Friday, July 3, 2009

Helprin on Copyright - EconTalk

On EconTalk Russ Roberts hosted the writer Mark Helprin to talk about copyright. In this era of information technology we hear many voices plead for a reduction to copyrights. Helprin however, pleads for an extension.

An important part of Helprin's argument is that the writer needs to be able to leave his capital to his off spring, just like any other entrepreneur. And I find this the strongest argument. Helprin makes an attempt to defend copyright also in the name of democracy and here, it seems to me, his statements are too much filled with examples of what went wrong or what can go wrong in specific cases.

I agree that each of these cases are showing a problem, but for one it is not certain whether an extended copyright will necessarily solve the problem, neither is it certain whether a world with shorter copyright necessarily will not be able to find ways to address the problems Helprin mentions. His ideas are stemming from a view on society where there is just the individual (who needs protection of his copyright) and the large, rather undefined general public and nation state. That, I think, is a world view from an old world. The current world is changing to a new world, just like the information technology changes so radically, copyrights may no longer be tenable, even if Helprin is right.

More EconTalk:
Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia,
New Deal and War Economy,
The Depression,
Wildlife, Property and Poverty.

A competing view on copyrights:
James Boyle.