2008.11.20 15:37:07
Susan Jackman

Would the goals of Copyright Law be lost without the existence of those laws?

The basic goal of copyright Law is improve our society by encouraging creativity, the spreading of information, and the development of knowledge. Copyright Law protects the way we express our ideas but are not meant to protect the ideas themselves.  Would these goals be lost without the existence of copyright laws or would we simply change the way we share our creations.

What is the purpose of Copyright Laws?

There is a largely believed misconception about the actual purpose of Copyright Law, it is not meant to protect authors against those who want to “steal the fruits of their labor”, but to “promote the progress of knowledge and learning”.
This purpose can be found in The United States Constitution Article I, section 8, clause 8, which states: “Congress shall have the power: "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."   Our U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to create the Copyright Act in order to allow the advancement of knowledge and learning to improve our society.  The theory was to provide an incentive for the creators in an effort to promote more creation.   Those creations will not be able to improve our society if they are not shared, that’s where fair use and public domain come into play.

What are the possible ramifications of a world without copyright laws?

Perhaps a loss of high quality information sources. If authors and publishers cannot expect to receive a fair return on their investment of time and effort, they will not be willing to create new materials. Such a situation means that there will be fewer resources for patrons and library staff to use to satisfy information needs.

How would the Absence of Copyright Laws affect Literary Output?

In order to answer this question, we should consider that most authors don’t actually make much money writing books. Some scientific and academic authors will accept payment for their work, off prints of journal articles. Most of these authors write publications to get their name out, to get higher paying jobs or grants, not to make money off of the publication. Many authors write because they want to spread their ideas and opinions to society and would welcome reproduction of their writing as long as they are referenced appropriately. These types of works would likely not be affected by an absence of copyright laws. 
Then we have to consider the author who is trying to make a living with their work.  Without any other form of compensation, this author would be greatly impacted by an absence of copyright laws. But would the retention of copyright laws be a guarantee of income for this author? The existence of copyright laws does not actually create demand for works. It allows the author to monopolize that demand once established.

Would the purpose be lost without copyright laws, or would we simply change the way we share our creations.

It is clear that with the inventions of the photocopiers and computer, copyright is becoming a relic.  To imagine a world without Copyright Law, we can look directly at the issues now that are making it less effective and consider alternatives for creative incentives. As it is becoming increasingly more difficult to enforce copyright Laws, authors and artists are seeking alternative forms of incentive beyond royalties. Some will work for salaries; some will work under one-time contracts for works or appearances, or increase the price tag to compensate for hard to protect works.   There are even cases of creators charging subscription fee’s to use their continuing services.

Is the purpose of copyright already lost?

For many people it is.  Even if I requested a copyright for this essay, which I probably would not, how would I ever know if a fellow student copied part of my essay and used it in a different class. The responsibility of discovering copyright infringements falls on the copyright holder.  As the holder of the copyright on my essay, I don’t possess the time or resources to actively search out infringements.  If I were to discover an infringement, it the responsibility of taking action also falls upon me, again requiring time and resources.  As it becomes more and more difficult to enforce protection by copyright law, the value of the law is being lost.  Will that stop me from creating more work?  No, because I am not writing this essay to make money, but to share my ideas and opinions with my peers, which is the essential purpose for the creation of the copyright laws in the first place.

United States Constitution Article I, section 8, clause 8
AIO online Lecture How to Secure Copyrights

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