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August 31, 2004
Copyright and Cultural Damage, Part II
I wrote a bit recently about the difficulty of "counting the bodies" in the copyfight -- e.g., quantifying the damage to our culture when access to all manner of "information goods" depends on whether you can pay the rental fee. Below are excerpts from two articles that underscore the difficulty of asserting the social value of activities that don't have a direct relationship to making money but are nevertheless extremely important: scholarship, research, and library stewardship/cultural preservation.
USA Today, quoting a letter from 25 Nobel Prize winners to Congress in support of open access to scientific research:
"Science is the measure of the human race's progress. As scientists and taxpayers, too, we therefore object to barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars -- including our own works."
, noting in the latest issue of Wired that while people who seek to "burden" the speech of pornographers have been defeated in the courts on First Amendment grounds, those who burden other kinds of speech in the name of copyright protection get off scott-free:
[Why] does the First Amendment speak so forcefully to protect pornographers yet barely whisper when librarians or film restorers complain that copyright regulates their speech, too? Both porn regulation and copyright law seek to promote important governmental ends (protecting kids; protecting artists and commerce). Both do so by restricting speech (speak no porn without verifying the age of the recipient; copy no creative work without securing a license from the copyright holder). Yet while the First Amendment demands that porn regulation reach no further than is absolutely necessary, it is oblivious to unnecessary burdens of copyright. Thus, regulation designed to protect kids has to jump mile-high hurdles, while regulation designed to protect Disney survives with the most idiotic justifications imaginable.
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