Monday, April 8, 2013

Scott Turow Lies About the Copyright Clause

Scott Turow, the famous millionaire lawyer-author, has an op-ed in the New York Times whining about a recent Supreme Court decision that makes his writing hobby arguably somewhat less lucrative at the margins. According to Turow, this is all part of a campaign of "Soviet-style suppression" of literature. (Seriously, you have to read the op-ed all the way to the end—it's a thriller!)

Silly rhetoric aside, he makes a basic error when he says—
Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.
You may be wondering if you missed that part of Constitutional Law class where we went over the "Instructions to Congress." But of course the Constitution does not "instruct" Congress to do anything, much less pass copyright laws. It merely permits Congress to pass them by granting it the power to do so. Nothing in the constitution requires them. Turow just wishes it did.

One thing writers are good at is twisting words. Lawyers, too. Kudos, Mr. Turow: you win the daily double.

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