In The Myth of the Tragedy of the Commons Ian Angus argues convincingly that there is no tradgedy of the commons. I din’t like that he led of with an ad hominem attack on the author of the Tradgedy of the Commons, but the rest of the arguments seemed quite sound. The argument is that a stable community takes a long term view when it comes to managing shared assets. Angus supplies links to a a number of studies that support this view. The problems with a despoiling of a commons arrive when people can swoop in, grab as much as they can, and then take off for greener pastures.
I am interested in how this would apply for copyright. It seems to me that one of the big reasons copyright is useful to a society is that it exchanges a temporary monopoly for the creation of a greater commons. By extending copyright indefinitely, copyright maximalists are snatching what they can and running. They want the freedom to build on the works of others, but don’t want to reciprocate by giving others the freedom to build on their works. It’s been a long, long, long time since anyone created something without drawing in any way on the creators who came before them.