Copy, right?

By Chris Daly

Our wacky legal system at work.

Here is what our founders wrote in the Constitution (Article 1, Sec. 8):

The Congress shall have power . . . to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Here is what it has come to (from a piece by Patricia Cohen in today’s Times):

Art Is Long; Copyrights Can Even Be Longer

 Filmmakers are not the only ones who sometimes run afoul of artists’ copyright law. In recent weeks Google Art Project, which just expanded its online collection of images to more than 30,000 works from 151 museums, agreed, because of copyright challenges, to remove 21 images it had posted.Artists’ copyright is frequently misunderstood. Even if a painting (or drawing or photograph) has been sold to a collector or a museum, in general, the artist or his heirs retain control of the original image for 70 years after the artist’s death.

Can someone explain how locking up these rights for 70 years after the creator has died is supposed to benefit society by spurring new creative efforts? How does it “promote the Progress of Science and the useful Arts”?

As an author, I am all for giving writers a temporary right to earn money from our creations. Without it, I might still write stuff like this, but I would not have written my book. So, a reasonable copyright is a good thing, in my book (and for my book!). But Picasso is not creating any new Demoiselles no matter how long his family gets to dine out on it.

 

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