Sad: 75 Year Old Explanation For Why Copyrights Are Bad… Locked Up Behind Paywall
from the too-bad dept
A few weeks ago, we wrote about famed economist Gary Becker (along with his colleague Judge Richard Posner) discussing problems with the patent and copyright system, and pondering if the laws on both needed to change. Becker’s thoughts were particularly interesting, because he actually brought up some writings on the topic that I was unfamiliar with:
The various harmful effects of the patent and copyright systems encouraged Arnold Plant, an English economist, to publish over 75 years ago two influential articles on why England and other countries would be better off without patents and copyrights.
While I’ve seen a number of historical arguments along those lines (Fritz Machlup’s economic review of the patent system comes to mind), I had not heard of Plant’s two articles. So I went in search of them… and discovered that they’re locked up behind a paywall. Plant’s key paper, entitled “The Economic Theory Concerning Patents for Inventions” can be found on JSTOR, where they want… $43 for the 21 page article. Yes, it’s more than $2 per page. For a 78 (almost 79) year old document. Then there’s his other key article, “The Economic Aspects of Copyright in Books.” It, too, can be found on JSTOR for $43, though this one is 28 pages, so you get a per-page price of slightly under $2 this time… which still seems crazy.
It’s not just ridiculous that these two publications, both published in 1934, are not in the public domain — considering they argue that such locking up of information and ideas is bad for society, it’s particularly ironic that they are so hard to get and and that JSTOR charges such ridiculous fees for them. Though, I guess if you want to keep such prices high so you can act as a gatekeeper, what better way than to effectively hide these works by pricing them out of the market?