World-renowned novelist Mark Helprin offers a ringing Jeffersonian defense of private property in the age of digital culture, with its degradation of thought and language, and collectivist bias against the rights of individual creators.
Mark Helprin anticipated that his 2007 New York Times op-ed piece about the extension of the term of copyright would be received quietly, if not altogether overlooked. Within a week, the article had accumulated 750,000 angry comments. He was shocked by the breathtaking sense of entitlement demonstrated by the commenters, and appalled by the breadth, speed, and illogic of their responses.
Helprin realized how drastically different this generation is from those before it. The Creative Commons movement and the copyright abolitionists, like the rest of their generation, were educated with a modern bias toward collaboration, which has led them to denigrate individual efforts and in turn fueled their sense of entitlement to the fruits of other people s labors. More important, their selfish desire to stick it to the greedy corporate interests who control the production and distribution of intellectual property undermines not just the possibility of an independent literary culture but threatens the future of civilization itself.
Noted novelist and journalist Helprin (Winter's Tale) wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2007 arguing for an extension of the term of copyright. In response, he received 750,000 caustic, often vulgar e-mails from those he calls the anticopyright movement-a mostly vague cabal led, apparently, by law professor Lawrence Lessig, and whose house organ is the "Chronicle of [Supposedly] Higher Education." Now Helprin gets his revenge with a splenetic riposte that veers from a passionate defense of authors' rights and the power of the individual voice to a misanthropic attack on a debased America populated by "Slurpee-sucking geeks," "beer-drinking dufuses" and "mouth-breathing morons in backwards baseball caps and pants that fall down." We're treated to his views on everything from tax policy and airport security to the self-regard of academic literary critics. Drowning in this ocean of bile is a defense of authors' right to control their work and defend its integrity against appropriation and distortion by others, and an examination of the historical and legal basis of copyright offered in elegant prose and with a rapier-sharp wit. But Helprin's pugnacity may repel even those who agree that copyright is a "bulwark of civilization." (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.