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Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age

information_cover_FINAL_web Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age, by Cory Doctorow. Available from McSweeney’s. Copyright © 2014.

Is This Copyright Protection?

The people who make digital locks sell them as “copy protection” (that is, protection against having a file copied), and sometimes as “copyright protection.” We can debate their claim to the former, but we should certainly reject the idea that digital locks protect copyright. As things stand now, it’s the other way around.

Many different reasons and rationales for copyright have been offered since its inception. The English Statute of Anne (1710) set out to protect the established English publishers from Scottish competition. Sixty-some years later, the U.S. Constitution provided for copyright “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” The Berne Convention for the Protection of Artistic and Literary Works, one of the first international copyright agreements (its text was based on a draft created by Victor Hugo in 1878), added protection of an author’s “moral rights”—the right to claim authorship of a work, for example, and to prevent its distortion or modification.

One rationale that has never been offered is that copyright exists to protect middlemen, retailers, and distributors from being out-negotiated by creators and their investors.

Click here to read more from this December 12, 2014 Scientific American book excerpt by author Cory Doctorow.

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