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New Republic letter

Dear Friends,

The New Republic, in its wisdom, appears to have decided not to publish
the letter below. So I am using the email megaphone to spread the word.

The article to which I'm responding can be viewed at



Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2001 21:22:38 -0700 (PDT) 
From: Irvin Muchnick <irvmuch@yahoo.com>
Subject: Letter to the Editors 
To: online@tnr.com 
To the Editors:

Jeffrey Rosen says that "overly expansive protection of the rights of
authors and publishers is dangerous" ("Freelanced," July 9). But his snide
putdown of the Supreme Court's decision in *Tasini v. Times* - presented
with all the self-assurance of a tenured professor posing as a
rank-and-file writer - fails to address why the American Library
Association supported the National Writers Union's position.

Perhaps the reason is that this was a dispute not between copyright
holders and advocates of public access, but *between publishers and
authors*. Though CD-ROMs, databases and websites per se could not be
anticipated at the time of the Copyright Act of 1976, a fair reading of
the legislative history shows an awareness of emerging technologies and a
conscious embrace of a "doctrine of divisibility," which defined distinct
rights after first publication and granted them to freelance authors by
default. Was this the result of a victory by the powerful authors' lobby
over the feeble publishers' lobby? Or was this - as I believe - an attempt
to democratize information and culture by giving individual creators, as
well as corporations, the right to exploit their works in secondary media?
Critics of *Tasini* would have us think that authors now have both the
power and the inclination to charge users for "every bit and byte." The
truth is that we've simply acquired leverage in the evolving negotiations
for the digital age - including the right to give our stuff away, in the
forums we choose, in the interest of wider circulation. This better serves
the public than the consolidation of intellectual property rights in the
hands of an ever-shrinking number of major publishers.
Irvin Muchnick
Berkeley, California