Copyright Term Extensions

The TRIPS standardized copyright terms in all WTO member states to life plus seventy years, with other terms for collective works, etc. This presented a number of problems in those countries, which hitherto had provided for shorter terms, typically life plus fifty years but sometimes much less (Beatles recordings in Japan dating from the 1960s, for example, had by the 1990s started to fall into the public domain), in particular

  • How to deal with works that would still be subject to copyright under the new term, but which had entered the public domain due to the expiry of the old copyright term?
  • Where copyright had been transferred in whole or in part to third parties, who were entitled to own the term extension, the original performer(s), artist(s), composer or author, or the transferee? The former solution was perceived as disruptive of settled commercial arrangements while the latter was perceived as giving an unearned windfall to the transferee (who in many instances, such as comic book characters, was perceived as having ripped off the original creator.)

Most jurisdictions provided for copyright to be restored (in most cases it would be a short term) and for the original artist, composer, or author (or more usually their estate) to own that term extension.

Related Terms