Re: Reminder


Astonishing naive though in some of its arguments, e.g. the idea that slum dwellers actually get a subsistence wage and usury is taken into account of this.

Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 9:23 AM
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Note that (and I think I've mentioned this before) the piece contains one of the conventional arguments for longer copyright terms.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 9:44 AM
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A classic blog post if there is such a thing.

Posted by: | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 9:45 AM
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If today's antisemites wrote poems about banking, the world would be a better place.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 9:47 AM
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Duccio came by copyright
and Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin' by copyright
thus was "La Callunia" painted.
Came by copyright Angelico; came Ambrogio Praedis,
Came churches of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 9:48 AM
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Yes but then Pound could get sued by the estates of Confucius and Andreas Divus.

Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:00 AM
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5 is great. I feel like I should emboss it on the back of business cards, or something.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:19 AM
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It'll cost you.

Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:20 AM
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one of the conventional arguments for longer copyright terms

Can you elaborate / reiterate?

Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:23 AM
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9 -- Probably the most common argument for a longer copyright term (put aside what exactly that should be) is that it is unfair for a creator of a great, but unrecognized at the time of creation, work to not receive any compensation for the work when the work later proves successful.

The flip side of this argument, which is also commonly made, is that a long copyright term helps to counteract one of the Dsquared/Pound arguments against usury. With a short term you encourage creators to produce only disposable work for immediate consumption, without thinking of the future; a longer term encourages creators and the culture industry to think about longer-term streams of revenue and the enjoyment of future, not just immediate, generations. Effectively, a longer term serves as a bulwark (within a capitalist system) against the otherwise inexorable pressure of capitalism to create culture that is immediately profitable and disposable, by internalizing part of the future generation externality Dsquared describes.

[I don't really buy the argument in practice, myself -- my own view is that longer terms don't actually matter much one way or another on a global scale once you net out all the various effects, and the right approach is a more nuanced system. Which I could go on about at tedious length but no one wants that. But there's not nothing to the argument]

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:42 AM
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I think the best that argument can do is claim that a longer copyright term mitigates the detrimental effects of usury? Usury makes it (potentially, consider 15-year-old vs. 10-year-old booze) more worthwhile to get the $$ now, but longer copyright terms … actually I don't really see how this is relevant at all?

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:50 AM
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I may be misunderstanding both this argument and dsquared's, so perhaps if you could say what you understand the argument in the linked post is and say more directly how copyright enters into it, we would all be the wiser.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:51 AM
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WHAT if, after you had paid the taxes on earnings with which you built a house, sales taxes on the materials, real estate taxes during your life, and inheritance taxes at your death, the government would eventually commandeer it entirely? This does not happen in our society ... to houses. Or to businesses. Were you to have ushered through the many gates of taxation a flour mill, travel agency or newspaper, they would not suffer total confiscation.

Once the state has dipped its enormous beak into the stream of your wealth and possessions they are allowed to flow from one generation to the next. Though they may be divided and diminished by inflation, imperfect investment, a proliferation of descendants and the government taking its share, they are not simply expropriated.

That is, unless you own a copyright. Were I tomorrow to write the great American novel (again?), 70 years after my death the rights to it, though taxed at inheritance, would be stripped from my children and grandchildren. To the claim that this provision strikes malefactors of great wealth, one might ask, first, where the heirs of Sylvia Plath berth their 200-foot yachts. And, second, why, when such a stiff penalty is not applied to the owners of Rockefeller Center or Wal-Mart, it is brought to bear against legions of harmless drudges who, other than a handful of literary plutocrats (manufacturers, really), are destined by the nature of things to be no more financially secure than a seal in the Central Park Zoo.

Posted by: Opinionated Mark Helprin | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 10:56 AM
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Wow, that "again?" really is echt Helprin. That's amazing.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:01 AM
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"Mitigate the detrimental effect of usury" is fine.

The argument in the poem/Dsquared post is basically, this: the pope (basically, the up-front financier of culture, think studio or record label) in the pre-usury era had a longer time horizon for cultural production like the Sistine Chapel, because (a) the opportunity costs of an artist's time are easier to identify under capitalism and because (b) there is a consistent "missing market" problem, or externality, in which the person financing the cultural production doesn't directly benefit or profit from the enjoyment that future generations get from the product. Problem (b) isn't specific to capitalism, but when you combine (a) and (b) you get a systematic problem under capitalism in which producers of culture will look exclusively to what can be made cheaply for the short-term, as opposed to pre-capitalist systems that had a longer time horizon. [N.b. I don't think this is an extremely convincing economic analysis of what drove the production of the Sistine Chapel, but the general point about the future generations externality is most definitely real]

A long copyright term theoretically helps to mitigate the time externality -- you've now got a way to internalize, and to value, at least some of the future profits that future generations will get after you're gone. With a 15 year term, Disney doesn't care at all about whether a movie will endure for 100 years. With a 100 year term it does, and may be willing to take more artistic risks/spend more on risky production in order to create a franchise that endures over the long term. This isn't a return to the middle ages, but it's (theoretically) a way of resisting the inexorable capitalist pressure towards short-termism in the world of cultural production. In practice, this effect is IMO very limited but does exist -- most things really are produced for the short term, but the possibility of recouping gains over the very long term (and valuing that potential recoupment) does drive some decisions).

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:10 AM
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I don't suppose Mark Helprin addresses the difference between rival and non-rival goods. If you write a book, you own that copy of what you wrote and can pass it down to your ancestors until the sun goes out. Same as if you make a house or a flour mill. What you can't do is prevent other people from making copies of the information in it. The information used to make a factory or a house gets less protection.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:12 AM
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Thank you, Robert, that was very clear.

For things like the Sistine Chapel it doesn't obviously help unless they, I don't know, charge admission or something.

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:13 AM
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15 before seeing 16.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:14 AM
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1 was my immediate reaction. I suppose it's always possible that usury ultimately comes out of the pockets of landlords and employers (wouldn't they then be against its continued existence?) but I'm always suspicious when someone argues that economic theory says some secondary effect will cancel out a primary, harmful effect through indirect means.
Dsquared also implies that since people voluntarily take on usurious loans they must be beneficial. There must be a name for this well worn fallacy.

Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:14 AM
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The Helprin quote has zero to do with the thing I was discussing, but whatever.

Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:23 AM
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Recognizing that 13 is a straw man argument, the obvious flaw is the assumption that the natural state of affairs is a perpetual copyright which the government is "destroying," while in fact, the natural state of affairs absent government intervention is a zero-year copyright. Mozart could quote Haydn, or street musicians, as much as he wanted and not pay them a dime. Conversely, the only security he had from being copied in his turn was possession of the physical manuscripts (which his widow sold off to publishers after his death).

Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 11:31 AM
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In practice, this effect is IMO very limited but does exist -- most things really are produced for the short term, but the possibility of recouping gains over the very long term (and valuing that potential recoupment) does drive some decisions).

My basic inclination is that very few masterpieces* are affected by this sort of incentive - the Beatles didn't spend more time on Sgt. Pepper than on With The Beatles because copyright law changed between '63 and '67 - but I agree very much with the quoted bit that it can influence marginal decisions within the corporate superstructure. Which is to say that EMI was willing to pay for all the extra studio time (and orchestral musicians) on the latter record because the former record gave the bean counters reason to believe that Sgt. Peppers would have a longer shelf life than had been assumed for With The Beatles.

That said, I can't buy it as an argument once you get beyond, say, 30 years copyright term, because A. the discounted revenue streams for the vast majority of works beyond their 30th year are effectively nil, and there's no way to forecast which properties deserve the bump (you'd go bankrupt boosting the budget for every project in anticipation of income in the 50th year, because even though the occasional classic pulls in real cash at that time, discounted and spread among all production, it's pennies), and B. corporate financial horizons rarely look beyond 20 years, let alone 30. There are exceptions, but among artistic producers, and especially in this era? If I own stock in Hachette** and find out they're spending more on author advances now in anticipation of revenues in 2055, I'm showing up at the annual stockholders' meeting with a pitchfork.

*and I don't mean high art here
** which doesn't appear to be publicly traded?

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 12:00 PM
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Readers of the OP link may not have heard of Social Credit except in connection with Ezra Pound if then, but it was a significant political force in Canada for decades, from the 30s to the 60s, with a few events thereafter in which it played a role.

I'll bet JPJ knows more about this than I do, but I can clearly remember asking my dad the obvious who/what and receiving a succinct answer not that different, without the abuse, from Dsquared's.

Not only did they control provincial government in the West, particularly Alberta for decades, but the leader of the Quebec branch was easily the most recognizable separatist leader in my childhood.

Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 09-24-14 1:19 PM
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So can we say d-squared anticipated Piketty in creating a new genre of literary criticism, then?

Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-25-14 7:05 AM
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With a linky link now

Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-25-14 7:07 AM
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19: given he is talking about the value of moving spending and income around in time, I think he's on pretty solid ground. It's pretty well documented that some people in (non loan shark) microcredit program's use micro loans for saving, for instance. It is so valuable to them to be moving money around in time they will continue to pay interest for that service, even when they don't need a loan. With a larger or less fragile income, like a middle class salary, you would keep it under the mattress until you had the minimum making it worth opening a deposit bank account.

Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-25-14 7:16 AM
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22: Hachette is part of the Lagardere Group, which is publicly traded on Euronext according to Wikipedia.

Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 09-25-14 7:32 AM
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