Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The latest news on 'To Kill a Mockingbird' shows how big corporations control copyright law; Los Angeles Times, 3/14/16

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times; The latest news on 'To Kill a Mockingbird' shows how big corporations control copyright law:
"According to a March 4 notice issued by Hachette to booksellers and reported by the New Republic, permission for the mass-market edition has been withdrawn by the novel's publisher, HarperCollins. (HarperCollins also brought out "Go Set a Watchman.") Hachette can sell off its remaining copies, which it's doing at a further discount, but henceforth "Mockingbird" will be available chiefly in a HarperCollins trade paperback edition, which lists for $14.99.
The burden will fall on school districts that traditionally laid in a large volume of mass-market books for their pupils. Hachette says that more than two-thirds of the 30 million copies sold worldwide since publication have been its low-priced edition. Hachette told bookstores, according to the New Republic: "The disappearance of the iconic mass-market edition is very disappointing to us, especially as we understand this could force a difficult situation for schools and teachers with tight budgets who cannot afford the larger, higher priced paperback edition that will remain in the market."
The real problem this development points to is with copyright law, which has been getting consistently rewritten in the United States and other countries to extend the length of authors' rights to the point where their heirs, and heirs of heirs, are the chief beneficiaries of the copyright. But that's only superficially. The real beneficiaries are corporations, which continue to profit from successful works of art for decades after their creators have passed on. Corporations such as HarperCollins...
Yet as we can see from the extinction of the mass-market paperback of "Mockingbird," such extensions stifle the dissemination of creative works rather than encourage it. The squabble over the copyright to Anne Frank's diaries, which we reported on here, also illustrates how the grip of copyright law leaves the control of creative works in the hands of people who may not share the desires of the works' creators. Harper Lee has passed on, Anne Frank is long gone, and Walt Disney is represented in the marketplace by a corporation that is hopelessly far removed from his artistic and even his business creation."

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