Mr. Bruce A. Lehman, Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce and Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks

Excerpts of Mr. Lehman’s statement before Congress, September 20, 1995:

The primary reason for changing the copyright term by twenty years would be to bring the U.S. law into conformity with that of the European Union. The European Union (EU) passed a directive that, inter alia, requires each EU Member State to provide copyright protection for a term of life-plus-seventy years by July 1, 1995. A provision in the EU Directive explicitly requires each Member State to implement “the rule of shorter term,” which prohibits any EU Member State from protecting a work originating outside the EU for the entire life-plus-seventy years term unless the country in which the work originated also provides for a term of life-plus-seventy years. Thus, U.S. copyright owners will only be protected for a term of life-plus-fifty years in the EU, while their EU counterparts will be protected for a term of life-plus-seventy years in the EU — unless the U.S. copyright term is extended.

Extending the term of copyright protection by twenty years may also benefit the U.S. economy and, in particular, the U.S. trade balance. Last year, the U.S. copyright industry contributed approximately $40 billion in foreign sales to the U.S. economy. Since the United States is a net exporter of intellectual property products to the European Union and an increase in the U.S. copyright term would extend the copyright term for U.S. works in the European Union, an additional twenty years of protection would likely increase the trade balance of the United States in the long-term.

Once a work falls into the public domain there is no guarantee that the work will be more widely available or cheaper. In fact, there is ample evidence that shows that once a work falls into the public domain it is neither cheaper nor more widely available than most works protected by copyright. One reason quality copies of public domain works are not widely available may be because publishers will not publish a work that is in the public domain for fear that they will not be able to recoup their investment or earn enough profit.

There is also no evidence that once a work falls into the public domain that the work will be less expensive that its copyright counterpart. In fact, the public frequently pays the same for works in the public domain as it does for copyrighted works. Thus, the public may benefit little from a shorter term. The only parties that benefit from a shorter term are the parties who exploit public domain works. An argument could be made that these individuals are not deserving of the commercial windfall from a shorter term as they have not created any new works for the public’s benefit. If anyone is deserving it is the copyright owners because they or their assignors are the ones that have taken the time and effort to create new works for the public to enjoy.

Granting a twenty-year copyright term extension will encourage copyright owners to restore and digitize works that are about to fall into the public domain. This will ensure that many celebrated works are preserved so that future generations can enjoy quality copies of these works. Without a copyright term extension, copyright owners will have little incentive to restore and digitize their works. If many of these works are not restored, they might deteriorate over time and our children would be unable to enjoy these works as we have.

After careful consideration of all factors, the Administration supports the Copyright Term Extension Act.

Mr. Bruce E. Lehman, September 20, 1995


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