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An Un-'Common' Take On Copyright Law

In his new book Common As Air, Professor Lewis Hyde says he's suspicious of the concept of "intellectual property" to begin with, calling it "historically strange." Hyde backs it up with an impressive amount of research; he spends a significant amount of time reflecting on the Founding Fathers, who came up with America's initial copyright laws. ...

Hyde advocates for a return to a "cultural commons" and quotes, approvingly, Thomas Jefferson, who believed that "ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man." ...

America's intellectual property law hasn't changed much in the past few decades; it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon (at least not toward a larger public domain, one of Hyde's main goals). But Hyde has crafted a compelling argument that copyright is "a limit that has lost its limit," and it's one that every American who is concerned about our nation's cultural heritage should consider.

Read the full NPR story, including some excerpts from "Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership". [23aug10]

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