LIMITING COPYRIGHT’S SCOPE frees us to design copyright rules that treat copying as a fact. These rules would regulate the industry, not the world. If we want to design a copyright to benefit publishers, we can scrap the digital-lock rules that put mere retailers in the driver’s seat, giving them tools to establish and maintain choke points in the distribution of creative works; if we want to design a copyright to benefit authors, we can abolish the intermediary liability rules that make it impossible to connect with an audience unless you sign away your rights to a publisher.
Two hundred-some years ago, the United States Congress established a very clever copyright rule that was designed to protect publishers and authors. The rule, established by the Copyright Act of 1790, created a short period of initial copyright, fourteen years, renewable by the author for another fourteen years. This created a dynamic that I will fictionalize in a short two-act play: