Copyright Reform

Copyright gives the creator of an original work, such as a piece of writing, music, or art, exclusive rights to its use and distribution, for a limited time. In the United States, copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator, or 95 years if the creator was under a corporate contract—a Disney cartoonist, for example.

Copyright law is intended to encourage innovation by rewarding creators with exclusive rights. It allows creators to charge more for their work, or determine how they want their works to be used. It generally prevents others from being able to show, copy, perform, modify, or distribute the original work without the owner’s permission.

However, too much copyright restriction can actually hurt innovation. This is why copyright law has limitations in place---without which it would be nearly impossible to share, resell, lend, or even talk about creative works. For example, you don’t need an author’s permission to resell or lend a book to a friend. Without a clear, balanced approach to copyright law, innovation and creativity can actually suffer.

Public Knowledge is fighting for a balanced copyright system.

To learn more check out the following:

We created a website in 2015 called, which aims to explain how copyright law applies to everyday life, break down common misconseptions, and propose pathways towards reform. 

We produced a two-page educational guide called Principles for a Balanced Copyright Policy.

You can visit our Issue Pages about specific areas of copyright reform we work on, including our Anticircumvention page, our Digital First Sale page, and our Music Licensing page

Here are the PK experts on this issue:

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