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February 5, 2004
CONTACT: David Fish
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Copy Left: The Opposite of Copyright
Adkinson Questions Lessig and New York Times Magazine

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The fear of the Copy Left about copyright in the digital age – in the words of Robert Boynton’s contained in his recent New York Times Magazine piece, “that the United States is becoming less free and less creative” – is “utterly at odds with reality,” writes William F. Adkinson, Jr. of The Progress & Freedom Foundation.

Reacting to Boynton’s “admiring report” of the Copy Left (Stanford Professor Larry Lessig, Yale Professor Yochai Benkler et al.) in The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog, Adkinson counters that, “In recent years, creativity, personal expression, and communication have all expanded beyond what we ever could have imagined, largely as a result of the digital revolution – especially the Internet. The ease of obtaining and disseminating information is nothing short of amazing.”

But, according to Adkinson, the Copyright Left assumes, “that things are going to reverse quickly and radically. “ Writes Boynton: “The Copy Left sees innovations like iTunes, Apple’s popular online music store, as the first step toward a society in which much of the cultural activity that we currently take for granted…will be rerouted through a system of micropayments in return for which the rights to ever smaller pieces of our culture are doled out.”

“But there is no mention of how this parade of horribles might happen in reality,” Adkinson writes. “One might think a serious, skeptical journalist might ask, but Boynton does not enlighten us.” Instead, Adkinson maintains Boynton concentrates on Lessig’s concern that copyrights are too long. Wrong, says Adkinson: Internet piracy “has shrunk the effective copyright period to zero…for people using P2P systems.” What is at the bottom of the Copy Left’s argument, he argues, is their “unwilling[ness] to accept any limitations on how content may be obtained or used, even limitations that are necessary to preserve the right of creators to have a meaningful opportunity to market their work.”

“Consumers…benefit from a system that eliminates free-riding, enabling the cost of a work to be spread over as many users as possible,” writes Adkinson. “The Copy Leftists are entitled to their vision. But they should not be permitted to undermine the copyright system that enables the rest of us to enjoy a cornucopia of entertainment and cultural works.”

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.



The Progress & Freedom Foundation