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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of yet another lengthening of copyright terms. The court's decision caused the New York Times to declare that the grand experiment of the public domain was over.

Copyright originally lasted 14 to 28 years after a work was created, but today it lasts for the life of the author plus another 70 years. By upholding the Copyright Term Extension Act, the Supreme Court has taken the first steps toward "copyright perpetuity". Sadly, copyright extension in its current form causes works to remain locked up even if they have been abandoned by the copyright holder because they are no longer commercially useful.

Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig is circulating a petition in support of a piece of legislation called the Eldred Act. The Eldred Act would require copyright holders to pay a $1 registration fee 50 years after a copyrighted work was published. The act would make thousands of abandoned works available in the public domain while giving content companies full control over the works that continue to be commercially viable.

Click here to sign the petition.

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