Friday, December 10, 2010

Melancholy Elephants, by Spider Robinson

In my reading of award nominees on Free SF Online, I am now up to 1983. Ronald Reagan is president and cracks are appearing in the Soviet Union. The course of the world has not yet been changed by fear of disease (AIDS, 1983), the Web (1992), terrorism (2001), or institutional ineptitude (financial crisis of 2007-8 and onward). In that year, Melancholy Elephants won a Hugo for predicting the end of creativity. The premise being that, since ideas and melodies are copyrightable, if copyright is extended forever, we will run out of original art.
Seems just goofy on its face. There might be something slightly to it if we were totally law-abiding, copyright respecting people, but we're not. Kazaa, sampling and China all push back. See Cory Doctorow for creative ways around this. The story is interesting in illustrating how speculation can get it wrong.

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