WI Congress had no power to make copyright laws

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Quintuplicate, Jan 7, 2019.

  1. Quintuplicate Well-Known Member

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    Nov 20, 2018
    The rest of the Constitution remains the same, except with no Copyright Clause. Would states compete to see who could offer the shortest or the longest copyright terms? Would there be states with no copyright, and others with perpetual copyright? Would films, recordings, and video games be invented earlier or later than IOTL?
     
  2. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Forgottonia, USA
    Inventions would not change. As states developed copyright systems, Congress would simply step in and set up a uniform system. The fact that it is not in the Constitution does not preclude that action. After all, drug and pharmaceutical laws are not mentioned in the Constitution.
     
  3. authenticity Well-Known Member

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    Dec 24, 2018
    Between 1790 and 1976, the US had a dual system of both federal and state law, where the latter provided common law protection of non registered work.

    Now, I'm inclined to say US property laws tend to converge even at a state level. Also, given the US is the #1 proponent of international treaty commitments (first, UCC and Berne Convention; then the myriads of WIPO conventions and WTO TRIPS), it would have to develop some federal competence to sign them. In a world where even Afghanistan signed Berne, I doubt the US would ever allow for a copyright-North Korea inside its own territory.
     
  4. Drizzt Well-Known Member

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    They'd probably argue that the selling of books (and later records, tapes, cds and so on) across state lines allows Congress to pass copyright legislation under the Commerce Clause.
     
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  5. subway dreaming Active Member

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    Mar 23, 2017
    Might SCotUS rule, though, that copyright and patent protections infringe on the freedom of the press guaranteed by the First Amendment?

    (I suppose at that point you’d get big business buying a constitutional amendment to impose a copyright clause.)
     
  6. Mark E. Well-Known Member

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    Nov 11, 2007
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    Copyright law (US) remained a mixed bag until it was modernized in 1978. Before 1909, copyrights could last no more than 42 years (including renewal) and the copyright needed to be granted before publication. So, if a newspaper broke a story, it became public domain as soon as it hit the streets. The 1909 law said the copyright began when the work was published with notice, the circled C being the most common example. It only had to be registered in a timely manner after publication. Those copyrights were granted for 28 years, renewable for another 28. Photographs were subject to copyright but audio recordings, being very crude at the time, were not. The notion was that the sheet music and words could be copyrighted and that was enough.

    By the seventies, the laws changed to include audio. By then, another issue began to emerge. The first movies with sound, Mickey Mouse in particular, was set to enter the public domain in 1984. Disney couldn’t have that, so they lobbied well to rework the copyright laws. In 1978, the rules were modernized. A copyright began as soon as a work was “fixed in tangible form,” including paper, recorded media, and computer disks that had not yet been invented. It was good for life plus 50 years, or 75 years for works done for hire. In 1998, the Sonny-Bono-Mickey-Mouse extension added 20 more years. Currently, works from 1922 and earlier are public domain, as they have been since 1978. Works published in 1923 became public domain after December 31, 2018 and copyrights are again expiring year by year.

    What happens when the copyright on Steamboat Mickey expires in 2024? After all, Mickey Mouse is a trademark, and trademarks can be renewed indefinitely. And what about digitized versions of old works? Any answers?
     
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