IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

The Economics of Life ++ - Reflections on the Term of Copyright

  • Ejan Mackaay
Registered author(s):

    Copyright, and indeed all intellectual property, reflects a compromise between the need for reward on creations we see by reserving them to the creator and the need to let information freely flow so as to permit further creations to emerge with as few encumbrances as possible. Over the past quarter century or so, all parameters of copyright have been moved towards more protection, disturbing the underlying compromise. The term of protection extends well beyond what is practically useful for the vast majority of creators, much as it may serve the needs of a small number of large players who hold important older copyrights still producing revenue. This paradoxical situation results from a few founding principles considered untouchable in the countries members of the Berne Convention: it is automatically obtained, without formality and for a uniform and rather lengthy term. If we want to redress the balance underlying copyright, we may have to call these principles into question and lead creators individually to reveal the value they attach to their right by renewing it, allowing it to lapse into the public domain when they no longer value it. Whilst this would reintroduce formalities into the structure of copyright, technological advances may make these less of a burden than they were at the time of their abolition. Alternatively, one might consider an interpretation of equitable exceptions to copyright (such as fair use and fair dealing) so as to expand them gradually as the copyright in question ages. Such approaches would have the fortunate effect of avoiding that lobbying by the happy few needlessly locks up culture for most of us. Le droit d'auteur, et à vrai dire tous les droits intellectuels, reflète un compromis entre la nécessité de faire miroiter au créateur une rémunération pour les créations que l'on voit, et la nécessité de laisser l'information circuler librement de manière à permettre à de nouvelles créations d'émerger avec aussi peu d'obstacles que possible. Au cours du dernier quart de siècle ou à peu près, tous les paramètres du droit d'auteur ont été déplacés vers plus de protection, perturbant l'équilibre sous-jacent. La durée de protection s'étend bien au-delà de ce qui est nécessaire en pratique pour la très vaste majorité des créateurs, même si elle sert bien les besoins d'une infime minorité de grands joueurs détenant des droits d'auteur qui ont un certain âge mais continuent à produire des revenus. Cette situation résulte des principes tenus pour immuables dans les pays membres de l'Union de Berne : le droit est obtenu automatiquement, sans formalité et pour une période uniforme et de longue durée. Pour redresser l'équilibre sous-jacent au droit d'auteur, il faudra remettre en question ces principes et amener les créateurs individuellement à révéler la valeur qu'ils attachent à leur droit en le renouvelant, permettant que le droit glisse dans le domaine public s'ils n'y attachent plus de valeur suffisante. S'il est vrai qu'une telle approche réintroduirait des formalités dans le droit d'auteur, les avances techniques intervenues depuis leur abolition rendent l'accomplissement de ces formalités moins onéreux que dans le temps. Alternativement, on pourrait envisager une interprétation des exceptions équitables au droit d'auteur, comme le fair use ou l'utilisation équitable, de manière à les étendre à mesure que le droit d'auteur en question prend de l'âge. De telles approches auraient l'heureux effet d'éviter que le lobbying par les happy few entrainerait le verrouillage inutile de beaucoup de culture pour le commun des mortels.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2011s-38.

    in new window

    Length: 19 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Apr 2011
    Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2011s-38
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    1130 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, suite 1400, Montréal, Quéc, H3A 2M8

    Phone: (514) 985-4000
    Fax: (514) 985-4039
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2011s-38. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Webmaster)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.