Thursday, August 19, 2010

Copyright Laws Restricts Progress

An expansion of Fair Use, and a shortening of copyright terms, are necessary to encourage progress and innovation.

That's a reasonable conclusion from the finding of economic historian Eckhard Höffner, who believes that England's strict copyright law (enacted in 1710), compared to Germany's non-existence of copyright, was a major reason that German industry caught up to England's despite the latter's head start.

Höffner writes:

"Publishers in England exploited their monopoly shamelessly. New discoveries were generally published in limited editions of at most 750 copies and sold at a price that often exceeded the weekly salary of an educated worker.

"London's most prominent publishers made very good money with this system, some driving around the city in gilt carriages. Their customers were the wealthy and the nobility, and their books regarded as pure luxury goods. In the few libraries that did exist, the valuable volumes were chained to the shelves to protect them from potential thieves.

"In Germany during the same period, publishers had plagiarizers -- who could reprint each new publication and sell it cheaply without fear of punishment -- breathing down their necks. Successful publishers were the ones who took a sophisticated approach in reaction to these copycats and devised a form of publication still common today, issuing fancy editions for their wealthy customers and low-priced paperbacks for the masses."

Also read these Hollywood Investigator articles: Long Copyright Terms Resemble Book-Burning, and Big Media Is Stealing YOUR Copyrights, and Pirate Party Demands Copyright Reform.

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