Elvis is not going to produce any more recordings

In response to the proposed extension of UK copyright for recordings from 50 years to 95 years, Lawrence Lessig blogs on quantifying the value of the public domain pointing to this like-named paper by Rufus Pollock.

He also refers indirectly to an article by Eric Flint for Jim Baen’s Universe Copyright: How Long Should It Be? which concludes:

A century and a half ago [Thomas Macaulay in Parliament in 1841, when the issue of copyright was being hammered out] predicted–with perfect accuracy–exactly what would happen if the music recording industry in the late 20th century reacted to new technological developments by getting their stooges … to pass ever-more-burdensome laws forcing–or trying to force–their customers to accept their Royal Monopoly.

Read it and weep:

“I will only say this, that if the measure before us should pass, and should produce one-tenth part of the evil which it is calculated to produce, and which I fully expect it to produce, there will soon be a remedy, though of a very objectionable kind. Just as the absurd acts which prohibited the sale of game were virtually repealed by the poacher, just as many absurd revenue acts have been virtually repealed by the smuggler, so will this law be virtually repealed by piratical booksellers. At present the holder of copyright has the public feeling on his side. Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot …

Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living.”

Flint also sets out two of Macaulay’s speeches in full.

All well worth reading.

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