Shakespeare and Copyright

There is an interesting discussion developing online regarding whether copyright helps or hinders artists. It was spurred by a recent op-ed column in the NY Times that basically argues that copyright protects the income of artists therefore allowing them to continue to create. The authors contend that Shakespeare was able to continue to produce his works because of the income from the Globe Theatre’s admissions.
However, as Kevin Smith points out, artists generally survive off their patronages (government grants, academic appointments, wealthy sponsors) NOT the little that might trickle down to them through royalties from copyright.
And the TechDirt blog has posted an even more compelling response: If current copyright laws existed in Shakespeare’s time would he have even been able to create his masterworks? Art inspires art. Shakespeare himself created derivative works based on the products of others. Today’s copyright laws would likely have prevented him from doing so in many cases… and we would be without his cultural legacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *