Monday, May 21, 2007

A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright?

"WHAT if, after you had paid the taxes on earnings with which you built a house, sales taxes on the materials, real estate taxes during your life, and inheritance taxes at your death, the government would eventually commandeer it entirely? This does not happen in our society ... to houses. Or to businesses. Were you to have ushered through the many gates of taxation a flour mill, travel agency or newspaper, they would not suffer total confiscation.

Once the state has dipped its enormous beak into the stream of your wealth and possessions they are allowed to flow from one generation to the next. Though they may be divided and diminished by inflation, imperfect investment, a proliferation of descendants and the government taking its share, they are not simply expropriated.

That is, unless you own a copyright. Were I tomorrow to write the great American novel (again?), 70 years after my death the rights to it, though taxed at inheritance, would be stripped from my children and grandchildren. To the claim that this provision strikes malefactors of great wealth, one might ask, first, where the heirs of Sylvia Plath berth their 200-foot yachts. And, second, why, when such a stiff penalty is not applied to the owners of Rockefeller Center or Wal-Mart, it is brought to bear against legions of harmless drudges who, other than a handful of literary plutocrats (manufacturers, really), are destined by the nature of things to be no more financially secure than a seal in the Central Park Zoo."
New York Times, May 20, 2007

Seems to me to a logic argument in its own, wouldn't there be more to it then the financial side, which is almost non existant with the majority of the novels diapearing from the bookshelves and only will have a second live because the internet allows to discover them and print, if necessary, them on demand. Enforcement of copyright=ownership would though disrupt the new flow of information and development of web2.0 and similar amazing new possibilites.


Blogger Jochen said...

I agree: Too many obscure but interesting works are being lost because copyright makes it too expensive to preserve them.

The article from the NYT started an interesting discussion on Techdirt:
Nice read, but the author has his very own interpretation of the history of copyright.

8:13 AM  

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