This essay, prepared as part of a Symposium on intellectual property law and business models, suggests the re-examination of the role of intellectual property law in the persistence of cultural forms of all sorts, including (but not limited to) business models. Some argue that the absence of intellectual property law inhibits the emergence of durable or persistent cultural forms; copyright and patent regimes are justified precisely because they supply foundations for durability. The essay tests that proposition via brief reviews of three persistent but very different cultural models, each of which represents a distinct form of American culture: The Rocky Horror Picture Show; the town band of Chatham, Massachusetts; and the musical form known as the blues. It concludes that that the relationship between cultural persistence and law is more complex than is generally understood. The essay applies some of that more complex understanding to contemporary problems involving business models, notably the copyright dispute involving Google’s Book Search program.
This article is highly recommended, as any piece which attempts to tie the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Blues in with a criticism of over-restrictive IP regulations would be.