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.