The History of Copyright
Tags: corporations, crime/law/deviance, economic sociology, government/the state, historical sociology, inequality, political economy, copyright law, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: States, it is often said, must regulate corporations in order to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of its citizens. Even the most ardent fiscal conservative would concede that antitrust laws are necessary in order to sustain a competitive market and protect consumers from price fixing. To take another example, when states enforce copyright laws, they "promote the progress of science and useful arts." While corporations may want to own a copyright forever, states are obliged to limit the duration of copyright protection in the interest of allowing other authors the ability to remake or build from classic stories. This is what benevolent, well-meaning states should do, but in practice, corporations often wield power over state regulators, and as C. G. P. Grey remarks in the above clip, on four separate occasions Congress has aligned with the narrow interest of corporate copyright holders that the length of copyright is too short to turn a profit and so extended it. But as Grey also points out, it's hard to imagine that J. K. Rowling "wouldn't have written Harry Potter if the copyright protection was just for her whole life and not an additional seven decades thereafter." The clip works well as a rather vivid antidote to the myth that markets are best left unregulated, and the clip is also a useful entrée into a discussion about how power—in this case, corporate power—shapes the formation of law, and perhaps even the ideological premises, which become the foundation of discussions about whether those laws should be changed in the first place.
Submitted By: Sparhawk
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