the copyright clause: an occasional reminder

In light of Hachette’s attempts, if I read this right, to force authors to require DRM even in their non-Hachette contracts, and the various reactions we’ve gotten to, may I offer a reminder about the copyright clause?

Here is one thing the copyright clause does not say:

To enable intellectual property rights holders the ability to reap all possible commercial benefit and dictate every use of their work, forever.

Here is another thing the copyright clause does not say:

[clause elided, because copyright is outdated, information wants to be free, authors who want to make more than a couple bucks off their work are greedy, and anyway copyright is only used by tools]

Here is what the copyright clause does say:

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.

That is, it secures rights to authors and inventors, but with the aim of benefiting us all.

Disclosure: our household made $2050.07 off of intellectual property rights in 2011, $2010 from ALA Publishing as a lump sum and $40.07 from Macmillan in royalties. I’m pleased that I have the opportunity to make money from things I write, and I hope they are of enough benefit to the world to justify what I’m paid for them. (But filing special tax forms on $40.07 in royalties is just annoying, and both the world at large and we in particular would be better off if that work were no longer subject to copyright. Coincidentally, have I told you how hard it is to make that happen…?)

2 thoughts on “the copyright clause: an occasional reminder

  1. Two things about this, tongue firmly planted in cheek:

    #1 So you think that you can determine what the constitution SHOULD mean merely by reading the words? What are you, some kind of Republican?

    #2 What’s so difficult about 1040 Schedule E? I mean, compared to a depreciation schedule or a loss carry-forward that’s nothin’. PS TurboTax licenses are cheap and it’s not cheating to use a program….


    1. #2 Obnoxiousness and certainty. One, it’s obnoxious to have to pull out a different tax form solely for an amount of money I can’t even buy shoes with. Two, while Schedule E is apparently the correct thing for me to file, it clearly wasn’t written for book royalties (“address of the property”, what?), so I’ve never been convinced I’m filling it out right. The fact that the IRS hasn’t hurt me for filing it suggests that I am, but I’d prefer something more a priori.


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