Thursday, August 19, 2010

Copyright and competition

De Spiegel discusses work by Wolfgang Menzel that suggests that an absence of copy right in Germany was responsible for a flourishing of ideas. In contrast to England, where copyright laws kept monopoly power over ideas and prevented competition, in Germany there was an outpouring of non-fiction publishing. German publishers reacted to their inability to enforce their rights by using price discrimination to cover the market.

In Germany during the same period, publishers had plagiarizers -- who could reprint each new publication and sell it cheaply without fear of punishment -- breathing down their necks. Successful publishers were the ones who took a sophisticated approach in reaction to these copycats and devised a form of publication still common today, issuing fancy editions for their wealthy customers and low-priced paperbacks for the masses.

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