Free Culture

I would almost be sympathetic to Mark Helprin's argument that copyrights should last forever, and that his great-great grandchildren, rather than the publishers of Barnes & Noble Classics, should profit from Winter's Tale - almost but not quite, both for the reasons Matt proposes and for others - if he were simultaneously arguing for a far more lenient definition of "fair use." This, to my mind, is the real way that copyright and intellectual-property laws stifle creativity - not by preventing five different publishers from bringing out competing editions of the same book, but by preventing other artists from piggybacking on existing works and making something new out of them. (Unless they're willing to confine themselves to parody.) Our language's greatest writer, remember, was a shameless thief, copying themes and plots and characters with abandon to create his plays. Yet if a twenty-first century Shakespeare wanted to take, say, the plot of Star Wars as the jumping-off point for his genius, his Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker would have to sit unpublished on a hard drive for seventy years after George Lucas's death. Copyright law, to my mind, should give an artist control over the work itself, but not the world it summons up: If I want to publish a novel set at Hogwarts or a sequel to Gone With the Wind, J.K. Rowling and the Mitchell estate shouldn't have veto power.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

Just In