What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of a Longer Copyright Validity Period?

By Terry Masters

A copyright is an intellectual, rather than a personal, property right. It is a right in something creative that has been envisioned by the mind and committed to tangible form. Although the law recognizes a creator's authorship of an original work, the rights underlying the ownership in the work are not analogous to the ownership rights in an item of personal property, like a car. Perpetual ownership of works of the mind have a different impact on society than perpetual ownership of items of personal property, so there is always a robust argument for and against increasing the copyright validity period when the federal copyright laws come up for review. One side of the argument wants to protect the interests of creators and the other wants to protect the interests of society as a whole.

Fair Compensation

A longer copyright validity period ensures that creators receive fair compensation for their original creations. In the United States, as of 2012, the copyright validity period is set at the lifespan of the creator plus an additional 70 years. This ensures that the original creator has time to profit from the creation and also ensures that his heirs can profit instead if he dies early or if the work does not become profitable until some time in the future.

Promotes Creativity

Knowing that an original work will be copyrighted for a longer period of time, giving the creator more of a chance to profit from the work, encourages creativity. There is a risk inherent in creating new works rather than following an existing paradigm. For example, a longer copyright term encourages playwrights to create new plays, rather than continuing to perform plays that already exist, based on the possibility of making a significantly larger amount of money on something of the creator's own authorship.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now

Stifles Creativity

Conversely, a longer copyright validity period also tends to stifle creativity. Works of the mind are nonrivalrous, meaning that ownership of the work creates a monopoly that is extremely difficult to maintain. A person who owns a car cannot prevent another person from buying the same or a similar car. A copyright, on the other hand, purports to prevent people from creating derivative works or expanding on a creative idea for a length of time so the creator can profit. That is a hard thing to do in practice, because once a person's mind absorbs the creation, there is no effective way to remove that knowledge from a person's thinking. A longer copyright period becomes unsustainable because it creates an artificial barrier to what the human brain does naturally: expound, innovate, create and re-create.

Burden on Society

Allowing longer copyright validity periods places an extraordinary burden on society. Having to obtain permission to use works of the mind affects the arts, education and innovation. While this burden is reasonable for the time it takes to fairly compensate the creator, there is a line beyond which copyright protection burdens society more than it benefits creators. For example, if the works of Shakespeare were still under copyright, the effect on schools, arts organizations and other creators who have used Shakespeare's works as the basis for a new work would be staggering. The heirs of that legendary author would benefit but society would have lost an immeasurable treasure trove of derivative creativity.

Ready to start your LLC? Start an LLC Online Now
Implications of Copyright Law
 

References

Resources

Related articles

What Is the Copyright Law Regarding Artwork?

A variety of copyright laws are specific to artwork, as artwork provides some considerations unique to other copyrighted materials. In particular, artwork is subject to the Visual Artists Rights Act, the first sale doctrine and specific resale rights which vary by location. Finally, artwork can be subject to rules regarding works made for hire, since artwork is often commissioned.

Indemnity Clause for Copyright Assignment

A copyright assignment places the person who assumes the rights in the shoes of the creator of the work. The assignment entitles the assignee to benefit from all or a portion of the rights to the work but also makes him responsible for any legal deficiencies. Consequently, the assignee typically wants some kind of guarantee or warranty written into the agreement that requires the creator to assume some liability if subsequent issues arise.

What Is Substantial Alteration of a Copyright Infringment?

When someone takes your original song, or your book, movie or film, and uses it without your permission, copyright infringement occurs. The infringer may just copy your original work outright or may create something similar to your work but altered. When two works are similar, but not identical, it can be difficult to distinguish permissible versus impermissible copying. Can you recognize your work in the second work? If so, are the two works substantially similar to the point of infringement? Or, is the new work so substantially altered that a new and valuable work has been created?

LLCs, Corporations, Patents, Attorney Help LLCs

Related articles

Copyright Rules & Time Limits

U.S. federal laws provide the basis for copyright rules and time limits. The general purpose of copyright law is to ...

Pros & Cons of Copyright Laws

A copyright is a legal monopoly, granted by the federal government, that allows the creator of an original work of ...

The Disadvantages of Copyrights

Copyright is a form of protection that attaches to an original work of authorship the moment the work of authorship is ...

Song Lyrics & Copyright Laws

Copyright law protects all aspects of an artistic work, as long as the work is original and has been reduced to a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED