Should Copyrights, like Trademarks, Never Expire? – An Angry Author Offers a Convincing Argument

Mark Helprin is a successful novelist. He is also on a mission to keep the content he and others create out of the public domain.

He loathes the sense of entitlement society has come to accept, especially as it relates to the Internet, where most things appear to be free – or most people believe they should be –  books, articles and images, included.

Helprin is author of Winter’s Tale, A Soldier of the Great War, Freddy and Fredericka, The Pacific, Ellis Island, and numerous other works. His novels, journalism and political commentary have been translated into over twenty languages. Most of his fiction has featured war, the sea and machines. His most contentious battle is with intellectual property.

Fair Thinkers or Free-Riders?

The strength of Digital Barbarism, his manifesto, consists of Helprin’s jibes at anti-copyright philistines, progressives groping for higher ethics and techno literati looking for a free ride. There are also those too oblivious to know there is a problem or care. His arguments are in equal measure precise, provocative, ornery and humorous.

Helprin did not anticipate a hostile response to his 2007 New York Times op-ed piece, “A Great Idea Lives Forever. Shouldn’t Its Copyright?” Within a week, the article, which argued for extending the copyright term in keeping with Canada, the UK and other nations, had generated 750,000 angry comments.

Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto, published in 2010, is Helprin’s book about the growing threat to copyright and the high cost to both creators and society.

Fueled by Anger

While his anger-infused arguments are timely, Digital Barbarism is not without its challenges. Often dismissive, Helprin wanders in and out of the topic at hand, raging against a wide range of real and perceived adversaries.

He is right about free content. The lack of understanding about the purpose of copyrights and other IP rights is astounding. The damage it is does to creators and content, and society, is significant.

For the full story, visit “Storming the Digital Gates – A Novelist Speaks Out on Copyright,” in IP Watchdog. It’s part of Bruce Berman’s Intangible Investor series.

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