Thursday, October 07, 2004

When the Mouse roared: Canada's examines how Disney's Michael Eisner and other entertainment moguls successfully lobbied Congress to extend U.S. copyright protection by 20 years to cover their movies and music:

"To accomplish this, Eisner and his Hollywood colleagues took a two-pronged attack. First, they drafted Sonny Bono, a junior Congressman whose career as a pop singer had plummeted after he and his wife Cher divorced. Bono drafted a bill proposing the 20-year extension and the House of Representatives, in a fit of distracted lawmaking (this was during the national hysteria over the Monica Lewinsky scandal), rushed its passage by a voice vote in 1998.

"The second prong was to revamp the Copyright Act and toughen a piece of legislation that would halt the trade in digitized copyright material.

"The same distracted Congress, under siege by an opposition mired in moral outrage, passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which essentially gave copyright holders a mighty hammer to smite those who ignored copyright laws. The DMCA, as it came to be known, was officially created to ratify the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Copyright Treaty of 1996. But it was a much more draconian piece of legislation than the WIPO called for, essentially allowing copyright holders to bypass the courts in getting warrants to charge violators.

"Obsessed by Lewinsky’s dalliance with President Bill Clinton, few people looked at either bill very carefully. Critics who did called it 'the Mickey Mouse Copyright Act' or the 'Copyright Theft Act,' noting that its primary purpose was to protect Hollywood’s profits and not necessarily its creative products."