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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/2708/copyright-and-freedom-of-speech/

Copyright and Freedom of Speech

November 8, 2004 by

As I pointed out recently, IP rights such as copyright and patent in effect grant the holder the right to control the property and bodies of other people (see p. 44 of this article; p. 862 of this article). This is illustrated by the case of Samuel Beckett and his 1953 play “Waiting for Godot” (discussed and parodied in Waiting for Opradot, by PatNews‘s Gregory Aharonian). As Aharonian points out,

Beckett denied women the opporunity to act in productions of Waiting For Godot, because “they don’t have prostates”, a request the Beckett estate has enforced using the moral rights clauses of copyright laws. For example, in 1992, a French court convicted a director of violating Beckett’s moral right by staging Waiting for Godot with two women as the leads, contrary to Beckett’s stage directions.

The Internet is becoming an essential tool for the spread of knowledge and information. So it is not surprising that copyright is hampering individuals’ ability to do this. This NY Times article, One Internet, Many Copyright Laws shows how copyright law can lead to confusion and bullying tactics by states and copyright holders that discourage the publication of books and other materials on the Internet. It demonstrates how the US is pressuring other states, such as Australia, to adopt ever longer copyright terms to prevent works still copyrighted in the US from falling into the public domain in other countries.

A copyright term of 70 years past the author’s death is simply ridiculous. At the very least, the term should be shorter and in case of any doubt (difficulty in finding the copyright holder of older, out of print works to ask permission to reprint), reprint permission should be presumed.


David Heinrich November 8, 2004 at 6:59 pm

Great commentary. One relevant issue is the 1998 copyright act, which retroactively extended copyrights to much longer terms. Thus, due to the lobbying of Disney, copyrighted works that were going to become public domain got an additional many years. This goes to show that no “agreement” with or “arrangement” with the State, no promise made by the State, can ever be taken seriously or counted on.

Michael A. Clem November 8, 2004 at 9:00 pm

Walt Disney’s long dead–just who is this extended copyright protection supposed to be for? His great grandkids?

Ohhh Henry November 8, 2004 at 10:37 pm

Walt Disney movies, and I guess most all kinds of American pop culture, are prized the way some countries prize their ancient temples or national literature. This movement to extend copyright is similar to what would happen if the Greeks tried to put a copyright on the Iliad, or ban the export of the marble friezes on the Parthenon. About as effective too.

What the would-be cultural protectors don’t understand, is that a culture is either alive, or dead. Living cultures don’t hold any strong attachment to what they valued in the past, because they are too busy creating and living in their own contemporary culture. Dead and dying cultures go to extraordinary effort to try to preserve their cultural remnants, because of the inescapable feeling that things are not as good anymore as they used to be, and are not likely to improve anytime soon.

Imagine what disgust the old builders of Venice would feel, if they could see their wimpy, socialist descendants trying to preserve and shore up the decaying, centuries-old palaces. “Why don’t you get rich in business, and build yourself a beautiful new palace?” they would ask.

A culture is dead the second that a government starts taking steps to preserve it.

David Heinrich November 8, 2004 at 11:42 pm


Apparently, for his grandkids and great-great-grandkits. I guess copyrights should last forever. Moses better start suing all those thieving schein who are violating his copyright on the 10 commandments.


Vanmind November 9, 2004 at 5:20 pm

I wasn’t aware that Moses created the commandments.

Still, I get what you’re saying. Maybe when Jesus makes his second coming he’ll take us all to court…

Michael A. Clem November 9, 2004 at 8:51 pm

The flip side to Walt Disney is any number of less successful creators whose works are languishing in obscurity, but would still find their niches if copyright law didn’t artificially raise the costs of making these works available to the public.

David Heinrich November 9, 2004 at 9:55 pm


Now that is definately quotable. Another one-liner I liked:

“When I saw that dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a renewed sense of national security. God Bless America.” — Katie Sierra

Vanmind November 10, 2004 at 3:20 am

Wow. Katie must love her life and her lithium.

Here’s one that’s free to pass around (because I wrote it but claim no copyright):

“Open eyes purge lies.”

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