How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish (via @theatlantic, HT: jenny8lee)

I believe there are serious problems with modern copyright laws, problems that have been exacerbated by an inability to keep legislation up to date with modern technology. This report by Rebecca Rosen, however, discusses another effect of copyright:

[Paul J. Heald at the University of Illinois] has now finalized his research [...]: "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."

Read the whole article here, it's quite interesting (and disappointing and not entirely surprising):

And while we're on the topic, here is a discussion from the Columbia Journalism Review about whether copyright law works at all, with an interesting research finding:

In one experiment, [a] group of subjects write three-line haikus, to be entered in a contest with a prize of $50. These authors had the option of selling their poems (and the chance to win $50) to another group, the bidders. Both the authors and the bidders were asked to value how much a particular haiku was worth.

It turned out that, perhaps not surprisingly, the creators of these tiny works of art valued them more than the people who were thinking of buying them. “Our data revealed that Authors valued their work more than twice as high as Bidders ($20.05 versus $9.21),” Buccafusco and Sprigman wrote.

That doesn't surprise me at all, especially when we look at early eBook prices compared to what readers said they would pay for them.

The takeaway, for Buccafusco and Sprigman, is that markets for creative work are not nearly as efficient as IP law assumes—and that the argument that more protection is needed to ensure innovation might not be quite right. “The work I do with Chris suggests that we don’t know as much about IP as we think we do,” says Sprigman. “It’s been a faith-based policy for a long time. A lot of people in my field are trying to uncover what IP laws actually do and what they don’t.”

The takeaway for me is summarised here:

Part of what empirical research can show is how finer-tuned laws might work better. Not all creative industries work the same way—making a major motion picture requires more up-front investment than writing a poem; computer software might have a shorter shelf-life than a bestselling book.

Read that article in full here: