Yet Another Study Shows How Copyright Can Hinder The Spread Of Knowledge

from the but-of-course dept

A bunch of you have sent over the article from Spiegel about new research (the latest in a very long line) again pointing out that copyright gets in the way of a thriving writing industry (that’s the Google translate version of the original German report). The research compared the book markets in the UK (with a strong copyright law) and Germany (with either weak or non-existent copyright), and found much more writing going on in Germany and (more importantly) much more innovation in the bookselling market. In the UK, where copyright limited printings, books were expensive and only owned by the wealthy and elite. In Germany, where copyright was weak or didn’t exist, certainly there was a fair amount of copying of other books, but it resulted in widespread innovation in the book market, including segmenting the market into hardcovers (for the wealthy and the elite) and cheaper paperbacks for those less well off.

Not only that, but the sorts of works created again favor the lack of copyright. While writing in the UK tended to focus on what the wealthy and the elite wanted to ponder (literature, philosophy, language and history), written works in Germany focused on the practical and useful (chemistry, mechanics, mechanical engineering, optics and steel production).

And, despite what copyright defenders will tell you, this system appears to have worked out much better for the authors as well. That’s because the rampant competition from other printers meant that printers were in dire need of new and unique material. That meant that the actual writers had the upper hand in negotiations with printers, who always wanted to “break” new publications and get them out to innovate and be ahead of what other printers were doing. The article notes that authors were able to earn quite a lot of money by working with various printers without copyright. As copyright law changed in Germany, and became more widely adhered to, many authors were actually upset as the prices of books rose, and their market and earnings diminished.

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Comments on “Yet Another Study Shows How Copyright Can Hinder The Spread Of Knowledge”

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15 Comments
TPBer says:

Re: Re: What is this

Are you currently in this industry, I am. All of the real money making print has or is in the process of either going to digital or overseas.

We cannot compete on price here in the US only when there is a time constraint do we keep the money makers (books and pubs)

Why don’t you have a look and see how many print shops have gone out of bus. in the last 5 or so year.

The book business is mostly in the chinese, sing. phill, (you pick your asian country).

The issues of the past , customs, has mostly been resolved and the quality of the product is far superior in both material (paper) and production. We cannot compete with their pricing even when they have to ship around the globe.

Please submit a quote for a hardcover textbook both here and over there, the disparity will be shocking.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What is this

“Are you currently in this industry, I am.”

“many print shops have gone out of bus.”

“The book business is mostly in the chinese, sing. phill,”

(I know this is going to seem like a cheap attack, but) Ok, I can see why your business is failing. Can’t bother to finish words and (at least try to) use proper grammar?

Seriously, that weakens your argument and makes it look like you just want to dump the blame on someone else instead of analyzing your own business and try to fix it.

interval (profile) says:

Re: Re: What is this

@AC: “At least every year you need to print new school manuals.”

The textbook industry is a scam. They make a few simple changes to a text and then call it a “New Edition”, and charge school districts and colleges a premium for it. Its one of the things that keeps higher education “high”. This is ONE VERY GOOD REASON to switch to digital media. They can’t continue to overcharge and scam college kids for a simple change to a dm master. It simply wouldn’t work. Too many people would call them on it.

Vidiot (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What is this

Sadly, I think they CAN continue to overcharge and all the rest. True, it’s nowhere near as steep as the paper version, but e-texts I’ve seen have still been unreasonably priced, saddled with DRM schemes that make them almost unusable, and worst of all, time-limited… no going back and looking up formulas and facts next semester. Reinforces the notion that bad business models transcend delivery media.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: What is this

“The print (ink on paper) industry as a whole is a dying industry, I do not know where this article came from but this is nonsense.”

In journalism perhaps, but I still suggest that for fiction it’s a different story. Unlike with copies of CDs or DVDs, there is something about having that paperback or hardcover book. Honestly, I don’t know what it is, I’m just glad it’s there….

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: What is this

That;s not the point of the observations made in the article or the study.

It’s that weaker copyright creates a more competitive and vibrant book market in a jurisdiction regardless of where ink meets paper regardless of where that occurs.

It’s also about the fact that writers actually earn more as a group when this is the case as opposed to where copyright is strong.

Might this explain why the book industry is in trouble? The elite and those with pretentions to that (see Monty Pyton: Upper Middle Class Twit Walk for more details) limits the market to a few rather than all of society. You can charge more per copy but if your market is reduced to a small percentage of the population no matter what you’re gonna sell less and earn less over all.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Since we are talking about the past

What’s comparable today is that there is an explosion of writing now, too. It’s online. Copyright really doesn’t have much to do with it. Lots of people are blogging without much regard to whether or not they’ll make any money.

I think today’s environment is a technology issue rather than a copyright issue. You can self publish, so you do.

My feeling is that there is an explosion of all the creative fields. Lots of people doing photography, music, writing, design, etc. It’s the democratization of the arts.

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