Someone pointed out to me that the Green manifesto suggests that copyright terms be limited to 14 years. Now, obviously it's a manifesto, which means it's a wishlist, and it's the Green manifesto, which means it's about as likely as seeing Isambard Kingdom Brunel come back to life to name the first IEP. But, it set me thinking (and arguing on twitter). I'm quite involved with Wikimedia Commons, a media repository used by Wikipedia, and we only accept content which is freely licensed (anyone can use it for any purpose, without having to ask the creator). Under international law, any sufficiently creative work automatically gets copyright. This (in principle) prevents anyone else from using it, selling it, building upon it, or even distributing it, without your express permission. The standard copyright term is what we call PMA+70, post mortem author plus 70 years, ie the person who created the work has to be dead for 70 years before it falls into the public domain. This leads to the slightly ridiculous but all-too-common situation where photos from the 1890s and early 1900s are still in copyright. Copyright was originally intended to enhance creativity, as before copyright whenever someone made a work (eg a book) others would copy it and flog it more cheaply. The original copyright term in the US was 14 years, allowing the creator 14 years of exclusive rights to a work. Copyright at this point had to be applied for. Over the years copyright laws were gradually increased, and the ease with which things became copyrighted did so too. In large part this was led by companies such as Disney and record labels, who wanted to keep works such as those by Elvis within copyright. International laws vary somewhat, but PMA+70 is now fairly standard, as is that works are automatically copyrighted. So, my question at the end of all of this, is how long should copyright be for? To my mind 14 years is too short, and PMA+70 ridiculously long. Pulling a number out of the air, 30 years sounds about right to me. An artist creates a work, and then they have 30 years from which they can profit from it exclusively, after which it falls into the public domain and anyone can use it. However, some creative people have been telling me that it's unfair that anyone else be able to ever profit off their work if those people had nothing to do with creating it.