It’s not about property rights

Copyright: The Elephant in the Middle of the Glee Club

Remixing isn’t stealing, and copyright isn’t property. Copyright is a privilege — actually six specific privileges — granted by the government. Back in 1834, the Supreme Court decided in Wheaton v. Peters that copyrights weren’t “property” in the traditional sense of the word, but rather entitlements the government chose to create for instrumental reasons. The scope and nature of copyright protection are policy choices — choices that have grown to favor the interests of established, rent-seeking businesses instead of the public in general.

The Constitution allows Congress to pass copyright laws to “promote the progress of science” — a word often used in the 18th century to mean “knowledge”. The stated purpose of the original 1790 copyright statute was to encourage learning. So you tell me — what promotes knowledge and learning: letting people rearrange music and learn to use a video camera, or threatening new artists with $150,000 fines?

Once again, I say that phony conservatives use the rhetoric of property rights and moral law to defend their bloodsucking dependence on the federal government. If your business can’t survive without help from the federal government . . .  it isn’t a business; it is a government agency.

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