United States non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term

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The #Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term in the USA Petition has be closed out of http://www.petitiononline.com/ at 02:00 on 2 October 2010 (UTC) due to low popularity and the failure of the website there to protect petition starters from email spams by requiring the public display of their emails. Please read #Adaptation to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term to see how to adapt to the current situation while the constitutionality is not fully clear.


Wikimedia projects must abide by United States copyright laws because of the location of the servers in the U.S. state of Florida; however, not all aspects of that law are clear, and this article discusses one of those unclear aspects. Even though Wikimedia plans to move its office to San Francisco, California, USA, the main cluster of Wikimedia servers will remain in Tampa, Florida, USA.

The commonly known as the rule of the shorter term for international copyright protection is found in the Berne convention, art. 7-8:

"the term shall be governed by the legislation of the country where protection is claimed; however, unless the legislation of that country otherwise provides, the term shall not exceed the term fixed in the country of origin of the work."

This rule says that PD-old material (according to the publishing country) is PD-old everywhere, unless national (eg: US) law explicitly says the contrary. What is the US law on this subject, and does it provide a "shorter term exception"?

Current U.S. copyright laws, under 17 U.S.C. 104(c) and 17 U.S.C. §104A, seem not to accept the rule of the shorter term, creating confusions for users wishing to post foreign works and putting burdens on administrators who must verify if a work is in fact copyrighted in the United States even if it has already been in the public domain in the country of original publication.

US position on foreign copyright[edit]

Historical background[edit]

Historically, the US position has been not to apply this rule of shorter term in the conventions in which it was a member. This is the origin of the phrase "The United States has never applied the rule of the shorter term", which is 100% correct if it is specifically completed by "as it is defined by the Buenos Aires Convention and Universal Copyright Convention". Under those conventions, the rule of shorter term had to be explicit, and the USA never considered implementing it.

The fact is that for Berne adhesion, the "rule of shorter term" has not been considered by the US congressional discussions, according to the House report on the BCIA. The points discussed in the report are largely political and economical (GATT constraints), the two "technical" legal issues being (1) not to let "moral rights" (to which US had no experience) get out of hand, and (2) make sure no constitutional problem would arise (the constitution says the president signs treaties, but says the congress has authority on intellectual property rights), thus justifying this insistence on "non self-application of the Berne convention" (see Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988). The question of "F. Retroactivity and the public domain" has indeed been addressed in a half-a-page section, but the conclusion was that since nothing was mandatory (Berne Art. 18-2) things were left untouched ("The public domain is neither expanded nor reduced"); and the conclusion was "Title 17, United States Code, as amended by this Act, does not provide copyright protection for any work that is in the public domain in the United States". At that point, the US position with respect to the "rule of shorter term" had not been discussed at all: since the rule was optional, and the USA wanted a minimal legislation change (House report), it was considered secondary (and was useless anyhow). The difference between the UCC shorter term (explicit) and the Berne version (implicit) probably went unnoticed, and was unnoticed until recently (see Patry's comments).

The restoration of copyright introduced by the NAFTA implementation act was initially limited to motion pictures (introduction of "‘§ 104A. Copyright in certain motion pictures"). The Uruguay Round Agreements Act then generalized the restoration to "Copyright in restored works", with effect from January 1, 1995 [§ 514(a)]. In those acts, the "rule of shorter term" was not considered. But the indirect effect was that because of the unequal protection term previously introduced by United States Code/Title 17/Chapter 3, work created before 1978 could have a longer protection term than that given in the country of origin, even before the Copyright Term Extension Act added twenty years of protection:

  1. Those published from 1923 to 1977 would be copyrighted for 75 years since publication.
  2. Those published since 1978 would be copyrighted for:
    Lifetime plus 50 years for individuals (Berne minimum), or
    The shorter term of 75 years since publication or 100 years since creation for corporate works.

Political and constitutional aspects[edit]

The reason why the rule of shorter term was an unimportant point is that the USA historically had not been in a position to use it anyway: the USA had the minimal protection term required in all conventions it was part. The USA may have been a victim of the "rule of shorter term", but was not in a position to use it, apart from marginal cases with no economical importance (private photographs, for instance). The situation changed with the Copyright Term Extension Act (1998): The "rule of shorter term" went into discussion, because the USA was a victim of it, and it had an economical importance (the protection of Disney works). "The purpose of the bill is to ensure adequate copyright protection for American works in foreign nations and the continued economic benefits of a healthy surplus balance of trade in the exploitation of copyrighted works. The bill accomplishes these goals by extending the current U.S. copyright term for an additional 20 years. Such an extension will provide significant trade benefits by substantially harmonizing U.S. copyright law to that of the European Union".

This has been the constant policy of the USA: "Since the United States runs a positive balance of trade for copyrighted items, Berne membership should contribute to a continuation of that net advantage. [...] The net benefits will flow to American authors and to the American public." and "American popular culture and information products have become precious export commodities of immense economic value. That value is badly eroded by low international copyright standards. Berne standards are both high, reasonable and widely accepted internationally. Lending our prestige and power to the international credibility of those standards will promote development of acceptable copyright regimes in bilateral and multilateral contexts. Ultimately, a strong and viable international legal regime will develop to the benefit of the United States, not only to the advantage of proprietary interests but also to the public good." (House report on BCIA).

Such economical justification is needed, because the US constitution states that "[t]he Congress shall have Power [...] to Promote the Progress of Science and Useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their Writing and Discoveries." (US Const. §1-8). A copyright regulation that would exceed this limit would be unconstitutional.

<<The Constitution does not establish copyrights, but simply provides that Congress has the power to grant such rights if and as it thinks best. As this Committee observed during the 1909 revision of the copyright law, [n]ot primarily for the benefit of the author, but primarily for the benefit of the public, such rights are given. This statement still rings true today. Recently, the Supreme Court confirmed its validity by stating that the monopoly privileges that Congress may confer on creators of intellectual property are neither unlimited nor primarily designed to provide a special private benefit. Rather, the limited grant is a means by which an important public purpose may be achieved. Stated otherwise, the primary objective of our copyright laws is not to reward the author, but rather to secure for the public the benefits from the creations of authors.>> (House report on BCIA)

Furthermore, this constitutional provision implies that treaties on copyrights cannot be self-executing in the USA. Because the president "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties" (US Const. §2-2) but intellectual property is a congress prerogative, there must be a legislative act to enforce the treaty:

""'Pursuant to the United States Constitution, treaties are the supreme law of the land. As such, they supersede prior laws with which they conflict. Some treaties are self-executing: once ratified, they take effect without additional governmental action. Other treaties are not self-executing, and they take effect only after additional governmental action, such as implementing legislation passed by the Congress and signed by the President. While the failure to enact necessary implementing legislation may place a country in violation of its international obligations, the terms of the treaty itself generally do not supersede existing laws that conflict." (House report on BCIA).

These considerations led to the USC 104-c formulation on "Effect of Berne convention", on which William Patry commented "Since U.S. courts have been expressly told by the U.S. Congress not to apply Berne, but to apply title 17, that's what they do". Such an interpretation is excessive: Justice is independent in the USA, and s:Constitution of the United States of America#Article VI states that "all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby". While a judge would have an interpretation problem if the Congress failed to fulfil a treaty obligation, there is no objection to consider the treaty as an interpretation source for the Congress legal implementation of it.

Legal situation[edit]

Transposition of Berne convention in the United States Code

Copyrighted material published in Berne treaty parties is also protected in the USA - This is mandatory for the USA, according to Berne convention art. 5 which says "Authors shall enjoy, in respect of works for which they are protected under this Convention, in countries of the Union other than the country of origin, the rights which their respective laws do now or may hereafter grant to their nationals, as well as the rights specially granted by this Convention.". Accordingly, 17 U.S.C. 104-b states that:

"The works specified by sections 102 and 103, when published, are subject to protection under this title if— [...] (2) the work is first published [...] in a foreign nation that, on the date of first publication, is a treaty party; [...]"

Berne convention art. 5-2 states that : "apart from the provisions of this Convention, the extent of protection, as well as the means of redress afforded to the author to protect his rights, shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the country where protection is claimed". When a protection is given to artistic or intellectual work by US law, this protection cannot be extended or restricted in the USA because of the Berne convention. Accordingly, 17 U.S.C. 104(c) says that Berne convention does not interfere with US laws:

"Any rights in a work eligible for protection under this title that derive from this title, other Federal or State statutes, or the common law, shall not be expanded or reduced by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto."
Priority of interpretation

The catch is that the Berne convention has provisions pertaining to the duration (art. 7) whereas USC does not mention them, making it unclear whether the provisions of the Berne convention nevertheless apply to the term of protection, when the work was first published outside the USA.

  • It may be argued that in this sentence, USC does not consider the Berne Convention superior to the American law, whatever the aspect of the protection: where the Berne treaty would have required the USC to provide for a specific "shorter term exception", in order to lengthen the term of protection, this sentence says that US law applies.
  • It may also be argued that this sentence can be interpreted with consideration to the parallel sentence in the Berne convention, which clearly says that the local law rules the matter, except for the rule of the shorter term, for which the exception cannot be implicit.

Both interpretation have some coherence: If US law has priority before internal jurisdictions, whatever the Berne convention says, then USC17-104-17-c means that when an interpretation conflict is found, the USA chooses not to respect its international conventions. If the USA is supposed to respect its international conventions, then USC17-104-17-c is simply the national implementation of Berne convention art. 5-2, and should be interpreted in the light of it.

Protection of work first published outside the USA

The duration of legal protection is the matter of USC 17-3. This section gives no indication on how to handle the case when the work was first published outside the USA, and its protection duration is not the same abroad: the duration may be at most the one of the country of original publication (following Berne's convention), or at most the one given by USC 17-3, if an explicit rule is given.

To make things even worse, when the USA signed the Berne convention, work previously PD in the USA had to be protected back, because of this new international obligation. Material in this situation are so-called "restored works", subject of Section 104A, which provides automatic copyright in restored works for the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States:

"Any work in which copyright is restored under this section shall subsist for the remainder of the term of copyright that the work would have otherwise been granted in the United States if the work never entered the public domain in the United States."

In this latter case, there is indeed an explicit rule that applies to foreign material. This rule may be considered as a "shorter term exception", though it is unclear whether it was meant to create such an exception: which protection duration would have been granted to a work first published outside the USA? Under which hypothesis? Two different interpretations may be considered:

  • The work could have been protected because of US copyright alone, as though the necessary original copyright notice and copyright renewal had been made. In that case, "Works Published Abroad Before 1978 Without Compliance with US Formalities" gains the same protection as "Work published in the US", because of Section 104A, and is likely to be protected 95 years after publication date. This is the interpretation of Peter B. Hirtle
  • The work could have been protected because the USA could have given the protection required by the Berne convention from the very beginning. In that case, if no special provision is made for foreign material, the "rule of shorter term" applies.
Is there a "Shorter term exception"?

It may be argued, then, that the USC rejects the rule of shorter term. This interpretation may be based on the idea that USC has explicit priority on USA's international conventions (17 U.S.C. 104-c), or that this exception is (for some obscure reason) limited to material subject of Section 104A (that fell into public domain in the US while being protected in the country of origin).

Or, it may be argued that the provisions found in USC simply follow the Berne convention, and cannot therefore be interpreted as an exception to the rule of shorter term.

Whatever the interpretation, the USC is unclear, and this leads to a juridical risk.

Why is this a major problem?[edit]

This means that works published outside the USA with expired or no copyright in their source countries on January 1, 1996 are also in the public domain in the USA. However, if a work published outside the USA was copyrighted on January 1, 1996 in its source country (later dates for certain countries and areas according to w:en:Wikipedia:Non-US_copyrights#Dates_of_restoration_and_terms_of_protection), it might be legally copyrighted in the USA for the following term even if its copyright has expired sooner in its source country, according to Peter B. Hirtle:

  1. Those published from 1923 to 1977 would be copyrighted for 95 years since publication.
  2. Those published since 1978 would be copyrighted for:
    Lifetime plus 70 years for individuals, or
    The shorter term of 95 years since publication or 120 years since creation for corporate works.

With American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term, users of Wikimedia sites have to determine if a work, especially an image, is legally copyrighted in the USA even if it is in the public domain in the country or area where they are from. In case a work is legally copyrighted in the USA even if the owners of the restored USA copyright cannot be readily contacted, claiming fair use pursuant to 17 U.S.C. 107 may be possible at some but not all Wiki sites. Should a work be legally copyrighted in the USA without valid fair use claim, administrators may have to delete it. As some users outside the USA may not be aware of the American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term, such a problem would increase the burden of administrators and impede the development of Wiki sites.

Orphan works[edit]

American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term involves orphan works in even more negative impacts. Orphan works involve copyright owners who can no longer be easily contacted. Even works published within the USA may be orphan so by the time when their copyrights expire, they may have been lost. When the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years of copyright protection without regard to orphan works or the rule of the shorter term, orphan works published anywhere would be legally copyrighted in the USA for excessive term. Even though 17 U.S.C. 108 allows non-commercial reproduction by libraries and archives under certain circumstances, Wikimedia websites with contents to be licensed under GFDL cannot apply this even to orphan works. The Public Domain Enhancement Act would require copyright renewal registrations for a low fee 50 years after publication in the USA or to release orphan works into the public domain at least in the USA, but it has never been voted on.

Official works[edit]

Official texts, as defined in Article 2(4) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, are texts of a legislative, administrative and legal nature and the official (but not private) translations of such texts. The Convention indicates that it shall be left to the discretion of each member country of the Berne Convention to determine the protection to be granted to such official texts in that country.

Even American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term may copyright non-USA works in the USA even if they are now in the public domain in the source countries, § 206.01 of the Compendium II: Copyright Office Practices reads:

"Edicts of government, such as judicial opinions, administrative rulings, legislative enactments, public ordinances, and similar official legal documents are not copyrightable for reasons of public policy. This applies to such works whether they are Federal, State, or local as well as to those of foreign governments."

With this USA Copyright Office Practice, American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term should not extend foreign governmental copyrights on edicts of governments once they enter the public domain in source countries. However, as such a practice does not cancel any governmental copyright in their source countries, Wiki site users should still respect non-USA governmental copyrights before copying copyrighted official texts.

The negative impacts on various Wiki sites[edit]

American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term negatively impacts all kinds of Wiki sites. Wiki sites that cannot claim fair use are even more vulnerable to those that can. Even if fair use can be claimed on images and media that are in the public domain in their source countries but legally copyrighted in the USA, they must be uploaded to each Wiki site eligible to claim fair use but never Wikimedia Commons or Wikisource.

If your Wiki site is missing from here, please feel free to add how American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term may impact your site.

Wikipedia[edit]

Some but not all subdomains of Wikipedia allow fair use as most users of certain subdomains are from countries and areas forbidding fair-use images. Claiming fair use often requires a good rationale so subsequent users of Wikipedia contents can also claim fair use without violating CC-BY-SA-3.0 and GFDL.

Most users of English Wikipedia are from the USA. Copyright tags such as w:Template:PD-old-50 are very vulnerable to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term, but English Wikipedia allows fair use with good rationales.

Wiktionary[edit]

Bare facts, including very simple dictionary definitions and translations, are not copyrightable because of the merger principle. However, claiming fair use in Wiktionary is a tricky matter though rarely necessary. Users wishing to exercise this option should carefully check the USA copyright status before copying contents of old dictionaries.

Wikisource[edit]

Since Wikisource articles are to collect others' published works in full, claiming fair use is impractical even though not all language subdomains have expressly prohibited it, thus often considered de facto prohibited.

After English Wikisource users have found American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term, Template:PD-1996 has been created as Template:PD-old-50 and Template:PD-old-60 (useful for India and Venezuela) are not automatically good.

American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term should have no effect to s:Template:PD-EdictGov, but English Wikisource excludes edicts of non-American governments from this template while considering users from many English-speaking countries copyrighting governmental works, such as Canada and the United Kingdom.

As most works in Chinese language have been published in China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan (sometimes collectively known as Greater China) where the usual copyright term is lifetime plus 50 years, it sounds simple for Chinese Wikisource. However, the theory of American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term has caused major negative impacts, so some works in the public domain in Greater China might have to be deleted if legally copyrighted in the USA. Works by Chinese, Hong Kong, Macanese, and Taiwanese authors who died in or before 1945 are fine, but those who died later might have their works affected.

Wikiquote[edit]

Wikiquote quotes notable quotations. Even though the sources may be copyrighted, limited quotations may qualify for fair use. For works in the public domain in their source countries but legally copyrighted in the USA, fair use is still possible, but making the USA accept the rule of the shorter term will be much more secure. Already published quotes in the public domain may be copied into Wikiquote. However, users are cautioned not to copy others' published quotes that are copyrighted with creative compilations, as French Wikiquote was once closed and erased for major copyright problems.

Wikimedia Commons[edit]

Since Wikimedia Commons is to collect images and media with free-use licenses including public domain, claiming fair use is impractical and thus prohibited. American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term would force users to make complicated copyright determinations. Uploading images affected by American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term to Wikipedia subdomains with fair use rationale for the USA is a safe way, but local Wikis have to reopen local uploads to allow this. Should the USA accept the rule of the shorter term, they can be transwikied to Commons with CommonsHelper tool so the original uploading logs will be kept.

Meanwhile, commons:Template:Not-PD-US-URAA is for images affected by American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term, yet there are no plans to make massive deletions that will affect many local Wikis.

Wikispecies[edit]

Primarily, Wikispecies use binomial nomenclature for species classification. Since such classification are in public domain, rule of the shorter term has no effect on Wikispecies navigation. However, some articles have images. All of these images are from Wikimedia Commons so the rule of the shorter term could have an impact on image usages.

Action alert[edit]

There are now many countries and areas accepting the rule of the shorter term, including but not limited to most European Union member states and several non-European states. The USA opting out of the rule of the shorter term impedes cultural development, including development of Wikimedia web sites.

A petition to the United States Congress members has been made here to urge them to accept the rule of the shorter term, but it will be closed out of http://www.petitiononline.com/ around 1 October 2010 due to low popularity.

Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term in the USA Petition[edit]

To: Members of the United States Congress

When 17 U.S.C. 104(c) does not consider the Berne Convention superior to the American law, it reads: "Any rights in a work eligible for protection under this title that derive from this title, ......, shall not be expanded or reduced by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto." When 17 U.S.C. 104A since January 1, 1996 started automatic copyright restoration in many works created or published outside the United States, it granted American copyright term without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. These would make certain works published outside the USA copyrighted in the USA even if their copyrights in their source countries have expired earlier. When the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years of copyright term, those non-American works could remained copyrighted in the USA for even longer term.

There are many works whose copyright holders can no longer be easily contacted. These works are now known as orphan works. Whilst they continue to be legally copyrighted even if their commercial values have been abandoned, the public cannot legally reuse them other than claiming fair use. These problems are impeding cultural developments.

As the server of various Wikimedia projects is physically located in Florida, USA, all users of these projects are subject to Title 17 of the United States Code concerning copyright. Without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention to release non-American works into the public domain when their copyrights expire in their source countries, Wikimedia websites users are unfairly denied the rights to legally contribute information that is free to use in their home countries. This is why we, the undersigned users and supporters of various Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, and Meta-Wiki, are writing to you.

Section 8 of Article I of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the power 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. As we see no progress of science and useful arts by denying the rule of the shorter term, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to consider a major change to the USA Copyright Act.

We would like to kindly ask the Congress to amend Title 17, United States Code, Sections 104(c) and 104A to honor the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention, so once the copyright of a work published outside the USA expires in its source country, its copyright also expires in the USA. The European Union, a major trading partner of the USA, and many other countries and areas, have honored the rule of the shorter term, so we see no more good reasons for the USA to stay out of this important rule.

To truly promote the progress of science and useful arts, copyright protection and public domain must be balanced. As the American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term is now in the way of the progress of cultural development, science and useful arts, please consider our important suggestion. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Notes for the latest petition[edit]

The above petition is the latest one at http://www.petitiononline.com/rrstusa/ accepting signatures. Users encoding UTF-8 may see "17�U.S.C.�104A", but this is strictly an accidental problem, so please do not feel discouraged from signing it. Users encoding Western (ISO 8859-1) will not see the problem. When the petition is delivered, the problem will be excluded.

Action plan[edit]

Before gathering signatures from users and supporters of Wikimedia websites, a discussion was held to decide if the petition should be changed in any way. Signatures are now accepted through http://www.petitiononline.com/wikirrst/ where "wikirrst" means "WIKI's Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term".

However, due to low popularity, a shortened petition is now live at http://www.petitiononline.com/rrstusa/ by deleting the Public Domain Enhancement Act. An update notice is posted at the older petition.

In addition to low popularity, the older and longer petition with the Public Domain Enhancement Act will both be closed out of http://www.petitiononline.com/ around 1 October 2010 due to the failure of the website there to protect petition starters from email spams by requiring the public display of their emails. After that, signatures will no longer be accepted there.

Adaptation to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term[edit]

American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term does not mean the end of the world for Wiki site users. As it takes time before the USA Congress ever amends the Copyright Act, knowing how to adapt to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term is also important for now.

Wiki sites able to claim fair use may apply good rationales to use non-USA works copyrighted in the USA even if they are now in the public domain in the source countries. If your site disables local image uploading, it may be needed to enable it when Wikimedia Commons cannot accept non-USA works copyrighted in the USA.

Wiki sites unable able to claim fair use should consider listing and linking but not displaying non-USA works that are copyrighted in the USA even if they are now in the public domain in the source countries.

If any users can contact foreign authors or their successors to ask whether they will pursue USA copyright even if they can no longer copyright their works in their source countries, please forward any replies to permissions at wikimedia dot org so those with OTRS access can review any evidence of copyright permission. A positive example is the British Crown Copyright expiring world-wide.

Opening separate websites outside the USA to host non-USA works copyrighted in the USA may be possible, but they do not belong to the Wikimedia Foundation. For example, Wikilivres is hosted in Canada and not subject to American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term. Six Wikisource language subdomains have designated Canadian Wikilivres as the alternate website.

How to sign the petition[edit]

This section will cease to apply when the petition will be closed out of http://www.petitiononline.com/ around 1 October 2010.

  1. The texts of the new and old petitions copied from here are at http://www.petitiononline.com/rrstusa/ formerly http://www.petitiononline.com/wikirrst/ with links to sign it or to view the signatures without signing. They are released under the GNU Free Documentation License, but Petitiononline.com does not allow easy declaration of licensing there.
  2. Petitiononline.com requires signatories to enter their names and email addresses.
  3. Using usernames at various Wikimedia websites may not be effective.
  4. "Comments" and "City, state/province, post code, country" are optional fields to be entered. However, please consider entering something rather than nothing.
    Signatories can be from any countries or areas in the world. Entering where you are from, no matter how brief, should be better than leaving it blank.
  5. "United States voter?" is an optional field. You may click "Yes", "No", or leave it blank, but signatories who are United States voters, even if being USA citizens living outside the USA, should check "Yes" to show Members of the United States Congress that they mean business.
  6. Wikimedia does not operate petitiononline.com so policies such as privacy policies are different.
  7. Contributions to petitiononline.com are not automatically released under the GNU Free Documentation License or anything similar, but once again, the texts of our Petitions are released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Periodic reports[edit]

The old petition was opened to signatories at http://www.petitiononline.com/wikirrst/ on 1 May 2007.

As of 1 June 2007 at 06:30 UTC, there are 64 signatures. Only 17 have answered being United States voters. 37 have answered not being United States voters. Having more valid signatures will be better.

As of 3 July 2007 at 14:00 UTC, there are 135 signatures. Among the new signatories, only 8 have answered being United States voters and 53 have answered not being United States voters. More United States voters are needed to sign the petition to better influence the United states Congress.

As of 1 August 2007 at 16:00 UTC, there are 139 signatures. Among the new signatories, 3 have answered being United States voters and 1 has answered not being a United States voter. Having only four new signatories in a month is too few.

As of 3 September 2007 at 12:00 (UTC), there are 145 signatures. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 3 have answered not being United States voters. There have been only six new signatories in a month.

As of 6 October 2007 at 02:30 (UTC), there are 151 signatures. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 4 have answered not being United States voters. There have been only six new signatories in a month.

As of 5 November 2007 at 16:00 (UTC), there are 154 signatures. Among the new signatories, all 3 have answered not being United States voters. Due to low popularity, a shortened petition may be prepared soon.

As of 2 December 2007 at 03:00 (UTC), there are 161 signatures. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 5 have answered not being United States voters.

As of 6 January 2008 at 22:00 (UTC), there are 166 signatures. Among the new signatories, all 4 have answered not being United States voters, and 1 did not answer.

As of 11 February 2008 at 04:23 (UTC), there are 170 signatures. Among the new signatories, all 4 have answered not being United States voters.

As of 5 March 2008 at 02:00 (UTC), there are 176 signatures. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 4 have answered not being United States voters.

As of 1 April 2008 at 02:40 (UTC), there are 178 signatures. Among the new signatories, both have answered not being United States voters.

As of 5 May 2008 at 01:10 (UTC), there are 185 signatories. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 3 have answered not being United States voters. This low number shortly after the anniversary of the petition warrants the new and shortened one.

As of 2 June 2008 at 04:01 (UTC), there are 187 signatories. Among the new signatories, both have answered not being United States voters.

As of 1 July 2008 at 03:00 (UTC), there are 190 signatories. Among the new signatories, 1 has answered being United States voters and 2 have answered not being United States voters.

As of 2 August 2008 at 01:37 (UTC), there are 196 signatories. Among the new signatories, all 4 have answered not being United States voters. Meanwhile, the newer petition is live at http://www.petitiononline.com/rrstusa/ .

As of 3 September 2008 at 03:00 (UTC), there are 199 signatories in the old petition and 3 signatories in the new petition.

As of 16 November 2008 at 00:31 (UTC), there are 206 signatories in the old petition and 3 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories, 2 have answered being United States voters and 5 have answered not being United States voters.

As of 2 December 2008 at 01:00 (UTC), there are 209 signatories in the old petition and 3 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories, all have answered not being United States voters.

As of 12 January 2009 at 21:21 (UTC), there are 215 signatories in the old petition and 4 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories, all have answered not being United States voters.

As of 3 August 2009 at 02:00 (UTC), there are 240 signatories in the old petition and 7 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories in the old petition, 2 has answered being United States voter and 18 have answered not being United States voters. Among the new signatories in the new petition, 1 has answered being United States voter and 1 has answered not being United States voter.

As of 2 May 2010 at 20:13 (UTC), there are 252 signatories in the old petition and 9 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories in the old petition, 3 has answered being United States voter and 8 have answered not being United States voters. Among the new signatories in the new petition, 1 has answered being United States voter and 1 has answered not being United States voter.

As of 20 September 2010 at 01:30 (UTC), there are 254 signatories in the old petition and 9 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories in the old petition, 1 has answered being United States voter.

As of 2 October 2010 at 01:50 (UTC), there are 255 signatories in the old petition and 9 signatories in the new petition. Among the new signatories in the petitions, none has answered being or not being United States voter. Both petitions are now closed to new signatures due to low popularity.

Petition changes[edit]

To: Members of the United States Congress

When 17 U.S.C. 104(c) does not consider the Berne Convention superior to the American law, it reads: "Any rights in a work eligible for protection under this title that derive from this title, ......, shall not be expanded or reduced by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto." When 17 U.S.C. 104A since January 1, 1996 started automatic copyright restoration in many works created or published outside the United States, it granted American copyright term without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. These would make certain works published outside the USA copyrighted in the USA even if their copyrights in their source countries have expired earlier. When the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years of copyright term, those non-American works could remained copyrighted in the USA for even longer term.

There are many works whose copyright holders can no longer be easily contacted. These works are now known as orphan works. Whilst they continue to be legally copyrighted even if their commercial values have been abandoned, the public cannot legally reuse them other than claiming fair use. These problems are impeding cultural developments.

As the server of various Wikimedia projects is physically located in Florida, USA, all users of these projects are subject to Title 17 of the United States Code concerning copyright. Without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention to release non-American works into the public domain when their copyrights expire in their source countries, Wikimedia websites users are unfairly denied the rights to legally contribute information that is free to use in their home countries. This is why we, the undersigned users and supporters of various Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, and Wikimedia Commons, Wikispecies, and Meta-Wiki, are writing to you.

Section 8 of Article I of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the power 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. As we see no progress of science and useful arts by denying the rule of the shorter term and extending the copyright term without regard to orphan works, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to consider some major changes a major change to the USA Copyright Act.

First, we We would like to kindly ask the Congress to amend Title 17, United States Code, Sections 104(c) and 104A to honor the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention, so once the copyright of a work published outside the USA expires in its source country, its copyright also expires in the USA. The European Union, a major trading partner of the USA, and many other countries and areas, have honored the rule of the shorter term, so we see no more good reasons for the USA to stay out of this important rule.

Second, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to reintroduce and reconsider the Public Domain Enhancement Act. (Please see http://eldred.cc/ .) This Act, first introduced as House Bill 2601 for the United States 108th Congress and reintroduced as House Bill 2408 for the 109th Congress, would require American copyright owners to pay a very low fee such as one US dollar per work fifty years after publishing works in the USA and ten years thereafter to renew their copyrights until the end of the copyright term. Paying to register copyright renewals would allow the public to identify copyright owners to seek permission, but failure to pay such a low fee would release the orphan works into the public domain at least in the USA.

To truly promote the progress of science and useful arts, copyright protection and public domain must be balanced. As the American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term and copyright extension are is now in the way of the progress of cultural development, science and useful arts, please consider these important suggestions our important suggestion. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Older Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term Petition[edit]

To: Members of the United States Congress

When 17 U.S.C. 104(c) does not consider the Berne Convention superior to the American law, it reads: "Any rights in a work eligible for protection under this title that derive from this title, ......, shall not be expanded or reduced by virtue of, or in reliance upon, the provisions of the Berne Convention, or the adherence of the United States thereto." When 17 U.S.C. 104A since January 1, 1996 started automatic copyright restoration in many works created or published outside the United States, it granted American copyright term without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. These would make certain works published outside the USA copyrighted in the USA even if their copyrights in their source countries have expired earlier. When the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years of copyright term, those non-American works could remained copyrighted in the USA for even longer term.

There are many works whose copyright holders can no longer be easily contacted. These works are now known as orphan works. Whilst they continue to be legally copyrighted even if their commercial values have been abandoned, the public cannot legally reuse them other than claiming fair use. These problems are impeding cultural developments.

As the server of various Wikimedia projects is physically located in Florida, USA, all users of these projects are subject to Title 17 of the United States Code concerning copyright. Without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention to release non-American works into the public domain when their copyrights expire in their source countries, Wikimedia websites users are unfairly denied the rights to legally contribute information that is free to use in their home countries. This is why we, the undersigned users and supporters of various Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, and Wikimedia Commons, are writing to you.

Section 8 of Article I of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the power 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. As we see no progress of science and useful arts by denying the rule of the shorter term and extending the copyright term without regard to orphan works, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to consider some major changes to the USA Copyright Act.

First, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to amend Title 17, United States Code, Sections 104(c) and 104A to honor the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention, so once the copyright of a work published outside the USA expires in its source country, its copyright also expires in the USA. The European Union, a major trading partner of the USA, and many other countries and areas, have honored the rule of the shorter term, so we see no more good reasons for the USA to stay out of this important rule.

Second, we would like to kindly ask the Congress to reintroduce and reconsider the Public Domain Enhancement Act. (Please see http://eldred.cc/ .) This Act, first introduced as House Bill 2601 for the United States 108th Congress and reintroduced as House Bill 2408 for the 109th Congress, would require American copyright owners to pay a very low fee such as one US dollar per work fifty years after publishing works in the USA and ten years thereafter to renew their copyrights until the end of the copyright term. Paying to register copyright renewals would allow the public to identify copyright owners to seek permission, but failure to pay such a low fee would release the orphan works into the public domain at least in the USA.

To truly promote the progress of science and useful arts, copyright protection and public domain must be balanced. As the American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term and copyright extension are now in the way of the progress of cultural development, science and useful arts, please consider these important suggestions. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

Related petitions[edit]

The following petitions concerning copyright and the public domain may also be of interest of Wikimedia users to sign:

  1. Reclaim the Public Domain Petition and our older Petition overlap regarding the Public Domain Enhancement Act, so ours may have been unpopular. When signing our newer Petition, please consider signing this one if you still support the Public Domain Enhancement Act, especially once our older petition is locked out.
  2. Abolish the Digital Millenium Copyright Act Petition
  3. Abandonware Petition
  4. M.R.A. Platform Petition

Side letter to the Walt Disney Company[edit]

To whom it may concern at the Walt Disney Company:

The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 would copyright many works of yours for 20 more years. However, you might not have been aware of others' works whose authors can no longer be easily contacted for copyright permission. They are orphan works.

When 17 U.S.C. 104A since January 1, 1996 started automatic copyright restoration in many works created or published outside the United States, it granted American copyright term without honoring the rule of the shorter term provided in Article 7.8 of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Your extensive lobbying efforts for the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 would prevent Americans from readily reusing non-American works that are legally copyrighted in the USA even if they are in the public domain in their source countries. It is sometimes hard to contact non-American authors.

Within the USA, your extensive lobbying efforts for the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 would also prevent Americans from readily reusing domestic works whose copyrights are abandoned.

Furthermore, as the server of various Wikimedia projects is physically located in Florida, USA, all users of these projects are subject to Title 17 of the United States Code concerning copyright. The preceding reasons are why we, the users and supporters of of various Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, and Wikimedia Commons, are writing to you. To address the preceding problems, we are currently gathering signatures for the Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term Petition. Please see http://www.petitiononline.com/wikirrst/ . It is to be sent to the Members of the United States Congress.

As your works like Mickey Mouse are from the USA, we consider that you should definitely support us to reclaim the rule of the shorter term with respect to non-American works as this effort will not affect your profitability.

In addition, we are kindly asking the United States Congress to reintroduce and reconsider the Public Domain Enhancement Act. (Please see http://eldred.cc/ .) This Act, first introduced as House Bill 2601 for the United States 108th Congress and reintroduced as House Bill 2408 for the 109th Congress, would require American copyright owners to pay a very low fee such as one US dollar per work fifty years after publishing works in the USA and ten years thereafter to renew their copyrights until the end of the copyright term. Paying to register copyright renewals would allow the public to identify copyright owners to seek permission, but failure to pay such a low fee would release the orphan works into the public domain at least in the USA.

We consider that you should also support the Public Domain Enhancement Act since your works like Mickey Mouse are much more valuable than proposed fee of one US dollar per work in that Act, so the public can identify the copyright holders of other old works but not be denied access to orphan works just because you want to keep Mickey Mouse copyrighted at the expense of cultural development.

After all, we would like to kindly ask you to support our Reclaim the Rule of the Shorter Term Petition. Once you support us and the rule of the shorter term and the Public Domain Enhancement Act are passed and legally effective, we will never blame you for lobbying for more copyright extension as long as we can freely reuse others' orphan works. Otherwise, as copyright protection and public domain must be balanced to truly promote the progress of science and useful arts, your ignorance or opposition of our petition will impede this US Constitutional goal and therefore warrant boycott of your goods and services.

We look forward to hearing you soon. Thank you in advance for your important consideration.

Very truly yours,

Side action plan[edit]

The above side letter is initiated by Jusjih, a Meta user (now a steward) and a five-project bilingual-plus administrator in English Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, Multilingual Wikisource, Chinese Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikisource, Wikiquote, and Wikimedia Commons. It is also released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Feel free to change its content, but please use the discussion page before making a very significant change.

Separate signatures will not be collected, but our Petitions and their signatures will be shown to the Walt Disney Company as we mean very serious business about copyright and public domain.

Opinions[edit]

Support[edit]

  1. --Shizhao 07:20, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
  2. Yann 10:21, 25 April 2007 (UTC)
  3. arodb 12:00, 17 June 2007 (UTC)
  4. Jérry~雨雨 15:14, 13 September 2007 (UTC)

Oppose[edit]

  1. s:User:Newmanbe, an English Wikisource administrator, said on 3 August 2007 at s:Wikisource:Scriptorium#Need even more signatures to fight the American non-acceptance of the rule of the shorter term:
    "I have not signed because I do not support the petition because it calls for more then what its title says it does. The Public Domain Enhancement Act, which the petition calls on the Congress to pass, has nothing to do with the rule of the shorter term. By requiring registration of works, it inherently makes copyright biased against individuals who may not be as informed about it in favour of large corporations (whose works would be most likely wanted to be used anyway). I think that if copyright exists it should apply equally and be automatic—of reasonable length. I oppose the petition being mentioned in the site notice. —Benn Newman (AMDG) 14:00, 3 August 2007 (UTC)"
    I have the same reservation. I thank Benn Newman for raising it. – Kaihsu 14:23, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
  2. Sadly, I have to oppose because the petition forgot Wikispecies. Sorry. OhanaUnitedTalk page 00:36, 8 April 2008 (UTC)
    I have not used Wikispecies yet, but I just added Wikispecies to the proposed shortened petition. As the popularity of the existing petition is too low, I may prepare to stop accepting new signatures next month and open a new one.--Jusjih 01:06, 5 May 2008 (UTC)
  3. Copyright, properly understood, is infinite in duration and unlimited in scope. I cannot support a petition to change laws so that sacred and objective individual rights are violated even more than they already are. Kmweber 18:27, 4 May 2008 (UTC)
    Perpetual copyright is unconstitutional in the USA.--Jusjih 01:06, 5 May 2008 (UTC)
    Then the Constitution is wrong. Individual rights trump any document. Kmweber 17:25, 16 May 2008 (UTC)
    Please give me the address of the Shakespeare estate. --Damian Yerrick 01:56, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
    Kmweber’s claim to unbounded absolute copyright (as a human right?) is as defensible as my claim to my ancient right to shave Kmweber’s head and paint the exposed scalp green. – Kaihsu 14:22, 29 May 2008 (UTC)
    Incorrect. My claim is infinitely more defensible, because unlike yours, mine is actually valid and correct. You would do well to familiarize yourself with the writings of the eminent 20th-century Russian-American philosopher Ayn Rand. Kmweber 03:46, 5 June 2008 (UTC)

Other comments[edit]

  • As can I see, the petition is still active, so if we place a link to it in the "Please Read" section of English Wikipedia, there shall be million of those who signed, not merely 100.000 :) --ɴõɴəχүsƚ 23:01, 6 January 2014 (UTC)