Last week’s Economist had a leader titled “Copyright and wrong” inspired by the signing of the three hundredth anniversary of the original act. The leader discussed how the the concept of copyright has changed from its original concept of balancing “incentive to create” with “society’s free access to knowledge and art”. It did this by protecting books from privacy (14 years plus another 14 years if the author was still alive).
As the Economist so eloquently states, with the US now granting copyright holders 95 years of protection and other countries enacting similar legislation, it is time to restore the balance.
When you see a term of 95 years, it is clear that the benefit has very little to do with providing incentive to author’s to create works but much to do with heirs and companies created to monetarily exploit the works under the protection of very long copyright.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for allowing an author to derive benefit by controlling their work’s dissemination (and/or derivative works) during their lifetime or for even 5 years beyond. I just think that allowing that protection to pass to heirs and/or corporations for such an inordinately long time is wrong. Accidents of happenstance that could benefit society and not the lucky few. Culture and knowledge should not be restricted.
The Economist suggests a return to 28 years. They are right on.