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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Okiemockbird BS: Should Music on the WWW be free? ;-) (53* d) RE: BS: Should Music on the WWW be free? ;-) 21 Nov 00

Big Mick, suppose a surgeon saves your life with his scapel, and you pay him $500,000.00. Isn't your life worth more to you than that ? Aren't you getting "something for nothing" with every breath you take ? Shouldn't you, by your own rule, become the surgeon's slave, so that all the profits of his labor in saving your life come to him ?

I will never tire of saying it: all works of the human mind belong by default (i.e. absent any legal regime to the contrary) to all human beings. They are "as free as the air to common use", as Justice Brandeis put it in his dissent in INS News Service v. Associated Press. Copyright and patent are temporary expedients--gimmicks, kludges, necessary evils--which we employ in order to encourage authors to enlarge the public domain. If we adopt this policy, we must necessarily make the monopoly privileges strong enough to make the incentive credible. This might mean drawing the lines of fair use such that no one may ever, in any circumstances whatsoever, uplink an unlicensed MP3 of copyrighted music to the web; or it might not require such a strict interpretation. Either way the immediate goal is a credible incentive, not the rightsholders' maximum profit or maximum control.

The ultimage goal, though, is the expansion of the public domain. In the hearings on the 1998 copyright term extension, some of the pro-extensionists dismissed the concept of public domain with scorn and derision. Such misguided fools do not deserve to be drafting our laws for us. If I were a congressman, I would refuse to support the MPAA, RIAA or any of their pet congressmen on Napster or any other issue until they were willing to acknowledge the primacy of the public domain in copyright theory.

One former lawmaker, Robert W. Kastenmeier, well understood the centrality of the public domain in so-called "intelllectual property" law. We could use more like him today.


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