Copyright Imperialism


The Australian copyright on Gone With the Wind (published in 1936) expired five years ago, but the U.S. copyright runs until 2031. So when the Australian branch of Project Gutenberg posted the novel online, it received an e-mail message from a law firm representing Margaret Mitchell's estate. Now Gone With the Wind is no longer available at Project Gutenberg of Australia's site. A story in yesterday's New York Times notes that differences in copyright terms combined with Internet publication make such conflicts inevitable. As material such as Elvis and Beatles songs moves into the public domain in some countries, U.S. companies increasingly will try to impose American copyright law on other nations, with the result that our ever-expanding terms will be exported along with our books, songs, and movies. Is there any hope that the international legal competition will work in the opposite direction, with the shorter copyright terms of other countries exerting a restraining influence on Congress?