The Copyright Balance

by Patrick Appel

David Post reignites the debate:

It’s not just that copyright protection lasts absurdly long, still protecting recordings made more than seventy years ago; it’s that copyright, inherently, operates to the detriment of the public when applied in retrospect, to works that have already been created. Lester Young, alas, can no longer be incentivized to produce these performances they’ve already been created. We won’t get any more brilliant performances by Teddy Wilson if we protect these works. All we the public get from applying copyright here is a restriction on our ability to encounter magnificent works of art. Now of course, copyright is only ever applied in retrospect, and if we always ignored it when applied to already-existing works it would cease to exist, and would therefore no longer serve its incentivizing function prospectively.

And there’s your copyright balance; what we seek is a way to give creators enough of an incentive to create, but not too much, because too much gives us, the public, too much of an impediment to actually enjoying the works that have already been created.