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In the beginning of this stimulus, the author concedes that some kind of copyright statute is justified as a means of encouraging the production of original works. This benefit, however, should be weighed against the societal costs of creating protected monopolies. The author argues that the costs outweigh the benefits when the statute grants copyright protection for the life of the author plus several decades. The conclusion (“This is too long…”) suggests that such statutes are not justified.
Note that the question stem is a Strengthen—PR, not a Justify—PR because of the presence of the word “most” in the question stem, which weakens the force required of the correct answer. In a Strengthen—PR question, the correct answer will provide a premise that, when applied to the specific situation in the stimulus, helps support the conclusion. In this problem, you must select a principle that specifies the conditions under which the scope of copyright statutes should be limited or justified.
Answer choice (A): There is no reason to suspect that a statute granting copyright protection for an extended period of time is somehow inconsistent with its aims. The main goal of copyright statutes is to encourage the production of original works. The additional years of copyright may not be necessary to achieve this goal, but they are clearly consistent with it.
Answer choice (B): This answer choice is incorrect, because the conditions that originally justified enacting the statutes do not change. What changes, after awhile, are the conditions that originally justified having a statute, i.e. the need for an incentive to produce original works. Furthermore, just because statutes granting extended copyright protections are not justified does not mean that such statutes should be repealed. Such an extreme measure was neither asserted not implied by the conclusion.
Answer choice (C): This principle is extraneous the scope of this argument, and has absolutely no bearing on its conclusion.
Answer choice (D): This is an attractive, but incorrect answer choice. The conditional relationship inherent in this principle can be diagrammed as follows:
Limit some rights Enhance other rights
A statute that grants extended copyright protections to the original author clearly limits everyone else’s right to produce similar works, making this principle applicable to statute under review. By the contrapositive, we can also argue that such a statute would not be justified unless it enhances some other rights. Do extended copyright statutes enhance other rights? They surely do: they enhance the rights of the original author (or her estate). The societal costs of such statutes may outweighs their benefits, but that does not mean that they do not enhance anyone else’s rights. Consequently, the principle in answer choice (D) would not necessarily result in limiting the scope of the copyright statutes.
Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. The conditional logic in this principle can be diagrammed as follows:
Statute justified Benefits > Costs
The principle mandates that the societal benefit of a statute always exceed its societal cost. Do the extended protections afforded by the copyright statutes live up to this mandate? They do not. Consequently, by the contrapositive of this principle, we can immediately conclude that such statutes are not justified. This strengthens the conclusion of the argument and validates answer choice (E).
Do not be misled by the presence of strong language here (“should be designed so that its societal benefit always exceeds its societal costs”). While such language is usually a red flag when answering questions in the Prove Family (e.g. Must Be True), it is a desirable attribute when dealing with Strengthen and Justify questions, especially if the stem is modified by a Principle overlay.