Lapsed foreign copyrights revived under Library of Congress rules
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Beginning in 1996, foreign artists and authors who have copyrights in their home countries but whose work has fallen into the public domain in the United States will once again receive copyright protection under new Library of Congress rules.
The new law stems from the intellectual property provisions in last year’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade titled the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. It applies to countries that are members of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works or the new World Trade Organization, or that have a copyright agreement with the United States.
Most works that will be affected fell into the public domain because of noncompliance with U.S. formalities, a lack of national eligibility or a lack of subject matter protection, as in the case of sound recordings which were not given copyright protection in the United States until 1972.
At a hearing in late March, library officials discussed ways to implement the new rules, including how to notify artists, what paperwork would be necessary and what fees might be charged, according to Carolina Saez, an attorney for the library’s copyright office. Library officials are working still on settling many of these issues, she said.
To qualify for protection under the new rules, a work must have copyright protection in its home country. United States protection will be restored for the length of time remaining as if the work had never fallen into the public domain, Saez said. Protection will be granted even if the artist did not comply with U.S. application laws or if the country did not have copyright relations with the United States.
People who are using work that they in good faith believe to be in the public domain will have one year after notification to work out terms with the owner of the work or cease using it, Saez said.
The library has sent out information to foreign copyright agencies so they can pass it on to the artists. “We’re hoping the information will trickle out to everyone by 1996,” she said.