Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Posner on digital copyright

Richard Posner takes on digital copyright:
The importance of copyright, and hence the negative consequences of piracy for the creation of new works, are, however, often exaggerated. Most of the world’s great literature was written before the first copyright statute, the Statute of Ann, enacted in 1710. [...] Copyright law needs to be adapted to the online revolution in distribution.

Posner has a radical suggestion that I believe would work out just fine:
So, were Google permitted to provide complete online access to all the world’s books, in their entirety, the gain in access might more than offset the loss in authors’ royalties.

Posner justifies his claim by considering the increase in creativity and in creative works that would result.

I would further justify such a policy by considering what it is going to take to protect copyright in its current form. SOPA, PROTECT-IP, ACTA, and the DMCA are all based on controlling copies. I have little doubt that measures like them will succeed over time and grow stronger. The main way to fight them is more fundamental. Stop trying to prevent copies--which is impossible--and focus more on other revenue models. The models don't even have to be designed as a matter of public policy. Simply remove the props on the old-fashioned models, and make room for entrepreneurs to search for new models.

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