Greenbag, self-described as "an entertaining journal of law," has an interesting article titled, "Constructing Copyright's Mythology" by Thomas Nachbar, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Virginia. PDF file also here.
Nachbar provides some historical perspective on copyright law, including several interesting facts:
- Noah Webster, of dictionary fame, was an very influential member of a small group of authors that went from state to state, seeking passage of state copyright laws. Between 1782 and 1786, they succeeeded in getting 12 of the 13 states to adopt copyright laws.
- The notion that the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1995, aslo known as the Sunny Bono Act, was somehow "a recent response to intense interest group pressure, which might have suppressed [Congress's] historical Constitutional good sense in the intellectual property context" is false. Congress has extended copyriight terms repeatedly and consistently.
Nachbar's main argument refutes the proposition set forth in Eldred that copyright "must promote creative activity." He disagrees w/ this quid pro quo notion of copyright by pointing out that Webster travelled from state to state, lobbying for copyright protection after his book was already published. This hardly seems like a good argument since the the promotion of "creative activity" could apply to a subsequent work. Webster could have been promoted to some future creative activity upon the realization that he would be granted a copyright in that work.
In any case, it's an interesting article worth reading.