"We Don't Need More Copyright" - Tom W. Bell on Intellectual Property

"We don't need more copyright," says Chapman University law professor Tom W. Bell. "Probably we could dial it back and still enjoy this great wealth of culture that's been generated, that's already in our libraries."

Bell, a self-described "intellectual property skeptic," sat down with Reason TV to discuss his new book Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good.

Contemporary copyright law is a statutory privilege that inevitably contradicts our constitutional rights to free expression. The prospect of litigation scares off artists who want to create new works that exist in legal grey areas, like mashups, tributes, or parodies.

Bell's solution rests on a much simpler idea: we should emphasize common law instead of copyright. Common law – which is to say, the established precedents that govern ordinary property, contracts, and torts – already form the foundation of the American legal system. It provides plenty of encouragement for artists and designers to create new works, without the statutory failures of the current system.

How might the arts fare in a world without copyright protection? To a large extent, we already know the answer. Perfumes, jokes, recipes, fashion, furniture, and automobile design have never enjoyed copyright protection. Yet there's no shortage of creativity in any of these fields. Artists still find ways to make money – sometimes a great deal of it – in the absence of special legal protection.

After meeting with policymakers on Capitol Hill, Bell is hopeful about the prospects for reforming the Copyright Act. Legislators are starting to accept what consumers have long understood about the digital age: modern copyright law hinders the very innovation it was designed to promote.

Runs about 8:30.

Produced by Ford Fischer and Todd Krainin. Cameras by Josh Swain and Fischer.

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  • Almanian!||

    So this means we'll get posts on circumcision, artisanal mayonnaise, pizza, the mideast and the US's role/not role there, and how Millenials® feel about all that, right?

    OH! Plus teh "undocumented"/illegal Messicans, pot and gay mayoruj. Right?

  • american socialist||

    Fuck off, tom. Libertarianism is for things like poor people trying to get health care not gazillionaires looking to protect the latest font they put on cereal boxes. New and improved! Yay! File a copyright now .

  • kbolino||

    Envious, short-sighted, and morally bankrupt is no way to go through life.

  • ron228||

    This is amazing. Start working at home with Google. It’s a great work at home opportunity. Just work for few hours. I earn up to $100 a day. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out www.Fox81.com

  • CSJ||

    Anthony Kiedis grew a brain.

  • Libertarius||

    Not one that creates anything worth owning, apparently.

  • John Donohue||

    "...enjoy this great wealth of culture that's been generated, that's already in our libraries."
    And people scoff at Ayn Rand because she put into the plot of Atlas Shrugged a law that forbade the publishing of any new books, only allowing reprints of ones 'already in our libraries.'

    And even worse, this tender tidbit: "Artists still find ways to make money – sometimes a great deal of it – in the absence of special legal protection." For any and all readers of Rand, I only need to say one line to send this precious bit down the tube: "But Mr. Reardon, you'll think of something."

  • Libertarius||

    Or Mr. Gates, or Mr. Westinghouse, or Mr. Edison...

    Who is John Galt, anyway?

  • sungazer||

    I do find it oddly amusing that libertarian leaning people hold the government power over copyright as a very important governmental power. You don't plan on going around threatening people with guns across the world doing things there is no way of tracking without violating their privacy, but you demand the government does so with the utmost vigor? Fuck you statist... The whole economic model of supply and demand does not work when the supply is endless and uncontrollable. Currency, by design, is meant to facilitate exchanges. Unfortunately, our currency does not facilitate exchanges that are not a function of limited supply. Why on God's earth is copyright thought of as an issue of what extend government should put limits on commerce, and not as monetary policy and currency issue is beyond me. If the rest of property worked like copyright, you could not own a car or a house unless you built them yourself.

  • Greendogo||

    I would really like to read and understand your post and maybe actually respond to the material in your post.

    However, in order to do that I'm going to need you to revise your post so that it is more readable. Perhaps look over the flow of the sentences and rewrite a few of them to make more sense; maybe use a few line breaks and get your points into multiple paragraphs.

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