Why do we support copyrights?

The original purpose of the copyright was “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” was the first stated purpose of U.S. copyright. The U.S. Constitution ratified in 1788 proposed to do that “by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The first U.S. copyright law, passed in 1790, protected books, maps, and charts if they were created by residents or citizens of the United States. The term of their exclusive right was a mere 14 years, with the right of renewal for 14 more.

See:  The Real Purpose of Copyright

Since only about 4 per cent of copyrighted works more than 20 years old are commercially available, this locks up 96 per cent of 20th century culture to benefit 4 per cent. The harm to the public is huge, the benefit to authors, tiny. In any other field, the officials responsible would be fired. Why not the government legislature members who passed the bills?

FT.com / Comment & analysis / Columnists – James Boyle: Deconstructing stupidity

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