M. Lapin is playing devil's advocate, of course, mostly by implying that copyright exists primarily to protect the holder's revenue stream when it actually attempts to negotiate competing or potentially conflicting interests.

I have noticed in reading around on the topic over the last couple years that the legal folk (as distinct from a corporation's bean-counters) don't usually talk first about money but about the copyright holder's rights and privileges and infringements thereto. One of these is the right to, um, authorize copying and distribution of a work and to set some of the conditions. And some conditions and limits to the holder's rights are set by law, including term of copyright (elastic, thanks to the best legislature money can buy), fair use (not very well defined) and first purchase (rather better defined). All of these limitations acknowledge the differences between intellectual and real property and assume that you cannot fence it in forever, despite the ambitions of Mouse, Inc. and the Sons of Sonny.

Short version: every prudent publisher has already factored into his deal with the author the existence of a secondary market, of libraries, of pass-along (I know that magazine publishers do when they set their ad rates) and other facts of literary-commercial life. The danger to public access to intellectual property comes from the DMCA and its various extensions and from the big media companies whose important assets are not (as M. Lapin has suggested) books but movies, music, and various entertainment-franchise properties. I would think that Dan G's background makes him a better commentator on that practical end of this stuff than a magazine hack like me, though.


On edit: I see that while I was composing the above, Dan lapped me. Good.