Let’s start around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In that day and age, copyright monopoly laws were in force in the United Kingdom, and pretty much the United Kingdom alone (where they were enacted in 1557). You know the “Made in Country X” that is printed or engraved on pretty much all our goods? That originated as a requirement from the British Customs against German-made goods, as a warning label that they were shoddy goods made in Germany at the time. It spread to pretty much global use.

But Germany didn’t have copyright monopoly laws at this point in time, and historians argue that was the direct cause of Germany’s engineering excellence overtaking that of the United Kingdom. In the UK, knowledge of handicrafts was expensive to come by. Books and the knowledge they carried were locked down in the copyright monopoly construct, after all. In Germany, however, the same knowledge was available at print cost – and thus, engineering skills proliferated. With every new person learning engineering, one more person started to improve the skill set for himself and for the country at large. The result is that Germany still, 200 years later, has an outstanding reputation for engineering skills – the rise of which are directly attributable to a lack of the copyright monopoly.

Or why not take a look at Hollywood and the film industry? In the infancy of filmmaking, there was a patent monopoly blanket on the entire concept of moving pictures owned by Thomas Edison, who was adamant in claiming his legal monopoly rights. In order for innovation in the area to flourish, the entire industry moved from the then-hotseat of moviemaking, New York. They moved as far away as they could, west across the entire country, and settled in a suburb outside of Los Angeles. That was outside of the reach of Edison’s patent monopoly lawyers at the time, and so, moviemaking took off big time. Today, the fledgling industry wouldn’t have been outside of the reach of those monopoly lawyers.

The pattern here is clear: copyright monopolies and patent monopolies encourage neither creativity nor innovation. Quite the opposite. Throughout history, we observe that today’s giants were founded in their absence, and today, these giants push for the harshening and enforcement of these monopolies in order to remain kings of the hill, to prevent something new and better from replacing them. Pushing for copyright monopolies and patent monopolies was never a matter of helping others; it was a matter of kicking away the ladder once you had reached the top yourself.