How Copyright Laws are Stifling Innovation

Interesting thoughts from “Three Myths about Copyright Law and Where to Start to Fix it” [PDF]

Copyright as hampering innovation:

Copyright protection is important, but having too much copyright protection stifles innovation:

“With too much copyright protection, as in copyright protection that carried on longer than necessary for the incentive, it will greatly stifle innovation.”

Where did copyright come from? Well, under the Copyright Act of 1790 (the first federal copyright act), it stated that the purpose of the act was the “encouragement of learning” — with the “sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending” for 14 years (and to renew for another 14 years while still alive).

Today’s laws are different than what our founding fathers intended:

  • Original Copyright Law: 14 years, plus 14 year renewal if author is alive. 
  • Current Copyright Law: Life of author plus 70 years; and for corporate authors 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication.

If we want our nation to be more innovative, and to satisfy people with a “voracious appetite for reading” (think of Benjamin Franklin), we should keep knowledge open (like Project Gutenberg). What this would cause:

“The threshold cost for learning will virtually vanish, and with that, the potential for greater learning would skyrocket.”

For more reading, check out “Infringement Nation” [Paper] or the “Infringement Nation” [Book]. 

Also, people try to bully people into false takedown requests, and they stifle legitimate/free speech. There should be penalties for this type of bullying. 


To conclude, copyright laws are important— but too much retards and stifles innovation. Copyright laws need “sufficient incentive” for people to create content, but having too long of a copyright is harmful for society.