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Copyright and Freedom of Speech

As I pointed out recently, IP rights such as copyright and patent in effect grant the holder the right to control the property and bodies of other people (see p. 44 of this article; p. 862 of this article). This is illustrated by the case of Samuel Beckett and his 1953 play "Waiting for Godot" (discussed and parodied in Waiting for Opradot, by PatNews's Gregory Aharonian). As Aharonian points out,
Beckett denied women the opporunity to act in productions of Waiting For Godot, because "they don't have prostates", a request the Beckett estate has enforced using the moral rights clauses of copyright laws. For example, in 1992, a French court convicted a director of violating Beckett's moral right by staging Waiting for Godot with two women as the leads, contrary to Beckett's stage directions.
The Internet is becoming an essential tool for the spread of knowledge and information. So it is not surprising that copyright is hampering individuals' ability to do this. This NY Times article, One Internet, Many Copyright Laws shows how copyright law can lead to confusion and bullying tactics by states and copyright holders that discourage the publication of books and other materials on the Internet. It demonstrates how the US is pressuring other states, such as Australia, to adopt ever longer copyright terms to prevent works still copyrighted in the US from falling into the public domain in other countries. A copyright term of 70 years past the author's death is simply ridiculous. At the very least, the term should be shorter and in case of any doubt (difficulty in finding the copyright holder of older, out of print works to ask permission to reprint), reprint permission should be presumed.

Stephan Kinsella

Stephan Kinsella is an attorney in Houston, director of the Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom, and editor of Libertarian Papers.