Daryl Hanson has an argument against the CTEA I hadn’t heard before [Lessig]: Many authors created works with the implicit understanding that they would go into the public domain soon after their death and become classics. They died and the copyrights fell into the hands of family and publishers who have a strong incentive to keep these works out of the public domain (to make money for themselves). These authors had no way of knowing copyright would be extended like this and act to prevent it for their works (by, say, dedicating their works to the public domain in their will) and so the CTEA disrespects all these authors’s wishes. I don’t know how many authors actually felt this way, and it would be difficult to find out.

Update: Cory notes that we shouldn’t take authors dying wishes to be the final word. Of course not, and I think I’d be the last person to suggest that. However, this is an interesting response to those who feel extending copyright is somehow a justice to dead authors. (You can hear them rolling in their graves: “You locked my works up for twenty more years and blamed it on me?!”)

At the argument, the Solicitor General also gave an argument I’d never heard before. Many authors give their copyright to a publisher in exchange for some cash upfront. A longer copyright means these publishers will make more money, thus they can afford to pay the author more before they die (since they’ll be getting it back after they do). Of course, as the economists’s brief explains, this isn’t much of an incentive in practice, since the extra money to be made is miniscule in current dollars.

posted October 23, 2002 04:10 PM (Politics) #


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Aaron Swartz (me@aaronsw.com)