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European Commission copyright consultation/Term

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Identifiers European Commission copyright consultation
Term of protection – is it appropriate?

The European Commission is considering modernizing European copyright laws. To get feedback and input on this modernization, the Commission has published a series of questions, and is looking to interested stakeholders (like our community) to answer them. This is a vital opportunity to participate in a dialogue that could have a major impact on copyright laws and the future of the free knowledge movement. More background is available from the European Commission.

We would like to prepare a draft response here, as a collaborative experiment. If we wish to respond, it will need to be finalized before the end of January 2014 (see the proposed timeline).

Welcome to the discussion! Please help by answering the questions below.

Term of protection – is it appropriate?[edit]

Works and other subject matter are protected under copyright for a limited period of time. After the term of protection has expired, a work falls into the public domain and can be freely used by anyone (in accordance with the applicable national rules on moral rights). The Berne Convention[1] requires a minimum term of protection of 50 years after the death of the author. The EU rules extend this term of protection to 70 years after the death of the author (as do many other countries, e.g. the US).

With regard to performers in the music sector and phonogram producers, the term provided for in the EU rules also extend 20 years beyond what is mandated in international agreements, providing for a term of protection of 70 years after the first publication. Performers and producers in the audio-visual sector, however, do not benefit from such an extended term of protection.

Question 20[edit]

20) Are the current terms of copyright protection still appropriate in the digital environment?


  • Your name here


No opinion[edit]

  • Your name here


Instructions: If yes, Please explain. If no, please explain if they should be longer or shorter.

  • Locking up our collective culture for, in many cases, a century or more inflicts an enormous opportunity cost on society. The inability of artists to build upon previous work (much of which has no lasting commercial value), diminishes the richness of culture for everyone. Copyright terms should be limited to the amount of time in which the author can reasonably expect to commercially exploit the work, which in most cases would be less than 20 years. If further exploitation is possible, the author should be required to apply for renewals. In this way, the benefit that copyright provides to authors can be properly balanced with the benefit that the public domain provides to society. Kaldari (talk) 23:06, 3 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • Due to the Berne Convention the shortest the EC could go for now is 50 years, which is still too long, but might be a good first step. An acceptable copyright law should be equalised to patent law, which would mean 14 years.
  • Copyright terms are excessively long. Having works protected for so long mean that creators have very little public domain works to work on. Also, there is little incentive for creators to keep creating. If copyright terms were shorter, creators would have to create to have decent incomes. --NaBUru38 (talk) 14:28, 11 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • After a period of 70 years --even more if the creator does not die close to the date of creation; maybe after 100 years--, there is no chance of earning money from a work of art, since it will be an anachronic issue and people won't be interested on it. About the moral rights, I have no idea of wich perios would be the apropiate. Albertojuanse (talk) 17:24, 11 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • People has the right to live from income of their works, and that's as true for the fellow cultivating rice as for the one writing novels or taking photographs. But I don't find rational to give such income to people that has nothing to do with the production of the cultural item. It's obscene that the inheritors of an author are making piles of money while the autor him/herself could scarcely pay a decent meal. I think that copyrights should last no more than the author's life time plus the time required for his children to be able to sustain themselves; so just the author's lifetime or until their children reach the age of 25. B25es (talk) 18:46, 11 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • The term of protection ought to be determinate and calculated from the date of publication. It should not depend on the duration of the author's life. This should apply everywhere in the world. (A term of life plus 70 years seems to amount to a de facto term of protection of 140 years if you don't know when the author died, which can be very difficult to ascertain; this is much longer than the term for works of corporate authorship in the United States, which seems undesirable, plus which research to determine the date of death is a waste of time that could be spent doing something productive). Works published before 1923 should be in the public domain, as they are in the United States. This should be an absolute cut-off point everywhere in the world. Whatever the term of protection is, it should not go back any further than that date. James500 (talk) 14:18, 12 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • The current copyright protections terms extremely high. Our society has much and much more possibilities how to create, share and distribute culture, yet the copyright terms are being extended. We should not follow the US example. Limitation the protection terms, ie. their shortening would trigger a lot of opportunities for better cultural and educational growth. Older works of high quality can be spread more, helping all of us to understand all our neighbors better. Helping us to learn more. Right now the copyright protection terms are so long that even classical works known by most of the people are still protected. People can't remix or reference these works freely. Authors of these works are therefore not motivated to create new works but they can live well from the old ones. Therefore the current system does not only block cultural and educational gains but also cripple creativity. --Aktron (talk) 17:59, 15 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • There is little to add - the term of protection is excessively long. However, given the history, I have doubts they would agree to cutting it. Also, taking existing rights away from somebody (other than "the public") could lead to legal challenges (e.g., right after extending the term of protection for music recordings, a bank bought a package of rights for Beatles' songs - and they would surely start an arbitrage if the law now changed the other way). So, to be realistic, we should not expect much but we should strongly express that the existing terms of protections are already too long and any extensions (e.g., for audiovisual works) should be vehemently avoided. (If you can read in Czech then you may find this article interesting - a lawyer describes in 1894 the concept and purpose of modern copyright act: guarantee the author income for the rest of his life, plus protection for a publisher if a work is published right before his death. Nothing about feeding greedy widows and two generations of spoilt children. But let's be realistic - a right once awarded may be next to impossible to take back.) --Sapfan (talk) 17:12, 17 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    Could the example of the bank be dealt with by allowing them to apply to renew the copyright? This would be better than nothing because experience shows that most copyrights are not renewed after 28 years because they are actually worthless. James500 (talk) 18:21, 18 January 2014 (UTC) Also that kind of logic couldn't be applied to works that haven't been created yet because there are no rights to take away. James500 (talk) 18:27, 18 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    Perhaps a transition could be that, from some years (e.g. 2015), new published works have a protection term of (e.g.) 50 years after publication and existing works keep their previous copyright term. ~ Seb35 [^_^] 23:38, 27 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Proposed Foundation answer[edit]

This was the most-commented on answer, not surprisingly, with a bit of a split based on how aggressive we should be in pushing for a rollback of terms. I think the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU suggestions, strike a good balance on this point (making clear that step one is to go back to Berne minimums, and then possibly push further) so I adopt that here, along with some of User:Kaldari's language. —LVilla (WMF) (talk) 08:45, 28 January 2014 (UTC)[reply]

No. Current terms of copyright protection are not appropriate, because they do not enable or encourage artists and writers to create. Locking up our collective culture for, in many cases, a century or more inflicts an enormous opportunity cost on society. The inability of artists to build upon previous work diminishes the richness of culture for everyone, without providing additional incentive to create new works. This common-sense conclusion is confirmed by the overwhelming majority of academic and economic studies of the past 20 years. To return to a more appropriate level of protection, the Member States should begin by returning to the term lengths of the Revised Berne Convention. Once that is done, further international treaties and trade agreements should be ratified only if they shorten (or at least do not lengthen) term protection.


  1. Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, http://www.wipo.int/treaties/en/ip/berne/.