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New Research: Extending Copyright Massively Increases Prices, Limits Dissemination Of Knowledge

from the stealing-from-the-public-domain dept

Way back 1841, UK politician Thomas Macaulay famously argued against the extension of copyright by saying that such monopolies:

We have, then, only one resource left. We must betake ourselves to copyright, be the inconveniences of copyright what they may. Those inconveniences, in truth, are neither few nor small. Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly. My honourable and learned friend talks very contemptuously of those who are led away by the theory that monopoly makes things dear. That monopoly makes things dear is certainly a theory, as all the great truths which have been established by the experience of all ages and nations, and which are taken for granted in all reasonings, may be said to be theories. It is a theory in the same sense in which it is a theory that day and night follow each other, that lead is heavier than water, that bread nourishes, that arsenic poisons, that alcohol intoxicates. If, as my honourable and learned friend seems to think, the whole world is in the wrong on this point, if the real effect of monopoly is to make articles good and cheap, why does he stop short in his career of change? Why does he limit the operation of so salutary a principle to sixty years? Why does he consent to anything short of a perpetuity? He told us that in consenting to anything short of a perpetuity he was making a compromise between extreme right and expediency. But if his opinion about monopoly be correct, extreme right and expediency would coincide. Or rather, why should we not restore the monopoly of the East India trade to the East India Company? Why should we not revive all those old monopolies which, in Elizabeth’s reign, galled our fathers so severely that, maddened by intolerable wrong, they opposed to their sovereign a resistance before which her haughty spirit quailed for the first and for the last time? Was it the cheapness and excellence of commodities that then so violently stirred the indignation of the English people?

I believe, Sir, that I may with safety take it for granted that the effect of monopoly generally is to make articles scarce, to make them dear, and to make them bad.

Indeed, they do make things scarce and dear. A group of researchers, including Petra Moser, whose excellent work we’ve covered in the past, have been exploring the impact of copyright term extension on works, and it shows pretty unequivocally, that copyright extension has a pretty massive impact by raising the cost of books (pdf) as the copyright is extended. This important research suggests that other research, arguing in favor of copyright term extension by saying that it has no such impact, may be incorrect.

This is important, because we’re quickly approaching the time when we’re likely to see renewed efforts towards copyright extension, and we’ve already begun to see attempts by copyright maximalists to argue for perpetual copyright. Stan Liebowitz, for example, has been trying to argue that copyright extension (or even perpetual copyright) is a sensible position, because the public domain is somehow an unfair “tax.”

The truth is the opposite. Copyright extension is an unfair tax on the public by doing the exact opposite of the claimed purpose of copyright. Over and over again, we are told that copyright is important in increasing access and diffusion of knowledge — but this new research shows the opposite. It shows that for every year of increase in copyright term, the price of an item increased by 8%. Add things up on a 20 year copyright term extension, and we’re talking about a rather massive monopoly rent (tax) from the public directed to the heirs of certain creators.

This latest research looked back at the UK Copyright Act of 1814, which has some specific features that made it easier for the researchers to compare different cases and to pretty conclusively exclude other factors as being the causes of the price difference. Much of the paper is taken up explaining the details, and you can dig in if you’d like, but suffice it to say, this appears to be a case where the researchers had enough data that they could isolate the impact of copyright term extension specifically by using the fact that the Act increased copyright term for dead authors, but not the living. And the impact was clear:

Difference-in-difference analyses of these data indicate that extensions in the length of copyright led to a substantial increase in the price of books. Regressions with author and book age fixed effects indicate that – after the length of copyright for dead authors doubled from 14 to 28 years in 1814 – the price of books by dead authors increased by 20.02 additional shillings compared with books by living authors. Compared with an average price of 17.79 shillings for all editions after 1814, this implies an increase of 8 percent for each additional year of copyright, and an elasticity of price with respect to longer copyright of 0.9. These estimates are robust to controlling for genre, literary quality, and physical characteristics (page numbers and book sizes). Estimates of time-varying effects indicate that these effects became statistically significant six years after the Act, with no significant pre-trends.

Simply put, the impact of copyright term extension was to massively increase the cost of books by authors covered by that extension. Comparing it to works not covered by the extension showed no similar increase in price. Furthermore, additional explorations ruled out nearly all other possible explanations, showing that the results here were robust.

In case it’s not clear, the argument was that the price of books effectively doubled for those dead authors covered by the extension, all because of a single term extension:

Summary statistics indicate a substantial increase in the average price of books by dead authors compared with books by living authors after 1814. For books that had been in print for 14 years or less (which were affected by a differential increase in the length of copyright for books by dead authors), the price of new editions of books by dead authors nearly doubled from 17.69s between 1790 and 1814 to 33.39s between 1815 and 1840…. By comparison, the price of books by living authors declined from 17.64s until 1814 to 17.13s after 1814.

In case you were wondering, before such copyright term extension, those books by dead authors were actually cheaper than the books by living authors, though the numbers were so close as to suggest the prices were effectively equivalent… until copyright term extension entered the equation.

Baseline regressions confirm the differential price increase for books by dead authors. Estimates for dead indicate that, until 1814, books by dead authors sold for 6s less than books by living authors….

The research further supports this massive cost of copyright extension by showing that books that go off copyright get cheaper:

Price data also confirm that books became cheaper after they went off copyright. The median price of 1,072 editions in the data is 10.5s if the title is on copyright, and 9.0s if the title is off copyright, which implies a 15 percent reduction in price. For example, the price of Reverend William Paley (1743-1805)’s book A View of Evidences of Christianity (first edition in 1794, under copyright until 1808) declined from 12s in 1794 to 9s in 1820 and 4.5s in 1824. Lower prices for books off copyright are confirmed by modern data on the price of early 20th century bestsellers: 20 popular bestsellers first published between 1923 and 1932 and still on copyright sold for an average price of $8.05 in 2006, compared with $4.45 for 20 popular bestsellers first published between 1919 and 1923 and off copyright

What this means is that the deadweight loss to the public is really quite massive. Rather than these books declining in price and making them more affordable to the masses, the exact opposite appears to happen: they tend to double in price. They become more expensive. And this goes exactly against the intent of copyright to make such works more available:

… our findings imply that longer copyrights raise the costs of accessing intellectual assets for consumers and other firms, which may discourage the diffusion of knowledge and decelerate the pace of cumulative innovation and learning-by-doing.

As we begin to see a concerted effort by the entertainment industry to expand copyright terms once again, it’s important to question whether or not we really want this sort of clear tax on knowledge and limits on the sharing of ideas and knowledge.

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Comments on “New Research: Extending Copyright Massively Increases Prices, Limits Dissemination Of Knowledge”

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99 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

I don’t see a problem here. I mean, dead authors have their own needs, right? You know, their graves have to be maintained. You often have gardens that need attention and nurturing. And hell, those dead authors are probably damn famous so you need a huge infra-structure to support all those worshiping fans that flow to these holy places to honor their beloved artists.

Yeah, makes sense to extend copyrights, the dead really need that income to proper maintain their afterlives.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a dream....

…that I can one day have a dream free from having to pay somebody’s kids and grandkids a license to have said dream. To be free from the life + 70 year sentence put on me because I want to spread an important piece of work someone else wrote.

In my dream, the entertainment industry does what it says and protects the artist. Collecting money for a dead artist doesn’t really help the artist. Last I checked, you can’t take money to the next life. The copyright protection may help your family, but why do they have any more right to your work than I do?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: I have a dream....

Copyright extensions seem to function like a drug for the holders. It helps them ignore reality changing around them, and cling to the ideal that nothing has to ever change.
If we want a robust market why do we coddle these addicts by allowing them more time to flail upon the corpse of some forgotten dreamers dream made tangible, rather than have them bring us new dreamers dreams? They flog and fret trying to get every possible cent from the dream, and we give them decades to obtain this value.. allowing them to deny society the full dream that is part of the shared consciousness that was promised to us after they were allowed to be the sole holder of that dream for so long.

If we want a nimble competitive market, should we not remove their reliance on having decades to try and extract value before allowing the dream to be dreamt by all? What new dreams might the old ones bring forth, keeping the cycle moving forward?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I have a dream....

Jumping a little bit off topic of this thread….

If we want a nimble competitive market, should we not remove their reliance on having decades to try and extract value before allowing the dream to be dreamt by all?

I’m very very very pro-competition. I also believe that a person should be able to make a buck off an idea (even if that’s a penny or percent per sale for a year or something).

However, with the way the market is now, you can profit extremely quickly off a good idea (whether it’s music, film, text, or a physical device). It’s much easier to publish and be first to market.

Having said that, I have a hard time with the concept of a copyright extension in this new “nimble competitive market”. It just doesn’t fit. In fact, you would think it would be moving the opposite direction. If it’s faster to produce and sell to a global market, shouldn’t profits be easier to get in a timely fashion?

All things considered, copyright duration should be shrinking! If production companies the size of the MAFIAA (they aren’t the only ones) can’t make their profits in the first couple months, then they don’t deserve the profits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I have a dream....

This +1

When copyright was first created, it took years for a work to reach market, and was disseminated amongst a largely illiterate populace. Copyright lasted 14 years, with a possible 14 year extension, if the author was willing to pay to have it extended.

Today, the work is instantly available to the predominately literate population. So The available market has gone from a few million people, that took years to reach, to a market of 7 billion people accessible in seconds.

How can they justify requiring life +75 years now when they have instant world wide distribution available

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I have a dream....

Which was the point I was trying to make. They can’t change how they operate because they always did it this way. They are constantly high on copyrights ignoring the changing market. They **AA’s produce nothing, they are merely they yes men standing around telling their high buddies, have another hit what can it hurt.

Anonymous Coward says:

copyright has become a meal ticket for those that have it on something, either because the item is theirs to begin with or because they claim it as theirs. there is no chance in hell that anyone on this meal ticket is going to give it up and will obviously do the exact opposite, keep it going as long as possible. it isn’t, however, just the payments received that they want to continue but by extending copyright for as long as possible, it can produce a secondary income because, perhaps, an existing item needs to be used in research etc in order to produce something better. copyright can also be used to prevent the inventing of, the production of or/and the use of something new coming to market. in that way, a continuous income is guaranteed for the old item because nothing newer and/or better is able to be brought to market and make the original obsolete!

Anonymous Coward says:

Tax

‘Stan Liebowitz, for example, has been trying to argue that copyright extension (or even perpetual copyright) is a sensible position, because the public domain is somehow an unfair “tax.”‘

Even if you granted him that it WAS a tax, isn’t a tax that kicks in decades after you die about the LEAST intrusive tax imaginable? Imagine getting a tax bill that said “Due by February 13 2108” and was paid automatically at that time. Wouldn’t you prefer that to just about any other tax?

But I agree, it’s not a tax. It’s just taking back something that was lent to you (for free) in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Tax

Frankly it shouldn’t be loaned at all. At least, not by those who actually create the content. It should be reclaimable by the creators of the content after a short period of time (for example, five years after publishing) and give it another five years before it enters the public domain, and that time, that it enters the public domain, cannot be renegotiated beyond ten years, but can be shortened. Because you are loaning a monopoly to that person on the proviso that it comes back.

None of this “transferring copyright” bullshit that screws over actual artists, through compilations and false royalty reporting – the only things contract should do, at most, is to give those who fund it a short-term privilege to distribute.

Anonymous Coward says:

The truth is the opposite. Copyright extension is an unfair tax on the public by doing the exact opposite of the claimed purpose of copyright. Over and over again, we are told that copyright is important in increasing access and diffusion of knowledge — but this new research shows the opposite.

You’re only looking at one side of the utilitarian balancing. The goal is to balance dissemination with authors’ rights. You can take away authors’ rights to maximize dissemination, but then you’ve taken away the incentive for authors to produce the works in the first place. Only look at the dissemination issue without looking at the concomitant authors’ rights issue is improper under the utilitarian view. Of course, I’d love to discuss your belief as to why you think that only the utilitarian view has merit, but that would mean you discussing your beliefs directly. I doubt you’re up for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the “deadweight loss” argument has merit. I just think you haven’t shown that your economic analysis is the only view with merit.

Pitabred (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Wait… you think people won’t create without direct monetary compensation? Then why did you write your post just now, without being paid?

Copyright, as it is, has very little benefit to society as a whole. I can see arguing for a very limited copyright, but the current system of life + 70 years plus whatever Congress decides to tack on whenever Mickey comes back up for public domain again is completely untenable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Wait… you think people won’t create without direct monetary compensation? Then why did you write your post just now, without being paid?

I think everyone creates without direct monetary compensation.

Copyright, as it is, has very little benefit to society as a whole. I can see arguing for a very limited copyright, but the current system of life + 70 years plus whatever Congress decides to tack on whenever Mickey comes back up for public domain again is completely untenable.

While not all new works are incentivized through copyright, the majority of the ones with real market value are, as far as I can tell. How did you determine that it has little benefit to society? I’m really curious how one arrives at this conclusion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Sure, that is why the Renaissance never happened.

Quote:

little benefit to society

Yep, the more an imposed monopoly grows and expands the less useful it is to everybody except the holders of the monopoly.

Things like:

– Limiting supply.
– predatory pricing
– Price discrimination
– Refusal to deal and exclusive dealing (studios do that all the time see RedBox, Hulu, Netflix and others)
– Tying (commerce) and product bundling

Become common, not to mention that in an artificial monopoly that has not natural regulatory scheme it is common to see pricing reach levels that exclude everybody from being able to afford it meaning no access, just leaving the few percent that can afford it, ignoring completely other lower price brackets, meaning only a few have access, meaning it doesn’t benefit the majority of society, meaning is useless.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly

Quote:

This simulation illustrates how a monopolist can cause harm to consumers and create market inefficiency by withholding socially valuable output and raising prices.

http://www.unclaw.com/chin/teaching/antitrust/monopoly.htm

ps: See there in the graphic economic ignorant creature the answer to how Mike concluded that a monopoly is bad it was a “dead” give away.

Other sources:
http://www.swcollege.com/bef/cebula/micro_dsim_dialog.html
http://demonstrations.wolfram.com/search.html?query=monopoly

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Nearly 2,000 years going back to Homer. Also cave painting and flute music known to have existed 40,00 years ago. Culture has been around for 10,000’s of years.

Yep. No doubt that cave painters were not incentivized by copyright. Yet the stuff that is of marketable value today tends to be the stuff based on the copyright business model. Hence all the infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

How do you explain the need for granting a monopoly longer than a year or two since after a couple of years most of what was produced the year before is not even economic viable?

Are people rushing to buy movies from 2 years ago? or to buy music from 2 years ago? or books or anything?

Shouldn’t copyright than only last for the duration of the economic viability of the product?

In that case I doubt that copyright would be longer than ten years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

How do you explain the need for granting a monopoly longer than a year or two since after a couple of years most of what was produced the year before is not even economic viable?

I think it’s not that simple.

Shouldn’t copyright than only last for the duration of the economic viability of the product?

My point is that only looking at some ill-defined economic indicator is erroneous. I think that other considerations are important.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

AJ, simple yes or no answer, answer the following question. Have you stopped beating your wife?

Yes, you have stopped beating your wife.

or

No, you haven’t stopped beating your wife.

No wiggling room or running away. Those are your two choices. Choose. (To just give you an example of what you want Mike to “discuss”. Or better said this is your version of “a discussion”. Asking pointedly loaded questions and then giving Mike only two options of answers of your choosing to select from, anything else is considered “running away” or “not answering a direct question” or blah blah fucking blah.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I think that other considerations are important.

AJ, your blatent tries to avoid the question being posed to you are obvious. It’s no wonder you wont sit down and have a real conversation but only spout out babble about one side of the story. You’re not presenting a balanced approach and are dancing around any sort of real answer. Why don’t you sit down and explain what you really thing since your 1,000,000 posts don’t seem to answer the real questions about copyright.

Where’s the start/stop sarcasm tags again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hundreds of years worth of culture pre-copyright would beg to differ with you.

I don’t deny that tons of stuff is produced without copyright. I’m merely pointing out that the stuff today that has market value is also the stuff produced via a copyright-based business model. Want to prove that “free” is better? Go for it. But don’t pretend like the “good stuff” today isn’t because of copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You’d be hard pressed to find a music historian to claim that Mozart wasn’t considered the “good stuff” back in his day. Yet Mozart made all his money off patronage, not copyright.

Today’s commercial environment favors the business model we call copyright, so obviously most of the cultural creations will gravitate towards the business model that works with today’s business environment. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that the business environment is the reason the culture is “good”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You’d be hard pressed to find a music historian to claim that Mozart wasn’t considered the “good stuff” back in his day. Yet Mozart made all his money off patronage, not copyright.

Yep, patronage works too. I think it’s a step backwards though.

Today’s commercial environment favors the business model we call copyright, so obviously most of the cultural creations will gravitate towards the business model that works with today’s business environment. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that the business environment is the reason the culture is “good”.

I think that it’s obvious that copyright business models produce works of great value to society. To pretend otherwise is silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What you think is irrelevant what history and actual facts show on the other hand is that with or without a granted monopoly production of great works would happen, even you admitted so on your misleading post down below.

To insinuate that great works would not happen without “copyright(monopoly) business models” is just silly.

How do restaurants survive without a granted monopoly?
How fashion happens without monopolies?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I think that it’s obvious that copyright business models produce works of great value to society.

It’s not obvious at all.

There are works of great value to society being created today. But beyond this point, I guess is where we agree to disagree.

The use of copyright to fund these works is only a side-effect of today’s legislative framework. Under different legislative frameworks, the business model would differ. But the greatness of the works would remain the same.

You see the business model driving the behavior. I see the behavior happening, then searching for a business model.

(as a footnote: even though you seem to disfavor patronage, it does appear to be making a comeback ala Kickstarter. Though it’s slightly different than the Hapsburgs in that this is patronage by the masses rather than patronage by the elite)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The question is not what happens to business models dependent on copyright, but rather what is the best for human culture. Copyright worked when the problem was selecting what works were to be produced using the limited capacities of printing presses and record presses. It is now limiting people from exploring and exploiting culture now an easy method of distribution exists.
While this may cause some people to lose income, it will allow others to find ways of making an income. Removing the publisher from the equation also allows a smaller number of fans to give an artist a viable income. This will and does allow more people top create, some part time, and some full time, and a lucky few will get rich.

MrWilson says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“I think that it’s obvious that copyright business models produce works of great value to society. To pretend otherwise is silly.”

No, it’s silly to pretend that the business models are what create the works. It’s human creativity that creates works, and they’re created, not in a vacuum, but in a culture that the artist absorbs and filters and then contributes back to.

Everything of any value that is being produced today is being created in spite of copyright, not because of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Dude has obviously not seen the absolute shite that is being produced today. so, two things:

1) Why the hell would I want to fund some jumped-up Autotuner’s career of drugs and drink?: and
2) Why the hell would I willing to see that $100m movie that I don’t like just so the artists don’t get paid that much?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I’m merely pointing out that the stuff today that has market value is also the stuff produced via a copyright-based business model.

The reality is that market value is not mostly a function of quality – it tends to be a function of marketing spend.

Marketing spend is of course only viable under a copyright business model – but then from the public’s point of view marketing spend is a waste of money in the modern world.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Want to prove that “free” is better? Go for it.

this is done every day.

But don’t pretend like the “good stuff” today isn’t because of copyright.

It’s not pretending. The fact that copyright-free (or as close as is legally possible in the US) stuff is being produced with a quality equal to or greater than copyrighted stuff is a pretty strong indication that copyright isn’t responsible for quality.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The absolutely mindboggling number of creators making music, videos, stories, games and who knows what else, for nothing more than the desire to do so and/or to share their creations with others would like to have a word with you.

The idea that copyright is required, or even particularly helpful to incentivize creators these days is proven more and more wrong by the countless people who continue to create and yet could not care less about copyright.

As an aside, I’m really starting to wonder, is it even possible for you to post a comment without making a complaint in one form or another whining about how ‘Mike won’t discuss his position on things’?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I disagree. That is not the goal of copyright at all.

Then we actually agree. I don’t think that the utilitarian view of copyright is the only view with merit. Nor do I think that there’s actually any uniformity amongst those who do. I’m questioning his view that the only purpose of copyright is to maximize some function that he never produces.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

AJ, can you not post anything without including thinly veiled attacks directed at Mike for not discussing his beliefs or debating WITH YOU? This is beyond stupid now. For all of our sakes, just discuss the issues and leave your personal gripes against Mike out of it.

But, anyway…how much incentive from copyright do dead authors need before they’ll create something new? I mean, we keep hearing from maximalists how they need copyright to create. But, where’s the evidence? Dead men tell no tales.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

AJ, can you not post anything without including thinly veiled attacks directed at Mike for not discussing his beliefs or debating WITH YOU? This is beyond stupid now. For all of our sakes, just discuss the issues and leave your personal gripes against Mike out of it.

There’s nothing thin about it. As long as he runs from discussing the issues he brings up and oversimplifies or exaggerates in his articles, I feel the need to publicly shame him on it. I think he’s hyper-critical of others without acknowledging that his own views don’t withstand much scrutiny. What’s the point of that?

But, anyway…how much incentive from copyright do dead authors need before they’ll create something new? I mean, we keep hearing from maximalists how they need copyright to create. But, where’s the evidence? Dead men tell no tales.

Dead people? None. No incentive whatsoever. My point is that there’s more to it than that. That’s what I want to discuss. It’s silly to say “they’re dead, ergo copyright is broken.” That’s not addressing the underlying, fundamental issues. The fact is that Mike cannot prove that his view is the only view that matters. He purports to have some evidence-based view of things that is better than other views. That sounds nice on the surface, but I don’t think he can back it up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The underlying fundamental issue is that copyright is an harmful artificial monopoly that has outlived its usefulness.

Can you plot numbers?

If you can you can get all the sales numbers for every new product from any industry and see that it fallows a bell curve.

Most products from the entertainment industry don’t last one year, very few below 1% have any market value after ten and still you can say with a straight face that somehow production would be affected if the terms went down?

Why, after ten years there is no monetary incentive to have total control, so why does anybody needs life plus 95 years?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“…you’ve taken away the incentive for authors to produce the works in the first place.”

Shakespeare created his works without “benefit” of copyright.
Are you saying he had no incentive to do so, boy?
(The Statute of Anne didn’t go into effect until 1710, a century after the Bard of Avon had left this mortal coil.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Shakespeare created his works without “benefit” of copyright.
Are you saying he had no incentive to do so, boy?
(The Statute of Anne didn’t go into effect until 1710, a century after the Bard of Avon had left this mortal coil.)

Yes, many people create without copyright. And many, many people create under the copyright business model. So what?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You are mistaken the most valuable assets in a copyright environment would be the most valuable assets in any other economic environment.

It is not produce because of it, it is produce in spite of it.

Copyright a granted monopoly is a profit bolster not a profit generator, which could happen even without it.

Franklin G Ryzzo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

This was the way the original copyright system worked… You filed for copyright and paid a fee if you felt the work could be successfully monetized. 14 years later, if you felt you could still monetize the content, you could pay another fee and renew the granted monopoly rights. This made sense. Hell, I wouldn’t even mind if you could continually renew the copyright for as long as you felt you could monetize the work provided you have to actively renew it and pay a non-trivial fee for each renewal.

There is so much culture no longer being monetized that is locked up from the public, removing their ability to build and expand upon it, and those that would lock up this culture are granted this ability automatically and for free. This is a perversion of the original intent of copyright, wouldn’t you say?

masquisieras says:

Re: Re: Re:

its worst than that if Copyright would have existed at that time Romeo and Juliet would have not existed as is well documented is based in the Lovers of Teruel of Lope de Vega as this work is based in the oral tradition based on real life events occurred in the city of Teruel. Under the modern Copyright regime clearing the Right forget it.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The goal is to balance dissemination with authors’ rights.

No. The goal is to balance competing interests in the public good. One is the public benefit that results because of this monopoly, the other is the public detriment that results because of this monopoly. Authors’ “rights” have nothing to do with it.

You can take away authors’ rights to maximize dissemination, but then you’ve taken away the incentive for authors to produce the works in the first place.

That only matters if authors would not produce more works, and if publishers would not disseminate them in the first place, if copyright did not exist.

Certainly, that’s not true, at least regarding of our current copyright laws. It would only be true if our current copyright laws encouraged the dissemination of new works, or of works currently under copyright. Looking at the data, neither is true.

If copyright was all that the theory supposed it was, then there would be no “orphaned works” issue – because there would be no “orphaned works” in the first place. The theory says that the copyright monopoly grants an incentive to continue publishing copyrighted works. If copyright worked as intended, no works would be “orphaned.” They would all still be in print, motivated by the monopoly on distribution and copying that is granted by the government.

Not only that, but out of print works would be a rarity. Companies would be incentivized, via copyright laws, to keep works in print for as long as possible, to take advantage of their monopoly.

But neither situation is true. Most of history’s copyrighted works are out of print (due to unpopularity), therefore unavailable to the public. This applies even to copyrighted works from twenty years ago. If they were in the public domain, every interested party would be able to restore them, either for profit or for personal interests; as of now, they’re legally prevented from doing so.

And it’s not like the public gets greater access to “new” art forms in return. With longer copyright protection, publishers are encouraged by the government to sit on their haunches and promote artworks that have been around for ages, but are still under copyright. They are actually discouraged from producing new works – because those new works might “cannibalize” their profits from older, still profitable, works, that are still under control due to copyright laws.

Nowhere is this better seen than in the music industry. Think about how many commercial radio stations are “classic rock” stations. Hell, even the “alternative” stations play absolutely nothing that isn’t introduced to the station by a major label.

Now consider what would happen if copyright only lasted the original length of 14 years. Suddenly, all those “classic” songs would not be protected by a government-granted monopoly on those songs to major label music publishers. They would do everything in their power to promote artists that were “newer,” hence still under copyright. How long do you think “classic rock” stations would last under that copyright regime?

Furthermore, how much money do you think labels would spend on “new music,” if they knew that they wouldn’t be able to rely on catalog artists?

Make no mistake about it. The copyright monopoly is not the cause of artistic creation. It opposes artistic creation. It is a detriment to the arts, and to society. It does nothing but remove the incentive of publishers to publish new works, and of artists to become anything more than “one-hit wonders.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not an abolitionist. I realize that some protection is good for both authors and society. But I realize that the ultimate beneficiary must be the public, and that “author’s rights” must be good for every member of the public, whether “author” or not.

And I recognize that the current copyright regime has been acting against that, and that it has been for a very, very long time.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re:

The goal is to balance dissemination with authors’ rights.

No, the goal is to cause the greatest number of works which otherwise would not be created and published to be created and published, and also to place those works into the public domain as fully and immediately as possible.

You may have to trade some of the latter half of the goal in order to incentivize the former, but “author’s rights” never enter into it except as a mere means to an end. The goal is always to produce the greatest net public benefit and damn anything else.

You can take away authors’ rights to maximize dissemination, but then you’ve taken away the incentive for authors to produce the works in the first place

No, copyright is only one incentive. Other incentives exist. Some authors create art for art’s sake; copyright can’t incentivize that. Some authors create art for the fame and glory of it; copyright can’t incentivize that. Some authors create art for money… but not copyright related money (e.g. selling artistic services, or selling specific copies with a valuable provenance); copyright can’t incentivize that.

Take away copyright and other incentives will still exist. We know this, since copyright didn’t exist until as recently as 1710, and then only in one small corner of the world for quite a long time, yet art was still commonly produced worldwide by basically every culture there was.

Of course, I’d love to discuss your belief as to why you think that only the utilitarian view has merit

In a legitimate government, power comes from the consent of the people to be governed. Copyright is inescapably a restriction on free speech, an inherent right which encompasses verbatim repetition of another’s speech.

Why would the people ever consent to sacrifice a portion of their right of free speech so that other people can make money by charging the same people monopoly prices for commodity copies, unless there was some benefit for the people that outweighed that quite substantial cost?

That’s why it’s utilitarian — it doesn’t work unless other people willingly cooperate. And why should they unless there’s something in it for them?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Add things up on a 20 year copyright term extension, and we’re talking about a rather massive monopoly rent (tax) from the public directed to the heirs of certain creators.

No, no, you see, you’ve got it all wrong.

A tax is when money is taken from the public and given to the government, where it can be used to fund public works projects that benefits everyone. This is clearly a horrible thing, and if you’re in favor of it in any way, you are obviously a dirty commie.

When money gets taken from the public and given to private corporations, to line the executives’ pockets, that’s the natural order of things! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and that’s not an evil, insidious tax at all. How dare you even suggest such a thing?

Aliasundercover says:

But wait, there's more!

It isn’t just keeping a monopoly on old works which motivates perpetual copyright. It prevents competition from the public domain. An old book may serve a similar need to a new one. Were copyrights not already so insanely long old recordings and old movies would compete with new. Old public domain music would be especially valuable for use in new work being free of royalties and especially clearance hassles. If your business is charging rent on these things free competition is poison.

It is no different from today’s efforts to kill First Sale. Competition from used copies is just as unwelcome as competition from public domain.

If only the public domain funded superpacs and aggregated campaign contributions it might stand a chance.

dennis deems (profile) says:

Awkward quote lead-in

I wonder if you originally intended to quote just the bolded text from Macaulay. As it is you have

Way back 1841, UK politician Thomas Macaulay famously argued against the extension of copyright by saying that such monopolies:

We have, then, only one resource left.

When you introduce a quote with an incomplete sentence, then the quote itself must complete it.

(Also, missing a preposition?)

TroutFishingUSA says:

Re: Plural.

Monopolies are detrimental when they’re held over commodity goods. “Records” would be a commodity, but specific songs are not. If some company is granted a monopoly on producing records in general, then that is a drain on society because it would deny me entrance into the market of selling records. But, my monopoly over my specific songs, for instance, doesn’t preclude any other person from entering the very same market with their original songs. Words can have wide meanings; and it’s relevant to note that at the time the constitution was written, monopoly had not become the evil concept that it is known by today.

For instance, you have a monopoly on usage of your car, but you don’t have a monopoly on the usage of cars. Does that make sense?

People around here don’t really seem to understand the key word commodity as it relates to monopolies of the evil kind. Or maybe they willfully ignore it, because that it would undermine much of their agenda. I suppose it depends on your level of cynicism. Mine is very high.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Plural.

There is just one little problem with it.

The derivative on a song or book or movie includes derivatives, that means it makes it generic enough to a car, in fact you get a monopoly on an entire class of stuff.

Courts have ruled that 3 notes are enough to be copyright infringement, copying part of stories to use in another place is copyright infringement, so in fact copyright over a simple song covers much more than just the song it covers the notes, the composition, the style and other aspects of that song making it extremely hazardous for the market.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: Plural.

The monopoly isn’t over a song, it’s over the making of copies of the song.

Each copy is more or less interchangeable with every other copy of the song; they’re commodities, for which the price would be, in the absence of a copyright, about the marginal cost of each copy. The effect of a copyright is to charge higher prices for the commodity items for a lack of competition in that specific commodity. This is classic monopoly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Extending copyright from life+50 to life+70 adds no economic benefit

Breyer’s dissent in Eldred is germane, if you’re interested in thinking about the intersection of the annual effective discount rate and the long tail. Basically, the math supports the intuitively obvious point that most economic decisions made today don’t care what happens in fifty years, let alone seventy.

Personally, I think copyright ought to be genre-dependant, and the terms set via empirical analysis of the different conditions of production. For example, a novel might merit 10 years of copyright protection, with an optional renewal. Popular music might merit less protection (lower input costs), but a slightly longer term. Academic research might not merit any protection at all.

Whatever the case, the idea that the terms and conditions ought to be set by evidence-based analysis of various policy options is anathema to copyright maximalists. For them, the only Religiously Acceptable Option is obvious — and arguing with them about as useful as arguing with Amiga worshippers.

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