An eternal flame for copyright protection

One author argues that copyright protection should be extended indefinitely.

The U.S. government has repeatedly . Now, one author wants them to go even further.

An eternal flame for copyright protection

In an op-ed piece for The New York Times this weekend, author Mark Helprin put forth a proposal for extending copyright protection essentially forever, arguing that releasing works into the public domain punishes artists and their families. Real property can be passed down for generations, he argues; why not intellectual property?

"Congress is free to extend at will the term of copyright. It last did so in 1998, and should do so again, as far as it can throw. Would it not be just and fair for those who try to extract a living from the uncertain arts of writing and composing to be freed from a form of confiscation not visited upon anyone else?" he wrote. "The answer is obvious, and transcends even justice. No good case exists for the inequality of real and intellectual property, because no good case can exist for treating with special disfavor the work of the spirit and the mind."

(Earlier this year, novelist Jonathan Lethem in Harper's offered a much different take on intellectual property in the cultural realm, "The Ecstasy of Influence.")

In a world where people already feel justified in stealing property that is under copyright protection, Helprin's arguments were, not surprisingly, met with scorn. But there were also many reasoned arguments that his proposal could be unconstitutional, and might have a stifling effect on future creativity.

Blog community response:

"Not only is perpetual copyright not needed to promote innovation, it is likely to actually impede it by making it more difficult to create new works that build on copyrighted ideas and images from old ones."
--Volokh.com

"This is either inexcusably stupid or willfully dishonest. The government does not take possession of intellectual property after a period of copyright expires: the government merely ceases to use its resources to ensure that the originator of the intellectual property has the exclusive right to profit from that work."
--Whiskey Fire

"Helprin misses another point: why should one's children continue to enjoy their exclusive copyright? They certainly didn't invent the idea; why should they leech off their ancestor's usefulness?"
--Conjecturer

 

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