Copyright History. Part 4: USA and Libraries

Original author: Rickard Falkvinge
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To be continued.
The first part is Black Death .
The second part is Bloody Mary .
The third part - Monopoly dies ... and is reborn .

As we saw in previous articles, copyright was not invented in the United States. The founding fathers brought him with them to their new homeland. Nevertheless, not everyone welcomed the monopoly on ideas. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

If nature has created something less suitable for private ownership than anything else, it’s an act of mental power called an idea that a person can possess only as long as he saves it for himself; but at the very moment when it is announced, it invades the possession of everyone, and he who receives it cannot refuse to possess it. Another characteristic feature of it is that no one is deprived of the fact that any other possesses it entirely. He who perceives an idea from me receives knowledge himself, without belittling mine; as one who lights his candle from mine gains light without leaving me in darkness. The fact that ideas should be freely distributed from one to another throughout the world in the name of moral and mutual instruction of a person and improvement of his well-being seems to have been intentionally and generously provided by nature, when she gave them the ability to spread like fire in space, so that their density does not decrease at any point, and also made them similar to the air in which we breathe, move and physically exist, because it is impossible to imprison them in a prison or acquire exclusive property . So, inventions by their very nature cannot be subject to ownership.

In the end, a compromise was reached, and the US Constitution was the first document to state the reasons why copyright (and patents) were established. This is a very simple and straightforward wording:

... promote the development of science and useful crafts ...

That is, the monopoly was not introduced so that representatives of a profession, whether authors or publishers, earn money. Instead, it was clearly stated: the only justification for the existence of the monopoly was that it maximized the availability of culture and knowledge in society.

Thus, copyright (in the USA, and today and around the world) is a compromise between public access to the fruits of culture and the public interest in creating these fruits. It is very important. In particular, note that it is society that is the only legitimate entity in whose interests copyright laws should be written. Monopolists who profit from copyright are not and do not have voting rights, just as the residents of the city in which the military base is located do not have the right to decide whether this base is important for national security or not.

It is useful to recall this wording from the American constitution more often, as many often mistakenly believe that copyright exists so that authors can make money. This is not so and has never been so in any country in the world.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom ...

Meanwhile, books in the United Kingdom were still very expensive, mainly due to the monopoly of copyright. Book collections were only in the homes of wealthy people, and they sometimes generously gave them to ordinary people to read.

The publishers were very indignant and they sought to enact a law prohibiting reading books for which the reader did not pay. They tried to ban public libraries before they even appeared! “Do you read for free?” But you steal from the author, take out the crust of bread from the mouth of his children! ”

But parliament had a different point of view, seeing the positive impact of reading on society. He was not concerned about the plight of the monopolists (according to the monopolists themselves), but about the fact that the rich decided who and what could be read. It seemed to the parliamentarians that it would be useful for society if the opportunities became equal for everyone, and they decided to create public libraries that could be used by both the poor and the rich.

Hearing about this, the publishers finally became enraged. “You must not allow everyone to read books for free! After all, after that, not a single book will ever be sold again! No author can earn a living! No one will ever write a single book again if such a law is adopted! ”

However, parliamentarians in the XIX century were much wiser than today, and did not listen to the cries of the monopolists. Parliament was firmly convinced that free access to knowledge and culture was more beneficial for society than the monopoly of copyright, and in 1849 the law on the establishment of public libraries was adopted. The first library opened in 1850.

And, as you know, since then no more books have been written. Well, or the publishers' prophecies that without a strict monopoly creativity would stop, were then exactly the same lie as they are now.

(Note: in some European countries, authors and translators receive a small reward for each book issued by the library to the reader. This is not at all compensation for the imaginary lost profit from the violation of the monopoly, but a national cultural grant, which is distributed among the authors in proportion to their popularity. In addition, such grants began to appear only in the 20th century, much later than the emergence of public libraries) .

Meanwhile in Germany ...

In Germany then there was no intellectual monopoly at all. Many historians believe that it was the rapid spread of knowledge that caused the industrial and scientific boom, thanks to which Germany took a leading position in the world in these areas. Knowledge could spread very cheaply and quickly, so the example of Germany confirmed the right of British parliamentarians - the public benefit of free access to culture and knowledge outweighs the benefit of the monopoly of publishers.

Fifth part: Non-property rights .

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