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Old 05-18-2018, 01:57 AM   #1
Thasaidon
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Copyright - Property or Monopoly?

I just came across a copy of the speech below, which was given by Lord Mcauley in the House of Commons in a debate about copyright. It is a long speech in a style not used today but I think points out the flaws in the copyright is property argument.

http://yarchive.net/macaulay/copyright.html


What do you think and say whether you have read the whole speech. I did and fully agree with the arguments it includes.
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Old 05-18-2018, 03:02 AM   #2
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Rather orotund, wasn't it? (Yes, I read the whole way through.)

Not sure I entirely agree with the ideas, but I agree it's rather better than the current mess. Macauley's point about juvenalia not being worth an extended term I thought was well-made; to that I'd suggest copyright is x years from first publication; it may be extended for a further x years by the production of a new edition by the rights holder when the original copyright expires.
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Old 05-18-2018, 03:15 AM   #3
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and never let us forget, that a tax on innocent pleasures is a premium on vicious pleasures
At least the style of speech is pleasant to read

(I haven't read all the way through, but for the impatient: "Copyright is a necessary evil; make it last for the duration of the author's life, but not too long after that")
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Old 05-18-2018, 06:36 AM   #4
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Eric Flint first brought this speech (and a subsequent speech) to my attention back in 2001.

http://www.baen.com/readonline/index.../9781625791214

Two great excepts, but I do encourage people to read the whole.

From the first speech:

"Why, Sir, what is the additional amount of taxation which would have been levied on the public for Dr Johnson's works alone, if my honourable and learned friend's bill had been the law of the land? I have not data sufficient to form an opinion. But I am confident that the taxation on his Dictionary alone would have amounted to many thousands of pounds. In reckoning the whole additional sum which the holders of his copyrights would have taken out of the pockets of the public during the last half century at twenty thousand pounds, I feel satisfied that I very greatly underrate it. Now, I again say that I think it but fair that we should pay twenty thousand pounds in consideration of twenty thousand pounds' worth of pleasure and encouragement received by Dr Johnson. But I think it very hard that we should pay twenty thousand pounds for what he would not have valued at five shillings."

From the second:
"It must surely, Sir, be admitted that the protection which we give to books ought to be distributed as evenly as possible, that every book should have a fair share of that protection, and no book more than a fair share. It would evidently be absurd to put tickets into a wheel, with different numbers marked upon them, and to make writers draw, one a term of twenty-eight years, another a term of fifty, another a term of ninety. And yet this sort of lottery is what my noble friend proposes to establish."
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Old 05-18-2018, 06:45 AM   #5
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Of course, the lottery now is that one book draws 70 years, another 100 years, and a third 140 years.
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Old 05-18-2018, 06:48 AM   #6
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Another absolutely wonderful except from the first speech.

" 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."
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Old 05-18-2018, 07:01 AM   #7
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Yes, I read it all the way through. He basically dismisses the idea of copyright as property and points out that extending the monopoly of copyright past life in reality yields none of the benefits desired, but yields all of the burdens feared. This idea has shown itself to be quite accurate over the years.

I will point out that this is a discussion of European copyright which is a somewhat different tradition than US copyright. US copyright comes from the US Constitution which predates this particular speech.

Lord Mcauley quite correctly points out that it is difficult to square the point of copyright (to encourage writers to produce more books) with the idea of extending copyright past life. I think that the original US copyright term (14 years plus 14 year extension for 28 years) is more than adequate, and that the copyright term that the US has had for most of it's history (28 years plus 14 year extension (28 year extension since 1909)) will ensure that the author gets full benefit of all but a small handful of super popular books.

I have no real issue with allowing an author copyright for his or her lifetime, though I do think that the extension policy (i.e. the author must apply for an extension every X years to maintain the copyright) is a better solution since most authors would allow their copyright to expire once their sales dropped below a particular value as most books do after a couple of years.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:01 AM   #8
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Yes, but these days it really isn't the author who holds the copyright, but a corporate entity (publisher). That's why they had to put a law in that copyright goes back to author after 35 years. I think this is US only though.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:17 AM   #9
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Yes, but these days it really isn't the author who holds the copyright, but a corporate entity (publisher). That's why they had to put a law in that copyright goes back to author after 35 years. I think this is US only though.
The copyright holder is the person listed as the copyright holder in the book. Pretty much every book I've read, it's the author, or a company set up by the author, not the publisher. Performances are of course quite different, but what the original speeches referenced in the post were talking mostly about book copyrights. I suspect you are talking about contracts between the author and the publishing house which gives the publishing house exclusive right to publish a work in a specific geographic location.
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Old 05-18-2018, 06:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
Yes, I read it all the way through. He basically dismisses the idea of copyright as property and points out that extending the monopoly of copyright past life in reality yields none of the benefits desired, but yields all of the burdens feared. This idea has shown itself to be quite accurate over the years.

I will point out that this is a discussion of European copyright which is a somewhat different tradition than US copyright. US copyright comes from the US Constitution which predates this particular speech.

Lord Mcauley quite correctly points out that it is difficult to square the point of copyright (to encourage writers to produce more books) with the idea of extending copyright past life. I think that the original US copyright term (14 years plus 14 year extension for 28 years) is more than adequate, and that the copyright term that the US has had for most of it's history (28 years plus 14 year extension (28 year extension since 1909)) will ensure that the author gets full benefit of all but a small handful of super popular books.

I have no real issue with allowing an author copyright for his or her lifetime, though I do think that the extension policy (i.e. the author must apply for an extension every X years to maintain the copyright) is a better solution since most authors would allow their copyright to expire once their sales dropped below a particular value as most books do after a couple of years.
But Parliament rejected Lord Macaulay's arguments and eventually chose Life+50 with no registration from 1910. There is no evidence that the British Empire suffered much.

The American system proved a recipe for paradise for bureaucrats, pirates and lawyers and methods for robbing foreigners. It wasn't until the same methods threatened to rob Americans that the US joined the Berne Convention.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:32 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Little.Egret View Post
But Parliament rejected Lord Macaulay's arguments and eventually chose Life+50 with no registration from 1910. There is no evidence that the British Empire suffered much.
His speech was instrumental in defeating a similar bill in 1841.

1910 is seventy years after McCauley's speech so he was not around to oppose it.

There is no evidence that the British Empire suffered much. Have you looked? Or are you just expressing an opinion.
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Old 05-19-2018, 05:58 AM   #12
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But Parliament rejected Lord Macaulay's arguments and eventually chose Life+50 with no registration from 1910. There is no evidence that the British Empire suffered much.

The American system proved a recipe for paradise for bureaucrats, pirates and lawyers and methods for robbing foreigners. It wasn't until the same methods threatened to rob Americans that the US joined the Berne Convention.
The US system worked fine for US books, which is what was covered.

One could make the same arguments towards the way the rest of the world currently treats US patents on drugs. I guess one's level of moral outrage depends on if you benefit by robbing foreigners or not.
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