Our Extremely Messed Up Copyright System: Item 137

Sometimes, it is difficult to explain to people the very substantial downside of a copyright (or other IP) regime.  Paul Heald’s new study, reported on here (“The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish”) should help on that score.  As the Atlantic’s headline puts it:  “A book published during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur has a greater chance of being in print today than one published during the time of Reagan.”

“Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability,” Heald writes. “Shortly after works are created and proprietized, they tend to disappear from public view only to reappear in significantly increased numbers when they fall into the public domain and lose their owners.”

[The] data  [obtained from a random crawl of the Amazon.com databases] reveals, shockingly, that there are substantially more new editions available of books from the 1910s than from the 2000s. Editions of books that fall under copyright are available in about the same quantities as those from the first half of the 19th century. Publishers are simply not publishing copyrighted titles unless they are very recent.

Worth a look, if you’re interested in these issues