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The New Hillary Library?


Robert Darnton, "The New Hillary Library?", in The New York Review of Books, Vol 63, N° 16, 2016, October 27th.


When the new president, if she is Hillary Clinton, moves into the White House, will she unpack her library in the spirit of Walter Benjamin—releasing memories of adventures attached to books? Not likely. Will she think of books and libraries at all? Probably not. She has more important things to do. But the arrival of a new president at this moment, not long after the dawn of the digital age, could open an opportunity to reorient literature and learning in a way that was envisioned by the Founders of our country, one that would bring books within the reach of the entire citizenry.

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the power “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The Copyright Act of 1790, “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning,” fixed that time limit at fourteen years, renewable once. In creating copyright, the Founders intended to promote a public good, the advancement of learning, while leaving room for private interest—a temporary monopoly on the sale of books.

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