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The Internet Archive is an online library known for pushing the boundaries of copyright law to promote public access to obscure works, including classic video games and historic images. Now the organization is taking advantage of a little-noticed provision of the 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act to publish complete copies of out-of-print books published between 1923 and 1941.

The organization has cheekily named this the “Sonny Bono Memorial Collection.” The group hopes that the move will inspire other libraries to follow its lead, making hundreds of thousands of books from the mid-20th Century available for download.
Congress passed the controversial law in 1998 under heavy lobbying from major content holders.

The law is the reason Mickey Mouse, Batman, and Gone with the Wind haven’t fallen into the public domain—all had copyrights that were due to expire between 1999 and 2017—until Congress intervened.
The 1998 law was championed by big companies and the estates of famous authors and artists.

But critics pointed out that it would needlessly limit public access to more obscure works—works that were out of print and therefore not generating any income for the authors or their heirs.

And Congress was passing the law just as digitization technology and the Internet were making it possible to give these works a second life as free downloads.
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