Uploaded by geo. on Jul 22, 2006
Civilization, the thing that makes humans different from the other animals on this planet, is the ability to pass knowledge down from generation to generation with each successive generation building on the knowledge of all generations that came before.
It is this “human knowledgebase” which has allowed us to progress to the point we are at today and it is this knowledgebase that is now under attack, an attack that threatens the very roots of civilization.
In 1790 George Washington signed into law Copyright Act of 1790, which granted a temporary monopoly on the knowledge to authors, and inventors of that knowledge with a limitation of 28 years. The reason for this temporary monopoly was to allow Authors and Inventors a reasonable return on their labors. (note I didn't say maximizing profits)
After that 28 years was up the knowledge became part of the human knowledge base and civilization could once again build freely on that knowledge.
All copyright and patent law in the US is based on an article in the Constitution, which granted congress the power "to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."
At the time it may have seemed like a good idea to grant a temporary monopoly in order to allow authors (copyright) and inventors (patent) time to profit from their writings and discoveries and this article became the bases for both copyright and patent laws. However the founding fathers were very careful not to make the mistakes Europe had made in creating a monopoly. They specifically worded the constitution to allow for authors and inventors to get a fair return but also to prevent copyright and patents from being used as a control mechanism to control knowledge which was the reasoning behind Copyright in Europe. This was a very important difference between the power granted to congress in the constitution and what had happened in European copyright laws. Also notice that the words "fair return" were used instead of "maximize profits". Copyright is not about maximizing profits, it's possible to get a fair return even with limited copying going on, in fact it was legal to copy as long as money wasn't involved up until 1976 when our copyright laws were changed.
Since that time, many revisions have been...