If This Is The Sort Of Writing That Strong Copyright Creates… I'll Pass
from the let-it-go... dept
Two years ago, we were among those who piled on in response to author Mark Helprin’s NY Times op-ed piece in which he argued that copyright should last forever. We explained why this showed a fundamental ignorance of the very purpose of copyright law. Of course, rather than inform himself, it appears Helprin spent the past two years fuming against those who tried to educate him. He’s written an entire book bashing the “digital barbarians” who are trying to destroy society by picking away at copyright. I’m about halfway through the book, and I’d finish it faster if I didn’t have to keep whacking my head against the wall wondering how someone could fail so spectacularly at basic fundamental logic and comprehension. I’m planning to write up something of a review (along with reviews of some other, much more worthwhile books) at some point soon.
In the meantime, however, the Wall Street Journal saw fit to give Helprin space to embarrass himself royally earlier this week. The piece attacks consumer rights advocates as being advocates for “thieves” (don’t get me started…) and implies that those fighting against copyright extension are all part of a plot of some big tech companies to get all information for free (and destroy society at the same time). It goes on to suggest (despite the fact that copyright law has been changed in one direction and one direction only over the years) that those of us concerned about the massive expansion of copyright have been winning battle after battle with almost no opposition:
So here we have a city — the hypothetical city and New York itself — deeply dependent upon what copyright protects but unaware of the threat it faces, even as, sector by sector, it begins to fall. Are you — were you — in publishing? Are you, or were you, a journalist? A screenwriter, composer, architect, designer, photographer, writer, or in a business that brings the work of these people to the public? What have you done to protect your life’s blood and to guarantee the continued independence of your voice? As distressed as you may be now or not long from now, should copyright go the way of all flesh, some of you may soon be unable even to recognize your own profession, if indeed it continues to exist.
As ridiculous as his book is, at least his argument there is laid out with a bit more effort. This piece is just pure tripe, backed up with nothing even resembling fact. It’s odd that a publication like the Wall Street Journal would allow blatant falsehoods to be published in its pages, but if that’s what it takes these days to defend copyright… I guess it shows how desperate the defenders of Big Copyright have become.
K Matthew Dames from Copycense has taken an initial stab at correcting many of Helprin’s errors in great detail, citing numerous sources to show just how incredibly wrong Helprin is over and over again.
Still, the thing that struck me is that Helprin’s argument does what many other “defenses” of the elitist (and purely imaginary) notion that there’s some war between “professional content creators” and those weak-minded “amateurs” who are trying to destroy them seem to do: it disproves its own point. For all the talk about how copyright and other tools of “protection” against the riff raff guarantees higher quality output, all we get is totally indefensible material like Helprin’s. The defense of copyright produces misleading, poorly thought out, poorly defended and flat out wrong content such as Helprin’s. Meanwhile, the thoughtful, reasonable, useful analysis comes from sites like Copycense. In the end, that may be the best response to Helprin’s work. His own words disprove his own thesis.