Does Copyright last too long?


CopyrightCopyright has been extended numerous times since its introduction, when the original duration was 28 years.  This question reviews the benefits of copyright law for society as a whole, and it will review the balance between the benefit of extra motivation from prolonged ownership to the creator and the benefit of open ownership, which results in new ideas being applied to the old copyright.  Depending on the country, copyright durations last between life plus 25 years (Libya), life plus 50 years (Canada, China), life plus 70 years (Europe, USA), and life plus 100 years (Mexico).  This article will focus on the duration of life plus 70 years.



Copyright Lasts Too Long

Current Copyright Duration is Appropriate

Rights of Creators

Creators need to be able to benefit from the ownership of their work, however the current duration of life plus 70 years is too long to simply be of benefit to the creator of the work.  The current length of copyright duration benefits companies who own rights rather than creators.

Copyright durations that last a signficant time after the death of the author are not designed purely to increase the motivation of the author.

Rights of Creators

Copyright duration has to be a long time to keep creators motivated.

If we allowed all copyrights to expire, there would be an over-abundance of free material and creative writers would not be able to introduce their new material into a market saturated with old free material.  Copyright duration protects 

Benefit to Society

Greater access to pre-existing material would be a benefit to society because we would get a wider range of diverse retellings of popular stories.  For example, the Walt Disney company acchieved its success by reworking stories that were not under copyright.  Stories like Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and the Little Mermaid were public domain stories that were told brilliantly by Disney, using characters and plots that were in the public domain.  We as a society would benefit from more stories being in the public domain thus allowing better adaptations and retellings.

Benefit to Society

Copyright protects the interests of society by ensuring that new works are created.  Long durations of copyrights ensure a society will reward creativity, and ensures that new ideas are able to compete successfully against old ideas.

For example, one international study showed that the increase in copyright duration in 1990s resulted in an increase in movie production2


The song "Happy Birthday" belongs in the public domain.  Copyright was registered for this song in 1935 and is currently owned (by the Warner/Chappell Music company) and will not move to the public domain until 2030.  Warner/Chappell make millions from licencing the song every year while the legality of the copyright has been challenged with a lawsuit.1



The song "Happy Birthday" not being in the public domain shows how valuable products can continue to make profit for extended periods.  This proves that protecting these products is good for the economy.

Other Factors for Discussion

It is also possible that copyright duration should be extended again.


Copyright Duration

Does Copyright last too long?



Yes, copyright lasts too long. Shortening copyright duration would be good for society.


No, copyright doesn't last too long. Shortening copyright duration would hurt society.


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Related ChoiceStorm Pages:

YouTube Inspired Questions



1.     Opposing Views: Lawsuit Challenges 'Happy Birthday To You' Copyright Claim By Warner/Chappell, Music Giant:

2.    Copyright Duration and the Supply of Creative Work: I.P.L. Png* and Qiu-hong Wang*

3.     CGP Grey: Copyright: Forever Less One Day:

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