What copyright costs us

Copyright is increasingly strangling new ways of doing business as it seeks to protect the old. In quitting blogging, a Google copyright expert indicates that we may be past redemption.

It was depressing to read that William Patry, Google's senior copyright counsel, has decided to stop blogging. With only occasional gusts of lucid intelligence in the blogging community, Patry's blog was a full-out gale.

Due to "crazies...who do not have a life of their own and so insist on ruining the lives of others" by comment-bombing Patry's blog, and due to the deteriorating use of copyright to harm rather than help, Patry has opted to leave the blogging building:

Copyright law has abandoned its reason for being: to encourage learning and the creation of new works. Instead, its principal functions now are to preserve existing failed business models, to suppress new business models and technologies, and to obtain, if possible, enormous windfall profits from activity that not only causes no harm, but which is beneficial to copyright owners. Like Humpty Dumpty, the copyright law we used to know can never be put back together again.

On the "crazies," I completely understand. Anonymity and geographical distance make people bold to say things that ought not be said. I'm also guilty of this. I suspect we all are. Some things are too easily said with a keyboard.

But on the latter, it's dispiriting to see confirmation from such a copyright expert that we may be past redemption. In both copyright and patent law, the powerful continue to hoard their power (which is natural), while judges and lawmakers seek to capitulate to that power (which is not natural--or shouldn't be).

We have extended copyright terms to the point of inanity--competition moves ever faster, to the point that technology copyrights and patents seem to be measured in decades. And then there is patent law, home of a widening array of specious, obvious patents.

And so we're increasingly getting the industry that we deserve: a collection of monolithic monuments to old ways of delivering value. Let's hope that Google, open source, software as a service, and other disruptions to the static way of doing business succeed (so that we can have new monopolists to topple 10 or 20 years from now :-).

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