John Irons's Blog


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Copyright Law

Lawrence Lessig on Eldred v. Ascroft.
Does anyone support extending copyright extension to 95 years? I still find it hard to believe this made it through congress.

Copyright law and roasted pig.
We live in a time when many question our framers’ values. Unimaginable threats force many to say that we can no longer afford the liberty they sought to protect. Yet here at least, the framers understood something very modern: they knew that the new always builds on the old. They understood the burdens of extended monopolies. They therefore crafted a regime that kept monopolies short–not because they were against copyright or authors, but because they believed that once copyright does its work, there’s no further need to keep creative work regulated. The framers saw copyright as a way to induce new creativity. It was not to be a reward for favored creators.
But though only 2 percent of work 75 years old is currently exploited commercially, Congress’s practice is to extend protection generally. It cannot see beyond this 2 percent–for among other things, the 2 percent includes Mickey.
The framers would never have allowed millions of monopolies for the benefit of just 2 percent; they would not have sacrificed the public domain to benefit a favored few. They had a bigger aim; their means were more focused. As the Supreme Court once said about a statute that banned all indecent speech so that children would not be exposed, we don’t “burn the house to roast the pig.” Exactly right–not even to save a mouse.

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