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2/20 Quote on value of public domain-monopoly

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T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird) 20 Feb 00 - 02:46 PM
paddymac 21 Feb 00 - 03:31 AM
GUEST,Arkie 21 Feb 00 - 12:53 PM
GUEST,Okiemockbird 04 Mar 00 - 11:15 AM
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Subject: 2/20 Quote on value of public domain
From: T in Oklahoma (Okiemockbird)
Date: 20 Feb 00 - 02:46 PM

"By a perpetual monopoly, all the other subjects of the state are taxed very absurdly in two different ways: first, by the high price of goods, which, in the case of a free trade they could buy much cheaper; and secondly, by their total exclusion from a branch of business which it might be both convenient and profitable for many of them to carry on. It is for the most worthless of all purposes, too, that they are taxed in this manner. It is merely to enable the company to support the negligence, profusion, and malversation of their own servants."

--Adam Smith (1723-1790), An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 3, Article 1. (Britannica Edition, Chicago, 1952, pp. 329-330.)

Smith is not saying that only perpetual monopolies have ill effects. He is saying essentially what Lord Macaulay said two generations after Adam Smith's time: that the good that a monopoly does, if it happen at all, is done reasonably soon after the grant is made, while the bad that a monopoly does is made worse as the term increases. Hence Smith's objection to "perpetual" monopolies is in fact an objection against monopolies that are so long that they outlive the good reasons for their existence. This objection would not be satisfied by Jack Valenti's and Mary Bono's proposal to make copyright last "forever less one day."


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Subject: RE: 2/20 Quote on value of public domain
From: paddymac
Date: 21 Feb 00 - 03:31 AM

Brilliant work, T. Thanks!

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Subject: RE: 2/20 Quote on value of public domain
From: GUEST,Arkie
Date: 21 Feb 00 - 12:53 PM

Right on T! What about a thread on the merits of public domain? Maybe this could be it.

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Subject: RE: 2/20 Quote on value of public domain
From: GUEST,Okiemockbird
Date: 04 Mar 00 - 11:15 AM

Arkie, I don't need much encouragement to wax lyrical on the subject of the public domain.

Still, the Mudcat is probably the last place where people need to reminded of the importance of copyright expiration. Without the public domain, the Digital Tradition couldn't exist.

According to one source, a typical fee for reprinting a short poem in an anthology is fifty dollars. The digital tradition contains over 7000 titles. If every one of them were under copyright, and their incorporation into the DT cost $50, that would amount to a clearance fee of $350,000.00!

Maybe song-lyrics are billed at a lower rate than lyrics that have pretensions to being poems. But even if every title cost only a dollar to include, the total would still come to seven thousand dollars. That is before a single item of computer hardware or software has been purchased.


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