Selling us our culture — that’s what they’re doing.

February 9, 2007

In the Harper’s feature “The Ecstasy of Influence“, novelist Jonathan Lethem writes a fascinating and impassioned essay on how essentially all artistic creation involves quotation — overtly or subtly, consciously or unconsciously, and that we continue down the path of ever-increasing intellectual property restriction only at the risk of killing the very culture that is ostensibly being saved.

The primary objective of copyright is not to reward the labor of authors but “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” To this end, copyright assures authors the right to their original expression, but encourages others to build freely upon the ideas and information conveyed by a work. This result is neither unfair nor unfortunate.

Contemporary copyright, trademark, and patent law is presently corrupted. The case for perpetual copyright is a denial of the essential gift-aspect of the creative act. Arguments in its favor are as un-American as those for the repeal of the estate tax.

No matter how you feel about copyright, public domain, rights management and related matters, you owe it to yourself to take a couple of minutes and read this short but rewarding article.

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