(Found) Short Story, 1970s, probably Nebula/Hugo award about CHANGING COPYRIGHT LAW

Eric Cline

Feb 27, 2018
Hi All,

There was, as I recall it, a Hugo or Nebula Winner for short story as I recall that was a truly amazing read and I am hoping somebody can help me identify this other book too (Thanks again to those that helped me find the Book Of Skaith trilogy). This short story I am searching for was also possibly just in a collection of sci-fi stories and NOT a Hugo/Nebula winner so I could be mistaken about that.

This story, as I recall, is set entirely in some congresswomen's/senator's office wherein a man was arguing for changes in copyright and patent law. It was something I read in the late 1970s and the setting is a few hundred years in the future, definitely the USA.

Its a fascinating read because it is easy to extrapolate this story as actually happening reasonably soon. The protagonist is trying to get congress or the senate, or whatever it's equivalent was in the USA some hundreds of years in the future, to change the law because, as he argued, EVERYTHING HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE/CREATED.

I know it does not make much logical sense in my retelling what I recall - after all I personally have 6 patents and I know that they expire (e.g. like the pharmaceuticals that go generic) in like 20 years and such. But nonetheless, the protagonist was essentially trying to argue in this short story that creative people needed the ability to basically "re-invent" things that have already been invented over the prior two thousand years. So its probably a copyright thing not a patent thing.

In some ways the setting itself is so unique (just two people talking in an office) that I am hoping that can help IID this story. The setting reminds me the wonderful film My Dinner with Andre. I recall being deeply moved by this story so if anyone can remember I will build a shrine in your name :)
Don’t know the story specifically but I do remember a series of stories, maybe in Analog, regarding development / change to the law due to science fiction type future events. Cloning an individual into two entities seems to spring to mind after the original had committted a murder - who gets punished when you can’t tell them apart?
I think what you are looking for is Melancholy Elephants by Spider Robinson. I only recently read it myself and was equally impressed.

And guess what? It's here spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html (I'm not allowed to post links yet)
OMG !!!!!! THIS FORUM IS GREAT! Thank You M. Robert Gibson !!! That is indeed the story I was looking for. And I was correct, it was a Hugo winner! Thank you !!!

For those of you wondering WHY I wanted to get this book IDed... from the wikipedia page:
"Melancholy Elephants" is a science fiction short story by American writer Spider Robinson, published in 1982. It won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1983.

The story examines the interaction of copyright and longevity, and the possible effects of the extension of copyright to perpetuity.

Its title is a reference to claims that elephants "never forget".
Thanks for this answer.
I've just went and downloaded Melancholy Elephants as an ebook - when I finally get to read it is another issue!
Just in ebooks I've almost three hundred to read (and about sixty real books)
I really need a few weeks of peace - fat chance :)