Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Stateside With Rosalea - Mickey vs Mouse

Stateside With Rosalea - Mickey vs Mouse

I really do wonder what I used to do to amuse myself before the Internet. Last week, curious about an icon with a large E inside a square, I clicked through to find myself squarely back in the eighteenth century. Article 1 Section 8 of the US Consititution, to be precise, where one of the powers given Congress was: "To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

Copyrights and patents. Seems like a straightforward enough paragraph, doesn't it, but "limited times" has been the source of some debate through the years. There have been three main US Copyright Acts, the first in 1909, which gave up to 56 years of protection; the second in 1976, which extended and changed the term to life of the author plus 50 years; and in 1998 the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which extended the term of existing and future copyrights by another 20 years.

The big E icon is being carried on many websites because of a case in the US Supreme Court that challenges the 1998 Act. On October 9, 2002, oral argument was heard in Eric Eldred, et al. v. John D. Ashcroft, Attorney General. The petitioners submit that "such a blanket extension of existing terms exceeds Congress's power under the Copyright Clause and it violates the First Amendment." The First Amendment is to do with the right to free speech.

This is the very stuff that Supreme Courts are made of - challenges to state and federal laws about their unconstitutionality. If you're interested in how much time can be spent trying to interpret what a bunch of guys meant a couple of hundred years ago, you can download the 50-page oral argument from The oral argument is only to get the case submitted to the Supreme Court. A ruling is likely in spring 2003.

One of the arguments put forward by the attorney for the petitioners is not that longer copyrights impede progress, but that if Congress can keep changing the length of the copyright protection, then the "limited times" referred to in the Constitution, have effectively become "unlimited times." The Solicitor General's argument on behalf of John Ashcroft is that the Constitution granted power to Congress to exercise its judgment as to what may be benificial.

Another of the main features of the arguments is to do with whether Congress can justifiably make the copyright extension apply to works already in existence. Which is where Mickey Mouse comes in. Walt Disney died in 1966. Under the 1909 law his works would have come out of copyright in 1994. Because the 1976 law was applied retrospectively, that extended the term until 2016 (life plus 50). The 1998 law extended it to 2036, and who knows what law might be passed in the future to extend it yet again.

The big E site is at and a quick link to the US Copyright Act itself is at If you've forgotten what Mickey Mouse looks like take a look at this newly unveiled Alaska Air plane -


© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news