Public Domain Enhancement Act

From Academic Kids

In the Federal Government of the United States, the Public Domain Enhancement Act (House Bill 2601 for the 108th congress, reintroduced as House Bill 2408 for the 109th congress) (PDEA) is a bill proposed in the United States Congress which, if passed, would add a tax for copyrighted works to retain their copyright status. The purpose of the bill is to make it easier to determine who holds a copyright (by determining the identity of the person who paid the tax), and to allow copyrights which no longer hold the interest of their holders to pass into the public domain.

In the bill's current form, the tax would be a one-time affair, a sum of $1 per work charged 50 years after publication, only on works first published within the United States (as charging it from foreigners would violate the Berne convention except in some interpretations of the Berne three-step test). Failure to pay for three years would allow the work to irreversibly lapse into the public domain; if payment is made, the copyright is extended to the end of the normal maximum term, currently 95 years for a work made for hire.

This bill was first introduced in the House on June 25, 2003 by representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and John T. Doolittle (R-CA) where it went to the House Committee on the Judiciary. On September 4, 2003, it moved to the House Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.

The problem that the law attempts to solve is that contrary to the constitutional intent of copyright, current copyright law sometimes provides a disincentive to create works. This results because the cost of locating the owner of a work can be prohibitive, thereby decreasing the incentive to create derivative works. For works that are still in print, this is usually not a problem, but for works that have fallen out of print, this is often a problem because the original creator may have moved, transferred the rights or died. This causes determining the current copyright holder to be a potentially expensive prospect. The PDEA solves this problem by requiring a small tax to maintain copyright on a work. For works that the original publisher no longer cares about, the copyright will lapse, and so derivatives can be created without permission. For works that the original publisher still wishes to maintain copyright on, potential derivative creators can find out who paid the tax and negotiate with them for permission.

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