Artists should be compensated for their work, but at what price? In today's Wall Street Journal, memoirist Tony Woodlief questions the modern copyright practice of charging exorbitant sums for the reproduction of one-liners, single lyrics, and excerpts from poems. In the long run, will it lead to financial loss or gain?

The copyright thicket is a growing frustration among writers and editors. One editor of a popular literary anthology (who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from publishers) confirmed that many publishers pursue illusory short-term profit at the expense of both profit and art. By demanding fees that most people won't pay, they forsake free advertising for the artists they claim to protect. If restaurants behaved that way, not only would they deny you the right to take home leftovers to your dog, they'd try to charge you for smelling their food when you pass by.

Originally Published: July 9th, 2010