Current copyright law provides varying terms of protection for literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works, all of which are extraordinarily long in comparison with other intellectual property rights. Patents for inventions, for example, have a maximum term of 20 years, whereas copyright protection can extend for up to 70 years from the death of the author, and always lasts for at least 50 years from the date of first publication . This is wholly unjustifiable given the relative merits of the respective creations.
The current maximum term is a throwback to the days when artists and authors struggled to get their works known and published because the technical means of doing so were limited. The term was set to protect not only the author for his lifetime, but also the lifetime of two succeeding generations of his family. Times have changed. Works can now be spread worldwide in seconds. There is now no justification for a long term of protection. In fact, there should be an incentive, as there is with patented inventions, to get the works known, and to receive whatever reward they deserve, in a very much shorter time frame.
Reducing the term of copyright protection to 20 years would put artistic works on a par with scientific inventions. It would also enable the term of protection to be determined without reference to such vagaries as the date of death of the author which, in many cases at present, is impossible to determine.
Just as with patents, there will be advantages too when the protection expires. Prices fall when monopolies no longer exist.