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« Speaking of End Runs... | Main | They Just Keep Getting Younger ... »

November 11, 2004


The Library of Congress has a long, distinguished history promoting the arts, culture and knowledge in this country by...advocating for the preservation of the works of individual creators. That is its primary role...However, the PTO's primary role is to encourage commerce.

That's a good thing for some of the anti big media arguments that a lot of us are so fond of. Preservation of the works of individual creators seems more compatible with exclusionary copyright practices that many of us are arguing against today (as would seem to be supported by examining the source of the quote, the National Writers Association). Stronger creators' rights come at the expense of things like the public domain. I would argue that the Sonny Bono CTA is certainly in favor of creators.

On the other hand we have the statement "the PTO's primary role is to encourage commerce". Wouldn't encouraging commerce be more compatible with preventing perpetual monopolies? Encouraging commerce to me does not mean protecting the entrenched interests of huge media companies. Encouraging commerce seems to support giving incentives to create - something the current copyright regime doesn't really do. A stronger public domain and lower copyright terms would surely get some huge companies upset, but I doubt the MPAA members would suddenly pull out of the movie industry if someone decided their copyrights should only last, oh, seven decades.

Look at what the PTO actually does. Patents are surely limited, and drug companies aren't halting research. Trademarks aren't a good comparison, as they are protected for a different reason as copyrights. Trademarks aren't about protecting someone's creativity, they are about preventing confusion about the source of goods and services. Maybe we could do worse than to have the PTO give this copyright law thing a shot. This post is in no way an endorsement of Lehman or any of his ideas. Instead, I'm just focusing on the more theoretical question of whether it might be worth a try to give the PTO a chance to stir things up in the copyright arena.

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