A story in The Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye the other day about copyright. It discusses lessons from the history of book publishing, the evolution of copyright and what might happen in the future. It has some fascinating history – a few excerpts:
Nothing is sacred about intellectual property:
But he believes that today’s information revolution may be even more disruptive than the one Gutenberg set off with his printing press. If we listen to those pirates of old, we’ll learn that there is nothing sacred or natural about our basic ideas of intellectual property, he argues, characterizing those notions as imperfect conventions formed in and by the Industrial Revolution. In fact, he suggests, it may be time to cast our models of patents and copyright overboard.
Someone call the “Pirate King” was heavily involved in music publishing:
The pirate king’s argument: The country was experiencing a piano boom at the time, so a lot more families needed sheet music. But the major publishers catered to clientele who could pay 18 pence per song, while Willetts charged just two pence. Because the rightful owners had no hope of selling to the new audiences at those prices, Willetts testified, he did no harm to their businesses with his efforts—while bringing high culture and educational benefits to all. “Indeed, piracy might even increase the sales of the legitimate publishers, since it amounted to free advertising,” Johns writes, summarizing the pirate’s logic.
A projection of where we go next:
“There’s a deepening realization that the conceptual framework of intellectual property, which was defined in the Industrial Revolution, no longer fits with how we go around with our daily lives,” he says. “The system of authorship that’s existed in knowledge creation, in the sciences at least, seems to be in the process of being replaced by something that’s much more like a system of flow than one of stasis.”