It has been said occasionally, only half in jest, that you can tell when the term on copyrights will be lengthened by looking to see when Mickey Mouse would go into public domain. The argument for copyright is simple; authors must be paid, and granting them ownership of their writings for a time is the simplest way to do so. However, how long should this last?

The problem of copyright is by no means new, and some of the best arguments available are those made by Thomas Babington Macaulay in two speeches to the House of Commons, in 1841. Copies of these speeches are available in many places; I first encountered them through the Baen FreeLibrary website ( ), where they were posted by the librarian, Eric Flint.

Macaulay argues that copyright laws act like a tax upon readers. The tax is necessary in order to repay a bounty to authors and encourage new writing, but too long an extention of the copyright harms the public without offering any extra incentive to the writer.


(see also PublicDomain, AntientCommons, FreeLibrary, TradingInGhosts, ...)

TopicJustice - TopicLiterature - TopicSociety

(correlates: Comments on Nobel Neutrinos, Ben Franklin on Intellectual Property, MetaJoke, ...)