I don’t know where you got any of the ideas in this article.

Copyright is not a protection against communism. The concept of copyright predates communism by a few centuries, and was initially formed as a means of mediating conflicts between publishing guilds and thus making censorship of printed materials easier. When the intellectual property framework of the united states was being designed, it became reframed in the same terms as patents: as a means of guaranteeing a temporary monopoly in order to encourage people to donate ideas to the public domain. This would be the 1790 formulation you were talking about — fifty years prior to the first ideas we could reasonably consider part of ‘communism’. In fact, we can consider copyright (along with other time limited forms of IP like patents, as opposed to trade secrets) to be a tool in support of ‘communist’ ideas in the sense that it is specifically intended to feed the pool of publicly owned ideas.

Copyright has definitely changed. For instance, in countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention (which the United States has been since 1957), all copyrightable materials are automatically implicitly under copyright — copyright registration is purely for the sake of expediting a suit by providing evidence from a trusted third party. During the middle of the twentieth century, implicit copyright was introduced to the United States in several different ways, and there was a short period wherein unregistered works were only implicitly copyrighted if they had a copyright statement attached (which is why Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain); this is no longer the case. In 1998, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act introduced the notion of safe harbour provisions in order to grant partial protection to websites hosting arbitrary third party content; this is a major break from all prior copyright legislation. When anti-circumvention clauses were added to the DMCA, that’s another major change. The idea of the FBI actively investigating breach of copyright is another recent change not in line with the historical spirit of IP law (which, since it is civil law, should theoretically only be investigated in the case of a suit).

I understand that you’re trying to push a product here. But, before trying to push a product relating to copyright law, try doing at least a modicum of research. I agree that copyright is currently benefitting mostly large corporations; however, this is not because of the cost of registration (because registration is not necessary) but because of a general lack of understanding on the part of regular people about the nature of IP law; this post perpetuates the worst of these misunderstandings.

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Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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