C4SS Feed 44 presents “The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property” from the book Markets Not Capitalism, written by Roderick Long, read by Stephanie Murphy and edited by Nick Ford.
Some will say that such rights are needed in order to give artists and inventors the financial incentive to create. But most of the great innovators in history operated without benefit of copyright laws. Indeed, sufficiently stringent copyright laws would have made their achievements impossible: Great playwrights like Euripides and Shakespeare never wrote an original plot in their lives; their masterpieces are all adaptations and improvements of stories written by others. Many of our greatest composers, like Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Ives, incorporated into their work the compositions of others. Such appropriation has long been an integral part of legitimate artistic freedom.
Is it credible that authors will not be motivated to write unless they are given copyright protection? Not very. Consider the hundreds of thousands of articles uploaded onto the Internet by their authors everyday, available to anyone in the world for free.
Is it credible that publishers will not bother to publish uncopyrighted works, for fear that a rival publisher will break in and ruin their monopoly? Not very. Nearly all works written before 1900 are in the public domain, yet pre-1900 works are still published, and still sell.
Is it credible that authors, in a world without copyrights, will be deprived of remuneration for their work? Again, not likely. In the 19th century, British authors had no copyright protection under American law, yet they received royalties from American publishers nonetheless.
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