It’s always fun to watch the fur fly, maybe that’s why this quote by Michael Gorman on the Britannica Blog made me grin:
[Gorman summarizes the history of intellectual property development and then says:] “There is today a concerted and multifront assault on copyright spurred by monied interests and the desire of consumers to use digital technology to get something for nothing. This assault has created a mindset that sees the notion of intellectual property as a barrier to progress rather than what it is—an affirmation of the singularity of the human intellect and personality.”
I see the “…assault on copyright … and the desire of consumers to use digital technology…” as a backlash against the ever-lengthening term (as lobbied for by commercial content producers) of copyright from the originally codified in US term of 14 + 14 years. Up to 28 years of virtual monopoly on the use of an expression of an idea was deemed plenty of time for exploitation of an expression/creation by its creator. At some point an individual’s “intellectual property” (which is used as a crass conflation of several distinct concepts: copyright, trademarks, and patents – among others) has been disseminated to the point where the individual’s right to the idea has diffused to the public domain.
The increasing length of copyright terms — from 14 years plus a 14 year extension in 1790, to 28 years plus a 14 year extension in 1831, to to life of the author plus 50 years or works for hire for 75 years with specific, codified fair-use provisions in 1976, to the Sonny Bono act in 1998 which extended copyright to life of the author plus 70 years — is a burden which the Public Domain cannot bear. I fail to see how life plus 70 years encourages a creator to produce new works; this term of “protection” seems to encourage resting in one’s laurels after producing a magnum opus or bestseller instead of encouraging continued creation of new works which could be better than the last.
As currently practiced under the law, intellectual property *is* a barrier to progress. Seemingly because Steamboat Willie was a smash hit in the roaring twenties. Copyright was originally enacted to encourage learning, prevent booksellers from monopolizing books and the sale of books, allow authors some control over their works, create a public domain for literature, and give the purchaser of a book control over what s/he could do with the purchased item. There was no overarching “affirmation of the singularity of the human intellect and personality” involved – no matter how good the rhetoric sounds.
Lastly, speaking to the accusation: “desire of consumers to use digital technology to get something for nothing,” I, and most digital technology consumers, are not out to get “something for nothing” while using our digital technology. We are out to make sure the items we purchased with our money are usable in whatever appliance we choose to use for our enjoyment. If I buy a standard $0.99 song from iTunes (not likely, as I generally only listen to whatever is on the radio) and want to listen to that song on a Linux-based computer, I would have to (illegally, in current practice) break the DRM in order to make use of an item I purchased and should be able to use on whatever device I prefer.
The consumer should be the ultimate decider of how to use their legally acquired products.