"When the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act added 20 years to existing and future copyrights, Eric Eldred and other commercial and non-commercial users of public domain works sued [and lost]." Eldred v. Ashcroft. Now, Eldred is endorsing The Public Domain Enhancement Act to fight against pointless copyright extensions.
Public Domain Enhancement Act (a.k.a. The Eric Eldred Act) is an innovative solution to the problem of author protection verses release of creations into the public domain. The Act proposes that all copyrighted works will be protected for 50 years with an option to pay a nominal fee (after the 50 years is up) to extend the protection. With this system, most works that no longer have any commercial value after 50 years will move into the public domain.
The public domain is important because it frees creators to build upon and cultivate our past without unnecessary or harmful restrictions... We estimate that of all the work copyrighted between 1923 and 1942 (the first twenty years affected by the Sonny Bono Act), only 2% has any continuing commercial value. If a work has no commercial value, then there would be little reason for the copyright owner to pay the renewal fee. That work would therefore quickly pass into the public domain. If the proposal were adopted as outlined, then within three years, over 90% of the copyrighted between 1923 and 1952 would be in the public domain. This would be massive increase of material into the public domain, through a mechanism that would create a cheap and useable record of the material that remains under copyright.
Read Eldred's FAQ page and decide for yourself. If you agree with what you read, sign the petition to congress to show your support for the bill. Currently, there are 21,077 signatures on the petition.