September 5, 2002 · Lessig
So the brief is finished, and though I’m happy with it, nothing ever will be as compelling as Spider Robinson’s Melancholy Elephants, which Kevin Marks found online. (Check out the Marks link: That too is a great idea out there.) Bumperactive is still giving away “Free the Mouse!” bumperstickers, and Matt Haughey (who has been building and running the Eldred site for free, along with Wendy Seltzer who did everything before him) has put together a cool link campaign. So for all who’ve written helpfully, “what can I do?,” here’s one thing at least.
No one will ever know just how much help went into this case, no matter how much we say. We started this case on an openlaw model, and though in these last stages we could not post drafts online, there have been scores of people vetting drafts and supplying ideas over the past month. If this case goes south, I’m happy to take the blame, so long as someone would help tell the story of these volunteers if we win.
One of many favorite volunteers is the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Archivist, William Maher. He was puzzled by an argument that the government has been making: that in 1790. Congress extended the terms of copyrights, so they should be allowed to do the same today. Maher went back to the records of copyrights between 1790 and 1800. After extraordinarily tedious and careful research, he discovered that of the 21,000 titles published during the period 1790 to 1800, there are exactly 12 copyrights (<.05%) for work published before 1790. Nothing like numbers to deflate legal rhetoric.
Now to the 523 emails in the “must be answered” box, and the interesting follow-ups in weblog space…