses and will, at the same time, ensure that our trading partners do not get a free ride from their use of our intellectual property. And, as stated very simply by the Register of Copyrights in her testimony before the Judiciary Committee in the last Congress: ‘[i]t does appear that at some point in the future the standard will be life plus 70. The question is at what point does the United States move to this term. As a leading creator and exporter of copyrighted works, the United States should not wait until it is forced to increase the term, rather it should set an example for other countries.’

Mr. President, this bill is of crucial importance to our Nation’s copyright owners and to our economy. It is also a balanced approach. It contains a provision, allowing the actual creators of copyrighted works in certain circumstances to bargain for the extra 20 years, except in the case of works made for hire. The libraries and archives, too, will be pleased to see that the bill provides them with additional latitude to reproduce and distribute material during the extension term, and it does not extend the copyright term for certain works that were unpublished at the time of the effective date of the 1976 act. This latter provision means that libraries and archives will be able to go forward with their plans to publish those unpublished works in 2003, the year after the current guaranteed term for unpublished works expires.

Senator Orrin Hatch, March 20, 1997


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