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If only Heinlein had known… – May Contain Traces of Bolts

If only Heinlein had known…

Every time I read about the RIAA lawsuits, I am reminded of the first story Robert A. Heinlein ever sold, Life-Line (1939). The story is mostly set during a lawsuit in which a coalition of life insurance companies claim damages from the inventor of a machine capable of accurately predicting the time and manner of a person’s death. The judge dismisses the case with the following words:

Before we leave this matter I wish to comment on the theory implied by you, Mr Weems, when you claimed damage to your client. There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is supported neither by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit. That is all.

Nearly seventy years have passed, and they still don’t get it…

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