Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to Reform Copyright; Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/9/11

Lewis Hyde, Chronicle of Higher Education; How to Reform Copyright:

"James Madison presumably wrote the clause in the Constitution that allows Congress to give copyrights to authors, but even Madison had his reservation. The founding fathers considered copyright a "monopoly privilege" and, as Madison later wrote, "Monopolies ... ought to be granted with caution ... ." Two concerns lay behind that wariness. For the founders, both democratic self-governance and the conversation of creative communities demanded very low barriers to the circulation of knowledge and, therefore, strict restraint of monopoly privileges. Thus does the Constitution stipulate that copyrights be granted only for "limited times." "A temporary monopoly ... ought to be temporary," Madison declared. "Perpetual monopolies of every sort are forbidden ... by the genius of free Governments."

All that has changed, of course, the term of copyright now being statistically almost indistinguishable from a perpetual grant. How might that be corrected? How might we return to something more in line with the founders' caution and closer to their vision of both democracy and creativity?

Consider one proposal."

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