Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Gutenberg

Copyright Isn’t a Human Right

with 18 comments

human rights

“Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

Article 27, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

This clause is often understood (erroneously) to refer to copyright, but it is not copyright. Rather, it refers to what is called:

Natural rights, also called inalienable rights, are considered to be self-evident and universal. They are not contingent upon the laws, customs, or beliefs of any particular culture or government. Legal rights, also called statutory rights, are bestowed by a particular government to the governed people and are relative to specific cultures and governments. They are enumerated or codified into legal statutes by a legislative body.

Natural and legal rights, Wikipedia

Moral rights pertain to intellectual work; a perpetual right to identify themselves as the author of their original work (that involves no copy, just the original). The author has natural dominion over the original work; and is free to lock it away, or share it, or sell it; but even if sold, the creator is forever the creator. The offense against the author’s moral right is plagiarism. This is what is recognized in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

Printer in 1568 by Jost Amman (public domain)

A right is a right no matter the locality and it lasts forever; a privilege like copyright only exists for the period of time set by the law of the land. Copyright is a state granted monopoly wherever it exists, but of course sovereign nations have different laws. That doesn’t change the fact that it exists only because it is imposed by statute.

American Copyright History
The framers of the American Constitution did recognize the natural human rights of creators, and secured these rights, but again, that was not copyright. After all, the 1787 Constitution certainly didn’t recognize the US Copyright privilege that was based upon itself and not enacted until two years later in 1790.

Copyright = Monopoly
Published works lie outside of an author’s human rights, so the state grants exclusive reproduction privilege — a monopoly — over the reproduction of published works. That is copyright.

The printing monopolies predating the Statute of Anne in England were privileges granted printers, and so are even less beneficial to creators than copyright, and so not the same thing at all.



Image Credits

Public domain image From Wikipedia Printer in 1568 by Jost Amman (1539–1591)

Thanks to Crosbie Fitch, as reference was made to: Mythologising Copyright, Printerlectual Poppetry and More than one Madison Confused by Copyright

Again, this article came from the comments on BuzzMachine.

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