November 30, 2012

Copyright Unbalanced: From Incentive to Excess

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The Constitution gives Congress the power to establish copyright “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” This requires Congress to engage in a delicate balancing act, giving authors enough protection that they will be motivated to create expressive works, but not so much that it hampers innovation and public access to information. Yet over the past half-century Congress has routinely shifted the balance in only one direction—away from access and freedom and toward greater privileges for organized special interests.

Conservatives and libertarians, who are naturally suspicious of big government, should be skeptical of an ever-expanding copyright system. They should also be skeptical of the recent trend toward criminal prosecution of even minor copyright infringements, of the growing use of civil asset forfeiture in copyright enforcement, and of attempts to regulate the Internet and electronics in the name of piracy eradication.

Copyright Unbalanced is not a moral case for or against copyright; it is a pragmatic look at the excesses of the present copyright regime and of proposals to expand it further. It is a call for reform—to roll back the expansions and reinstate the limits that the Constitution’s framers placed on copyright.

Read the review: "Making Sense of Intellectual Property Law" by Tom Palmer in Reason