Friday, October 24

copyright is theft? really?

this was an interesting paper which i read about from here. Abstract:

This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws within Italy – as a result of Napoleon’s military campaign – to examine the effects of copyrights on creativity. To measure variation in the quantity and quality of creative output, we have collected detailed data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. These data indicate that the adoption of copyrights led to a significant increase in the number of new operas premiered per state and year. Moreover, we find that the number of high-quality operas also increased – measured both by their contemporary popularity and by the longevity of operas. By comparison, evidence for a significant effect of copyright extensions is substantially more limited. Data on composers’ places of birth indicate that the adoption of copyrights triggered a shift in patterns of composers’ migration, and helped attract a large number of new composers to states that offered copyrights. - See more at:

quite an interesting argument. Copyright is intellectual property and you should protect it. I saw this great point in the comments, which I didnt know about. Do you think theft only happens in torrents today? See what this note says with respect to Dickens.

In publishing The Pickwick Papers in volume form after the book’s epoch-making serial run in 1837, Dickens dedicated the work to dramatist and politician Thomas Noon Talford, partly because this writer as an M. P. had introduced a copyright bill in the House of Commons in 1836. Dickens was already aware of how much money he was losing as a result of massive violations of his copyright both at home (via theatrical adaptations) and abroad (via cheap American re-prints). As a shorthand reporter for The Mirror of Parliament and the True Sun (1831-33), young Dickens had followed the copyright question avidly from the press gallery. In 1835, while a reporter for The Morning Chronicle, Dickens applauded the efforts of the young barrister who had been elected Member of Parliament for Reading in 1835 to introduce a copyright bill, which eventually became law in 1842. In early 1844, Talford would act as Dickens’s attorney in the case against Richard Egan Lee and Henry Hewitt for their flagrant plagiarism of A Christmas Carol.

Young Charles Dickens, in the process of being lionized by his Yankee readers, dared to assert that, had American publishers paid Sir Walter Scott appropriate royalties for his works re-printed in the United States from Marmion in 1808 to Castle Dangerous in 1832, he would not have faced bankruptcy in the middle of his career and would not have died at the age of 61, broken in body and mind by years of financial difficulties, and “unjustly deprived of his rightful income” (Ackroyd 350). Further, he alluded to the disgraceful treatment of Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848), retired Royal Naval officer turned author, who established residency by means of his 1837 tour, but was subsequently denied copyright protection by American courts unless he were prepared to renounce his status as a British subject and become an American citizen.

Dickens was essentially using the plight of these authors to argue his own case, for as fast as he turned out The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and other early novels, American publishing houses snapped them up and published them in cheap editions which sold in the thousands across the country, pocketing the proceeds without sending so much as a letter of thanks to Boz. The piracies began as early as the publication of Sketches by Boz in 1834.

He bewailed, ironically, “the exquisite justice of never deriving sixpence from an enormous American sale of all my books.” Having already spoken up for increased copyright protection in Britain and for a British-American agreement, he had it in mind to advance a just cause from which he and others would benefit. Ignorant of the complications of copyright politics and of the recent severe depression, he crossed the Atlantic with the na├»ve expectation that in this republic of his imagination elemental notions of fairness would triumph over politics and power relationships, as if America were some elegant utopia. . . .(Kaplan 124-125)

The rowdy American press, particularly in New York, soon disabused Dickens of his utopian notions vis a vis copyright. Americans, expecting him to be grateful for their warm reception, were staggered when this young British goodwill ambassador at the beginning of 1842, at a dinner held in his honour in Boston, dared to criticize them as pirates while urging the merits of international copyright, which at that point in American history would have seen vast amounts of Yankee capital heading overseas with little reciprocation.’

here are some of the arguments on copywrite is theft. Here. And here.

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