June 01, 2004

Public Domain Follies

Tyler Cowen blows it when he analyzes the idea of perfect copies of paintings. He quotes a piece speculating on the results:

Economically, I assume that the acceptance of copies would devastate the resale value of originals of everything except the first-tier work. But for the first-tier work--the owners of which would have the exclusive right to reproduce it--the amount of money to be made selling copies might well rival current market value.

Tyler Cowen suggests that people prefer the inferior artworks that they are using as wall decorations right now. What he misses is that intellectual property is not true property. You don't have permanent reproduction rights and most great art works predate the 20th century. Reproductions without controls are inevitable for public domain pieces, the more famous the greater the likelihood.

Perfect duplication of the genius of times past will always be popular, though what is viewed as genius will change with modern sensibilities and taste. Public domain, though beaten down by modern commercial interests, is still a powerful force. It was a missed opportunity not to take it into account.

Posted by TMLutas at June 1, 2004 03:28 PM