What's the objectively optimal copyright term?

My alternative ideas:

Idea 1:
Have a graduated system, where the creator has absolute control for maybe 1-5 years, then something like our current fair use for the next 10 or 20, fewer rights (kind of like current CC licenses) for the next 10-20, and finally another few decades of just requiring attribution.

Idea 2:
Copyright extends 20 years past the the most recent subsequent work- So, if I write a novel and nothing else, the copyright lasts 20 years. If 10 years later, I write a sequel, that’s an automatic extension for the original. If I do a regular comic strip or newspaper column, my copyrights expire 20 years after my last installment.

Idea 3:
Something like @Bob_Brinkman suggested, but maybe raise the bar for each extension. First one is free, next 10 years are $10, next 10 are $100, then $1000, $10,000, $100,000 and so on. So, a 30 year copyright would be $110, and a 90 year would be $1,111,110.


In my opinion: life plus 25

I think granting the author artistic and economic control during their lifetime makes a lot of sense.

The extra 25 years should be plenty to complete and exploit a full release (print run, film adaptation, album release, whatever…) of the work and offers some predictability to everyone involved, even including creators’ families.

It should also be enough to minimize any negative effect on the value of the rights while the creator is alive. If the term is too short, then there is always a risk that publishers will try to sit it out.

If your jurisdiction has corporate copyright, then make it 25 years total.

I still don’t like this idea of extended copyright based on ability to pay. It still privileges the rich and corporations over everyone else.


I don’t know what the objectively best copyright term is. But I know for a fact that it’s shorter than Life + x where x>=0.

Corpses don’t play music, paint landscapes, or write novels. Anything longer than life isn’t an incentive to create more. It’s litigation fodder for estate lawyers.


40 years, just like patents (or some other numbermuch less than 70 and longer than 20), so long as licensing isn’t exclusive and is capped as a proportion of gross revenue for “infringers”. Royalties, yes. Monopoly, no.

1 Like

This idea is far from perfect, this system is relatively impractical, it has more than a few flaws, and it still requires a shit ton of flushing out… basically:

Why can’t we just treat copyrights like public property currently in private holding, like a extended lease? In a ideal world I could see copyrighted media/material automatically starting a procedure (maybe through a special court system where a judge both represents the public/advocates for the material and makes the end decision, the current copyright holder would have to argue with evidence for being allowed to continue holding the said copyright in question) that would allow it to be transferred to Public Domain if it had not been used by the current copyright holder to further more artistic creation, advertising, appearances, showings, etc. for a period of say… 8 or 10 years? Just sending out takedown notices or acting as a copyright troll would not count towards use of the media (The obvious exemptions would be if it was still owned by a singular person who was part of its creation or its original creator or as part of a inheritance of either). It seems this might at least deal with the orphaned work or old classics that are still under copyright (personal relevance) but not being used in any means other than to send takedown notices.

the problem might be determining what is a “work” and who is the author.

if the author is the copyright holder, a person might just incorporate, and pass the corporate asset to their children, another person, or a company.

from there, claim 5 word sentences are a work to extend easily and infinitely.

Fifteen years would make sense to me. That’s about the inflection point between something still being new-ish and relevant-ish and where it starts being more that-old-thing-your-dad-liked.

Half a generation.


University of Cambridge study from 2009 concluded optimal Copyright term is around 15 years.


What’s your plan on convincing Congress that science and math is valid evidence? Because that’s really all that matters in this case. You can have literal mountains of evidence, but the head of the House Science Committee says they can’t ever be convinced that evolution is true. So, keeping that in mind, how do we expect to convince them of anything without waving filthy lucre in their faces, or threatening them at gunpoint?


The WIPO published in 2009 a collection of papers. The focus is more on IP in developing countries and not optimal copyright terms, but the articles are written well and give an overview of the state of the research (if it’s even possible to scientifically research a political topic…).

I’m not sure why there could be any action to have what other people create.


As an artist and musician I would hope that I have sole control of my products forever.

Anything else would be theft.

It also implies they are actively making money from their works, and thus have a reason to extend.

The only work to have a perpetual copyright that I know of is Peter Pan (UK rights held by Great Ormond Street Hospital).

Why do you think that your works should also have that?

1 Like

I’m sure the pile of bones at the bottom of your coffin will enjoy their copyrights and will be making even more hit songs 800 years from now, long after you’re dead. Too bad nobody would be allowed to play around with your music 200 years from now though.


That’s not actually copyright. It’s a perpetual right to collect royalties, but does not grant the Great Ormond Street Hospital creative control over the material they have a right to collect royalties on.

It’s kind of like the mandatory licensing schemes setup to force pharmaceutical companies into playing ball in countries like India.


Optimal life: three years, decaying or appreciating. We have enough surveillance technology that we can tell if a copyright is increasing in value or decreasing, and therefore set timers on their eventual dissolution. If the holder is gaining, they keep their share. If it’s decaying, it drifts away over a few years.

My children?

They make your music too? Then can’t they just get their co-creator credit and hang on to the copyright for the stuff they made with you, after you’re gone?

You said

Forever doesn’t end when you die, and why should your corpse have a right to anything. Sure you’re children might want to profit off your work, but that really shouldn’t go on forever. Otherwise you end up with situations where 1000 years from now basically all possible and listenable music is under copyright, nobody can create anything, and everyone has to pay everyone else to do anything anywhere. Forever’s an infinitely long time. There are a finite number of notes and note combinations that anyone would listen to. So if copyright lasts forever, eventually we’ll run out, all the owners will be dead, and if we wait long enough all works will be orphaned and nobody would be allowed to use or make any music.



Creativity is infinite.

Go out and experience the world and you will see.

In fact nature is careful to not repeat it’s self.