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MSNBC: Copyrights and copywrongs (Why Thomas Jefferson Would Love Napster)

Nov 09, 2001, 11:56 (14 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Siva Vaidhyanathan)

[ Thanks to Lin Kuei for this link. ]

"Because so many recent cases involve digital technology, we might assume that these are new issues, that copyright in an analog world was relatively stable and non-controversial. But in fact, copyright was not only one of the most lively subjects of debate among our Founding Fathers. The values that copyright reflects echo with the very principles of the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention.

At its birth in England, copyright was an instrument of censorship. In 1557, the Catholic Queen Mary Tudor capped off a 120-year monarchal struggle to censor printing presses in England by issuing a charter to the Stationers? Company, a guild of printers. Only members of the company could legally produce books. The only books they would print were approved by the Crown.

In contrast, the American copyright system since 1791 has reflected American republican values. While it granted a limited, temporary monopoly to a specific publisher, American copyright grew to embody four democratic safeguards...."

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