copyrightFrom the inimitable Michael Geist comes this little tidbit that Japan is considering extending its standard copyright from Life-Plus-50 to Life-Plus-70.

What makes this especially worrying is that Canada, one of the last Life-Plus-50 bastions, is, like Japan, considering participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and is facing pressure from TPP leader America to similarly extend copyright to 70 years.

Chris Meadows earlier reported for TeleRead about a study that proves longer copyright terms don’t actually keep works available and thus benefit their creators. I hope Canada (and Japan) don’t cave to the pressure. I am all for creators benefiting from their work, but it seems to me that having their entire lifespan plus 50 years to do so is plenty of time for them to do that.

I think all creators, whether wittingly or not, draw from and are inspired by the works which came before them. I think those who come after them have just as much right to draw from their works, and I think that’s why the social contract of copyright was initially designed—you get a span of time to exploit your work, and then it returns to the public domain for the enrichment of everyone, same as you were enriched by what came before you.

If I published a work tomorrow, at my current age of 35, and then lived to 90 (as three of my four grandparents did) then lifetime-plus-50 would give me and my descendants 105 years to exclusively control (and profit from) my work.

Isn’t that enough?

Previous articleAndroid app development: Really pricier than iOS?
Next articleMarvin and Calibre: Together Like Peanut Butter and Jelly (video)
"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Few works remain viable for life+70 or even life+50. Of course, some do, and all the others have to tote the copyright line.

    You can put money on this:

    Before 2036 a certain company famous for cartoons will SUCCESSFULLY lobby congress for an additional copyright extension. Maybe life+100.

    In 2061 a certain science fiction show will be producing its fourth or fifth reboot.

    Complain all you, but as long as there is a financial return for old works, copyright will be extended. Bank on it.

  2. Given the political muscle that Disney and their kin in Hollywood can muster in DC, a compromise solution might make sense. Allow longer copyrights with mandated registration and a tax on income from that copyright that’d fund book and media related causes such as film restoration/preservation and distributing digital versions of public domain texts.

    The great bulk of literary estates wouldn’t bother, releasing those text into the public domain and the deep-pocketed few wouldn’t need to exploit our politics and harm our laws just for their private benefit.

    Life-plus copyright terms also need an additional set of requirements: mandated probate of literary estates in all wills and requiring the registration of ownership (much like real estate. Not doing so makes it difficult to find out when most authors died or who inherited their literary estate. Any law that makes it difficult to know when someone is violating it is a bad law.

    It’s easy to see where the problem lies. Our copyright laws remain essentially unchanged since the late 1970s, despite huge changes in publishing and distributing books. That’s a bit like discovering that it was the 1940s before traffic laws intended for horse and buggies were amended for cars.

    The reason for that lies in Congress and is illustrated by that late 1990s copyright extension for Disney. Today’s Congress only acts when paid to do so by powerful interest groups. For copyright change there’s either no powerful interest group (i.e. making public domain more effective) or the interest groups conflict, i.e. high-tech v. Hollywood v. Manhattan publishers.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail