Reason on Copyright and Book Banning

by Stephan Kinsella on September 3, 2010

in Intellectual Property,LewRockwell.com Blog Posts

Book Banning Courtesy of Copyright Law


In Reason: Copyright Should Last Half A Century I mentioned libertarian writer Cathy Young’s advocacy of a 50-year copyright term in discussing the looming book-banning of a Catcher in the Rye sequel based on copyright. Well, the judge has made her decision and banned the book. Yep. Here, in America, land of the free, home of the brave, we are literally banning books–and what’s worse, this is due to a law that many libertarians support.

Congratulations, Ms. Young, and other pro-IP libertarians. Shame, shame.

Question: if being pro-war is not enough to revoke your libertarian credentials–how about book-banning?

Update: On Masnick’s blog, someone recommended Eugene Volokh and Mark Lemley’s “Freedom of Speech and Injunctions in Intellectual Property Cases” (which I have not yet read).

Reason: Copyright Should Last Half A Century

You would think libertarians would be unambiguously for freedom of speech. In Intellectual Property vs. Creative Freedom, Cathy Young discusses a literal book banning by a federal judge: he has temporarily enjoined “publication of a novel called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye,” based on copyright claims by “J. D. Salinger, author of the 1951 classic Catcher in the Rye.” The judge is expected to decide soon whether to make the ban permanent. Yes, this is all because of copyright.

Copyright now lasts well over 100 years, due to continual copyright extension over the years–as Young notes, “When copyright legislation was first passed in the United States in 1790, the term of copyright lasted for 14 years, with the option of renewal for another 14.”

Does Ms. Young want to abolish copyright, this obvious threat to freedom of press? Or at least return to the 14 + 14 year system? Why, no. She has figured out the optimal way to handle this: “Personally, I would support a term of 50 years, with a portion of revenues from any derivative work published thereafter going to the original author.” Fifty years. Where she gets this number is anybody’s guess.

This is libertarianism?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt C September 4, 2010 at 7:44 am

Of course this isn’t libertarianism. It’s propertarianism. It gives you hilarious arguments like (not an actual quote) “You don’t buy CDs; you buy a license to listen to that particular music on that particular CD.”

You also get gems like (an actual quote — should be up for some kind of Orwell award)
“we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it,”
Ursula K Le Guin

Free dissemination requires that dissemination be controlled!

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PirateRothbard September 4, 2010 at 11:08 am

I think the guys at Reason are just not very aware of your arguments. Seems they are just practicing an outdated kind of libertarianism.

Maybe the VMI should try to get some articles published in Reason on the IP issue.

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