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Linux Journal: A Successful Linux/Open-Source Business Model

Jun 17, 2002, 22:00 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Tom Poe)

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"Copyright must be sufficiently robust to support a vibrant, diverse, and innovative sector for the creation and distribution of original expression. At [the] same time, once copyright has given sufficient support to creative autonomy, copyright's constitutive objectives are better served by placing works in the public domain than by continuing to transfer consumer surplus to copyright owners. At that point, so long as public domain works are adequately available to the public, continued protection would place an undue burden on authors, all of whom borrow from existing works in creating new ones, and undue cost on those who simply wish to read, see, or hear such works. Or, put in economic terms, once copyright's democratic goals have been substantially funded, consumer surplus is better allocated to subsidizing both transformative and nontransformative uses of existing works for a broad array of educational and cultural purposes. -- "Copyright and a Democratic Civil Society", Neil Weinstock Netanel, 106 Yale Law Journal 283 (1996)

"Unfortunately, these words and their associative meanings will have to be placed in the drawer for historical artifacts. The bottom line at this time is that between the Berne Convention and the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), the US is 'locked in' pretty much on the copyright term issue. Seems that this global commercialization trend requires that we match the country that offers the longest and most advantageous copyright (that includes the patent arena as well) protections. Well, we've done that and more. The US holds a twenty year edge or more in most categories of copyright and patent protection. Little will be occurring in the challenge to get us back to the 'good 'ol days'.

"So, what to do? Well, we need to talk about the Public Domain. It seems to have all but disappeared, along with the original intent of copyright. The Public Domain will have to be rediscovered. Incentives for placing works in the Public Domain will have to be invented. Forget the copyright owners; they can go stew in their juices. As Don Marti would say, in the spirit of Linuxmanship, 'Sell the benefits, not the features...'

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