I have been rereading the legislative history of the 1909 Copyright Act. I have come to the conclusion that 100 years ago we were smarter about copyright, about disruptive technologies, about intellectual property, monopolies and network effects than we are today. At least, the legislative hearings were much smarter. The hearings I am looking at took place in 1906 — thanks to the wonder of Google books you can read them yourself, if you are really nerdy.
Themes from then and now certainly recurred, but there seemed to be a better balance among the business interests as to the pros and cons of various copyright restrictions. For example, here is an argument from the representatives of the recording and player piano industries that their technologies actually encourages the dissemination and sales of music – reminiscent of arguments by many today:
The whole of the article is worth reading, if only to remember that our current system was hardly inevitable, and that many pro-business arguments can be made for a different approach.
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