Copyright and Wrong

Copyright and Wrong http://bit.ly/cfX7ql The Economist weighs in on a return to the root of Copyright. Statue of Anne – for 14 or 28 years.

The purpose of copyright is to incentivize creative people to make more work by giving them a limited period of monopoly license before the work returns to the public domain. This has been so blatently perverted so that a successful artist – with only one success – may never have to work again. How is that creating new works?

The notion that lengthening copyright increases creativity is questionable, however. Authors and artists do not generally consult the statute books before deciding whether or not to pick up pen or paintbrush. And overlong copyrights often limit, rather than encourage, a work’s dissemination, impact and influence. It can be difficult to locate copyright holders to obtain the rights to reuse old material. As a result, much content ends up in legal limbo (and in the case of old movies and sound recordings, is left to deteriorate—copying them in order to preserve them may constitute an act of infringement). The penalties even for inadvertent infringement are so punishing that creators routinely have to self-censor their work. Nor does the advent of digital technology strengthen the case for extending the period of protection. Copyright protection is needed partly to cover the costs of creating and distributing works in physical form. Digital technology slashes such costs, and thus reduces the argument for protection.

Time to return to the roots and limit the monopoly license. It was never intended that copyright should create any “intellectual property”. Whatever that is. (Is it property? Then it’s physical.)