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Limits On The Duration Of Copyright: Theories And Practice

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Chapter Summary

The question of how long a copyright should last has troubled scholars and policymakers ever since the first copyright statute was enacted. The controversy continues because there are two divergent views concerning the basic rationale underlying copyright law. Under the natural rights view, the author of a literary or artistic work has a natural right to profit from the fruits of his or her artistic labor. The logical extreme of the natural rights view is that copyright should be perpetual and is limited in duration only because of certain practical considerations. Under the utilitarian view, however, copyright exists primarily to encourage the creation and distribution of new literary and artistic works. Public choice theory is a branch of economics that applies game theory and decision theory to government action. It works very well in explaining how decisions concerning the duration of copyright are made.

Keywords: copyright; natural rights view; public choice theory; utilitarian view



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