Stories lodge in our minds better than numbers, so here is a concrete fact that demonstrates how long copyright lasts under current laws. The first talking picture is finally in the public domain. Wikimedia Commons’ “Media of the Day” yesterday was The Jazz Singer.(1)

As of January 1, the creative artists who worked on that picture are no longer enjoying the exclusive Right to it, and are thus discouraged from contributing more to the Progress of Science and useful Arts. At the age of 136, just when he might be hoping to retire on the earnings of a successful career entertaining millions, Al Jolson is cut off without a cent. Of course, Al Jolson was probably not making royalties anyway; it is really Jack Warner, the genius behind the project, whose profits have been mercilessly yanked from his grasp. Fortunately he is still a relatively young man at only 130 and may expect to recoup his fortunes with another project. Silent movies are about due for another revival.

At any rate, thinking about the length of copyright brings up our question for this evening. The Wikipedia article on the Copyright Clause in the United States Constitution mentions that what got us into the current state of copyright was “the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, also known pejoratively as the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act.’ ”

Here is our question: If you presented those two names to a randomly selected pool of intelligent Americans and asked “Which of these names is the pejorative one?”—would the number of correct answers be higher than would be expected by random chance?