Quid Pro Quo

I’m just going to comment on one of the things related to yesterday’s intro to intellectual property and patents.

One point that came up was that one of the benefits of having a patent system is quid pro quo. That is, we the people grant you the inventor exclusive rights to the production and use of your invention in return for the knowledge of how to construct it. We get the knowledge, you get a temporary monopoly.

This got me thinking – isn’t it the same way with copyrights? Or rather, shouldn’t it be? Look at Disney – and this is a tired argument, but I’ll repeat it – who has certainly profited from taking from the public domain (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) but who lobbies Congress to continually extend the limits of copyright so that they never have to release anything to the public. Of course, no one can use their creations to create secondary works derived from same, which means that they are essentially being granted a monopoly on their creation forever. The sad thing is that it is easy to understand why patents should be term limited, but people don’t seem to feel the same way about copyrights. Is it because of some prejudice against scientific advance, or is it because people use inventions and feel strongly enough about their usefulness that they would not tolerate such an infinite extension of the monopoly?


1 thought on “Quid Pro Quo”

  1. That’s an interesting point… perhaps, from the other direction, copyrights are treated as “more special” because, as works of artistic expression, they hold a certain emotional value for both the creator AND the observer… An inventor is certainly emotional about his own invention, but the public just sees it as something new they can use… A writer, however, creates works that cause the user to feel emotion as well; perhaps causing a subconscious increase in value relative to a scientific advance.

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