"Misinterpreting Copyright: A Series of Errors," an essay by Richard Stallman, is one of the best explanations I've seen for what's wrong with the way we think about copyright. The main idea is that the when the U.S. Constitution authorized copyright laws, it did so on the basis that it is "not a natural right of authors, but an artificial concession made to them for the sake of progress."
From Matthew Yglesias (3/30/12), one simple chart that illustrates why copyright terms are way, way, way too long for the good of the culture: Books published before 1923 are in the public domain; we read a lot of them (based on Amazon shipping figures). Books published in the past 10 or 20 years or so are in copyright, but are still in high demand; they're making a lot of money for publishers and are encouraging a supply of new books. Between these two periods, there's a vast desert of books that are still in copyright but are in very low [...]
A New York Times op-ed today (2/15/11) by Scott Turow, Paul Aiken and James Shapiro ("Would the Bard Have Survived the Web?") uses William Shakespeare as exhibit A in their case for copyright, noting that theater flourished in 16th century England because playwrights were able to make money by charging people to enter their theaters. This they translate into a sweeping argument against attempts to reform copyright law, disparaging a handful of law professors and other experts who have made careers of fashioning counterintuitive arguments holding that copyright impedes creativity and progress. Their theory is that if we severely weaken [...]
The problem with Rupert Murdoch's proposal to create an online news consortium, in which major publishers would all band together to put their news content behind pay walls (L.A. Times, 8/21/09), is that it's not illegal to discuss news events online. And you don't want to make it illegal to discuss news events online. And yet, absent a law forbidding such discussions, there's nothing to stop someone from buying subscriptions to the various pay news sites and starting a website (like this one, but more so) in which they write about what they've learned from them–thus offering for free what [...]
Considering how, "in recent months, news aggregators like the Huffington Post have received heated criticism from some who believe theyÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢re stealing valuable traffic and ad revenue from newspapers," with even "appeals court Judge Richard Posner recently wr[iting] a widely-linked post arguing that copyright law should be changed in order to bar linking to websites and paraphrasing their content," media blogger Simon Owens (Bloggasm.com, 7/6/09) has conducted an experiment to evaluate the premise of corporate media management "that news aggregators simply repackage news so thereÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢s little incentive to click on the actual link": So how much traffic does a large news [...]
Richard Posner is the sort of judge who gets mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee because of his supposed brilliance. But, then, he's also the person who wrote this: Expanding copyright law to bar online access to copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, or to bar linking to or paraphrasing copyrighted materials without the copyright holder's consent, might be necessary to keep free riding on content financed by online newspapers from so impairing the incentive to create costly news-gathering operations that news services like Reuters and the Associated Press would become the only professional, nongovernmental sources of news [...]
Corporate media's arguments against Google are getting stranger and stranger. While previously the Washington Post had accused the search engine of "vacuum[ing] up their content without paying a dime," now the Post has media lawyers Bruce Sanford and Bruce Brown (5/16/09) charging that search engines "crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path." Can anything be done to stop these terrifying monsters? Yes, the two Bruces say–you could change the law to require search engines to "obtain copyright permissions in order to copy and index websites." Given that the point of this would be to force search engines to [...]