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  • Apr 8th, 2013 @ 3:39pm

    Copyright's Real History

    I'm no fan of that ridiculous trope "information wants to be free."

    But as a lawyer, Turow ought to know that for the first 100 years of U.S. copyright law, the courts protected rampant piracy of European texts, and considered the public domain the heavy priority over the rights of authors (in stark contrast to the way patent law protected inventors, btw)

    This from the first copyright law in 1790: “Nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book or books by any person not a citizen of the United States.”

    Even a century later, in Koppel v. Downing, the court said this: “The primary object of [copyright] is to promote the progress of science and the useful arts, thereby benefitting the public, and as a means to that end and as a secondary object, to secure exclusive rights to authors.”

    Things have changed, of course, with the rights of authors much more strongly protected nowadays (too strongly, many feel, in the length of the term of copyright).

    But Turow ought to know his own patriotic history before he tries slinging it at others.