One issue in copyright mentioned by Hunter has to do with orphan works. Hunter suggests that a way to eliminate these works of which the owner cannot be found is limiting the length of copyright. As it currently stands, the copyright of a work generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 70 years. If the time period of a copyright is shortened, it would reinforce the registration process of copyright. A benefit of this would be allowing authors to renew their copyright multiple times. If the copyright is not renewed, it would fall to the public domain.
Proponents of this idea argue that “low-value copyrights,” including orphan works, would “quickly fall to the public domain to be used by anyone” (Hunter). It is also foreseen that if this reform were to pass, it would foster further creation and ideas (Hunter). US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante proposes shortening the length of copyright to life of the author plus 50 years (Mullin, 2014). She also suggests leaving the current time period open to owners who ask for it (Mullin, 2014). Overall, the greatest reward in shortening the length of copyright is giving society greater access to ideas.
Hunter says that opponents of shortening the length of copyright consist of media and entertainment companies, who already own copyrighted items. There seems to be overwhelming bias towards these big companies, who tend to dominate the world of copyright. One main argument against shortening the length of copyright is the need to renew registration. Currently, “2orks created on or after January 1, 1978, are not subject to renewal registration” (How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?, 2010). There are only a few exceptions to that rule and, for most works, renewal is automatic (How Long Does Copyright Protection Last?, 2010). In addition, there is, of course, the annoyance that goes along with renewal, which is not currently an issue at hand. Others argue that copyright protects an author’s legacy, even after death (Should we shorten the length of copyright protection?).
Ultimately, as Hunter says, the law will most likely remain unchanged for the foreseeable future as a result of the main corporate players in the case. Pallante’s proposal is not aggressive enough to encourage change. However, shortening the length of copyright would benefit society as a whole in terms of generating use and reuse of works and ideas. The use of orphan works is restricted by copyright and if copyrights had to be renewed approximately every 30 years, it would solve this problem. Not only would it release many of these works to the public domain, but it would also help in finding the authors. If this reform were to pass in Congress, creativity in society would expand and copyrighted items worth renewing would become more valued.
How Long Does Copyright Protection Last? (2010, March 10). Retrieved March 19, 2014, from Copyright: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-duration.html
Mullin, J. (2014, March 19). Head of US Copyright Office wants to shorten terms, just barely. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from arstechnica: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/head-of-us-copyright-office-wants-to-shorten-terms-just-barely/
Should we shorten the length of copyright protection?. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from Debate.org: http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-we-shorten-the-length-of-copyright-protection