Music Stand

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Speaking of musical archives, classic jazz, rock, and opera recordings from the 1950s are entering the public domain in Europe, where copyrights last a mere half a century, compared to 95 years in the U.S. Record companies worry not only that they will lose sales in Europe but that imports of European knockoffs will eat into their profits here. As usual, they couch their concerns in moral terms. "The import of of those products would be an act of piracy," says Neil Turkewitz, executive vice president of the Recording Industry Association of America. "The industry is regretful that these absolutely piratical products are being released."

Thus Turkewitz claims that sales of these recordings amount to thievery in Europe as well as the U.S., regardless of what the law says. Is a 95-year copyright term an inalienable natural right? Or is Turkewitz laying claim to a perpetual copyright, in which case selling material that has entered the public domain in the U.S. also would be piracy? The latter, absolutist position would be more credible than the implication that any particular copyright term has been divinely ordained.

NEXT: The Hi-tech Hand Crank

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  1. Intellectually, more credible, perhaps. But, Constitutionally, out to lunch.

    Under the Constitution, intellectual property is not the same as tangible property. Art. 1, Sec. 8, cl. 8 grants to Congress 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.

    “…for limited Times…” I think that the original intent is pretty clear. The purpose is not to create an ‘inalienable’ property right, it is to permit Congress to grant enough of a period of exclusivity to provide an incentive, but with the view always being to the commitment of the creation to the public domain.

    Rod Hoffman

  2. Intellectually, more credible, perhaps. But, Constitutionally, out to lunch.

    Under the Constitution, intellectual property is not the same as tangible property. Art. 1, Sec. 8, cl. 8 grants to Congress 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.

    “…for limited Times…” I think that the original intent is pretty clear. The purpose is not to create an ‘inalienable’ property right, it is to permit Congress to grant enough of a period of exclusivity to provide an incentive, but with the view always being to the commitment of the creation to the public domain.

    Rod Hoffman

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