Tyler Cowen writes:
I am learning just how much early British copyright law kept the price of literature high, and kept books out of public hands.
The curious story of how perpetual copyright survived until 1774, 64 years after the Statute of Anne limited the duration of monopoly publishing rights to 14 years with one optional renewal is told in chapter 6, “Founders” of Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture. (Failing to obtain legislative copyright extension, publishers argued that common law copyright was perpetual, obviating the statute.)
Modern U.S. publishers, since at least 1976 succeeded politically where their English predecessors failed, obtaining effectively perpetual protection through legislation, obviating the U.S. constitution’s “limited time” clause (nevermind the redefinition of “science and useful arts“). Should publishers fail to obtain another extension by 2019, what alternative methods for controlling pre-1923 works will publishers pursue?