09 October 2009

Why Creativity Needs Shorter Copyright Terms

In response to a tweet of mine about shortening copyright to stimulate creativity, someone questioned the logic. It's an important point, so it seems useful to do some thinking out loud on the subject.

First, I should probably address the question of whether *longer* copyright stimulates creativity. The basic argument seems to be that longer copyright terms mean greater incentives, which means greater creativity. But does anyone seriously think about the fact that their creations will still be in copyright 69 years after their death? It won't do them any good, and probably won't do their descendants much good either, since the income at this point is generally close to zero.

Indeed, speaking as an author, I know that practically all my income from writing comes within the first couple of years; after that, it's dribs and drabs. If my copyright were cut down to even five years, it would make only a marginal difference to my total remuneration.

Now, clearly I'm not JK Rowling, but the point is, neither are 99.99999% of authors: I know from talking to other run-of-the mill writers that the same holds for them, too. So in practical terms, reducing the copyright term would have little effect on the money that most creators earned as result.

But let's look at the main part of my claim: that reducing copyright's term would encourage creativity. This is based on the rough syllogism that all artists draw on their predecessors in some way; making more prior creativity available would allow more artists to draw on it in more ways; and so this would increase overall creativity.

For the first assertion, look at history. Painters once began by mixing paints in another artist's studio, then drawing unimportant bits in his (usually his) works, learning how to emulate his style. Then they gradually painted more important bits in the style of that artist, often doing the low-cost jobs or rush jobs that he didn't have time or inclination to execute. Then, one day, that apprentice would set up on his (usually his) own, building on all the tricks and techniques he had learned from his master, but gradually evolving his own style.

Today, would-be artists tend not to become apprentices in the same way. Instead, they typically go to art school, where they learn to *copy* the masters in order to learn their techniques. Often you see them doing this in art galleries, as they strive to reproduce the exact same effect in their own copy. It teaches them the basics of painting that they can then build on in their own work.

In music, something very similar happens: journeyman composers write pieces in the style of the acknowledged masters, often copying their themes and structure very closely. This is true even for extreme geniuses. For example, in order to learn how to write in the new early classical style, the eight-year-old Mozart arranged three piano sonatas from J C Bach's Op. 5 as keyboard concertos.

Mozart also "borrowed" entire themes - most famously in the overture to The Magic Flute, where he takes a simple tune from a piano sonata by Clementi, and transforms it. Some composers did this on a regular basis. Handel, in particular, was quite unscrupulous in taking themes from fellow composers, and turning them into other, rather better, works. Moreover, the widely-used form of musical variations is based generally on taking a well-known theme and subjecting it to various transformations.

That was in the past, when art was an analogue artefact. Copying took place through trying to reproduce an artistic effect, or by borrowing musical themes etc. Today, in the digital age, copying is not such an incidental act, but central to how we use computers. When we access something online, we copy it to our computers (even audio streaming has to be assembled into copies of small chunks of sound before we can hear it).

Digital plasticity - the ability to compute with any content - makes the clumsy copying and learning processes of the past trivially easy. A child can take a digital image of a work of art and cut and paste elements of it into his or her own work; anyone can sample music, distort it and mix it with their own; texts can be excerpted and juxtaposed with others drawn from very diverse backgrounds to create mosaics of meaning.

All these amazingly rich and innovative things are now very easy to do practically, but the possibilities of doing so are stymied by laws that were drawn up for an analogue age. Those laws were not designed to forbid artists from learning from existing creations, but to stop booksellers producing unauthorised copies - a totally different issue. The idea of using just part of a work was not really a concern. But it is today, when the cut and paste metaphor is central to the digital world. That is why we need to reduce copyright to the bare minimum, so that the legal obstacles to creating in this new, inherently digital way, are removed.

If we don't, one of two things will happen. Either we will fail to realise the full creative potential of computing, or else the younger generation of artists will simply ignore the law. Either is clearly unsatisfactory. What is needed is a copyright regime that is balanced. That is far from being the case today. As the media industry (sic) ratchets up copyright terms again and again, creation has become subservient to the corporation, and the creators are cut off from their past - and hence future.

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50 comments:

Antonio said...

How short do you suggest the copyright on a piece should be? Is something like 10 years more realistic?

glyn moody said...

@Antonio: I have various suggestions:

(a) 14 years (because that's what it was originally)

(b) 10 years (because we have ten fingers)

(c) 5 years (because it's small)

(d) 0 (because it's perfect)

Antonio said...

I don't think 0 would be perfect. I know that in todays society increassingly a book/piece of artwork/a song has a a shorter and shorter lifespan but I don't think we're at the point yet where something is forgotten within less than a year. I'd personally opt for 10 years as it takes into account that things become popular/valuable at different times. Y'know that old myth that an artists work only becomes valuable when they die...

reech said...

some reasearch has been done on this:

http://arstechnica.com/old/content/2007/07/research-optimal-copyright-term-is-14-years.ars

glyn moody said...

@reech: yes, thanks for reminding me of that work.

guy said...

I'm just trying to think this through. Would changes made here in the UK encourage changes elsewhere, or would the reverse hold? Or wouldn't it matter?

What would happen if, say, the UK dropped the length of copyright to 14 years as suggested? Would existing works older than 14 years immediately switch to being public domain or just new works?

Either way then presumably this applies to all works regardless of the territory from which they originated, so early versions of MSDOS would fall into the public domain just the same as, say, Kind Hearts and Coronets.

Who benefits here and who loses out? And where (geographically) are they? If the benefit is felt in the UK then then there's pressure for other countries to follow suit. If not then the upward pressure on copyright returns.

It's taken me several minutes even to phrase the question, and now my brain hurts ;-)

Andrew said...

Glyn: that's not a blog post. It's a manifesto. (And that's by no means a criticism).

glyn moody said...

@guy: here are some thoughts off the top of my head.

Miraculously, the UK gov gets wise, and drops copyright to 14 years (retrospectively - that's not a problem, since the creators can hardly un-create their works...)

This means that UK works enter the public domain much sooner. That means people everywhere start remixing UK material sooner, so UK material becomes more widely distributed, whereas all the other countries' stuff is still locked away.

So UK culture spreads v. rapidly around the world, leading to more demand for recent, paid versions, making creators richer as a result of giving away older stuff. The more that is given away, the faster the demand grows, the richer they get. QED.

It's classic first-mover advantage in the race to the bottom, just as in open source. Let's do it...

glyn moody said...

@Andrew: I wish. Alas, it's really just a brain-dump inspired by a tweet provoked by a tweet point to a column.

Thanks anyway for the thought.

guy said...

Glyn: weeellll, will people everywhere start remixing UK material? Wouldn't all material continue to fall under copyright in the US even if the material originated in the UK and is out of (now much shorter) UK copyright (e.g. Ian Fleming's James Bond books)? I'm sure the copyright holders would continue to defend their copyright for as long as possible in as many locations as possible. So any derived work could only be released in the UK. I'm still trying to decide what the consequence of this is. I guess it would make the UK more vibrant culturally.

But I'm not so sure about spreading UK culture. Consider the spread of classic UK children's literature like Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, etc. For most people in the world who don't know otherwise these are American works because they come from Disney (don't they?). I've got many Japanese friends who're almost always surprised to hear that these stories are actually British. So I fear that often it won't be the originator of the work that gets recognized, it'll be the supplier.

But hey, let's go for it and find out!

glyn moody said...

@guy: IANAL, so i don't really know how it would work out...but it would certainly be fun finding out.

But I can't agree on the effect it would have on UK culture. In fact, allowing stuff to be copied freely is *precisely* the way to right those erroneous impressions about provenance. Don't forget that when stuff is free, it flies around the Net - that's why free software is so unstoppable.

guy said...

Glyn: But unless there is a level playing field with reduced copyright terms everywhere the material won't be 'freely' available everywhere, only here. So what you say about the power of the Net really would cause some disruption because legal posting of material in the UK would allow illegal but probably uncontrollable access everywhere. It's at this point that it turns into a trade dispute.

Yes, let's do it!

glyn moody said...

@guy: drats - you spotted my cunning plan...

Gabfran said...

My problem with the original hypothesis in the tweet was this: I do not believe that the world is full of frustrated artists sitting around iwatching the calendar and marking off the days before creative works will fall into the public domain.

Everything that you argue about artistic appropriation I accept. All the visual artists that I know early in their careers attempted to copy the work of another artist that they admired. A close friend of mine (a potter) loves the work of Hans Coper. As a student he replicated the forms, practiced glaze technque and finally produced a form that would have passed for an original. Having accomplished this, he put a hammer through the work and moved on. Copyright did not prevent him from going through this process. It did not, in fact, enter into his head.

It may be, of course, that software developers are sitting around heads in hands before idle keyboards for fear that the wrath of the Apple(R) Corporation may descend upon them. It would be good to hear a comment from a software developer who has been so hog-tied by copyright.

glyn moody said...

@Gabfran: I framed my original post in two parts, because I think the situation for “traditional” artists is different from that for the upcoming digital generation. I quite agree that copyright is rarely an issue for musicians writing their symphonies (although quite why they are writing a symphony in 2009 is another matter), or potters throwing their pots. As you rightly say, they learn from other people's stuff by doing, and copyright isn't an issue.

But consider now what “young people” get up to these days. In music, they typically take samples, stuff them into a synthesiser, change them in all sorts of creative ways, and then patch them together. In (digital) art, images too can be taken from anywhere, manipulated and mashed up. In the realm of video, all that and more happens, with amazingly creative juxtapositions of pre-existing content; if I had to chose just one example of the kind of thing that can be achieved by putting together material drawn from various sources, I'd probably choose this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nupdcGwIG-g

In fact, alongside all the truly appalling home videos and poor-quality rip-offs of existing video content, YouTube is a rich source of the kind of remixes I have in mind – nearly all of which are not allowed by the present copyright scheme.

(cont.)

glyn moody said...

@Gabran: When I say that shorter copyright terms will lead to greater creativity, it's not so much the symphonists and pot-throwers that I have in mind, but the artists who have grown up in a deeply digital world, and who want to create deeply contemporary, digital art. The longer the copyright terms for music and video and the rest, the less material they have to work with if they want to stay within the law, and the less they will be able to work with material that speaks to people most directly: that from the very recent past.

Now, you might say that only a few artists would want to do this, and maybe in percentage terms you're right. Even assuming it is, the number of young people that reflexively share digital content of some kind – on Facebook, YouTube, on blogs, etc. etc. - is so large, that I think the absolute number of people out of the billion or so people who do this (Facebook alone now has 300 million members) who might be interested, is considerable.

So we are surely missing out on something important: an art of and for the digital age – an art that speaks the daily language of young people's ambient technology. We are missing out on it because copyright has been extended way past its initially quite sensible terms, for no other reason than powerful media lobbies wanted it, and no politician could see any benefit in refusing it.

But as I've suggested, viewed from the point of view of society as whole – not just the shareholders of media giants - there is almost no significant downside to reducing copyright terms. For the vast majority of artists, it makes only a trivial difference. And for the successful artists for whom it does make a difference, they are probably already so rich that we shouldn't worry about it too much. So if we can offer future generations of digital artists vast amounts of near-contemporary material at such little cost why not do it? What's the problem? Do media companies have a right to make big profits at society's cost? Do Cliff Richard and JK Rowling really need the extra dosh the extra hundred years of copyright brings? I don't think so...

And to answer your point about software, actually there's no problem there: free software has effectively solved it by creating such a rich software commons, from which anyone can take code to re-use or re-work, that it is as if copyright on software had been abolished for them.

Unfortunately, there's still a very big legal problem, which comes from software patents. Despite the fact that software “as such” cannot be patented in Europe, many patents for it have been given out by European patent offices (to say nothing of the US with its promiscuous patent regime). If you're interested in exploring this issue, I've written about this many (some would say *too* many) times on this blog:

http://opendotdotdot.blogspot.com/search?q=software+patents

saulgoode said...

I should like to see the duration of a copyright become less "boolean". In other words, have the rights retained by the work's creator diminished in stages as time passes.

For example, have an initial ten-year period during which no copies or derivative works be permitted without the copyright holder's permission (basically what we have now) followed by a fifteen-year period where non-commercial sharing and derivation can take place, after which the work enters the public domain.

glyn moody said...

@saul: interesting idea. The only problem is that might make things even more complicated...

Thomas said...

Dear Glyn,
In 1945 Woodie Guthrie apparently wrote of "this land is your land" and its copyright the following:

Woodie Guthrie has posted this Copyright Notice for the song: "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do."

But he wasn't a real artist like RIAA represent. Way ahead of his time. It figures they have tried to cut out his anti private property verses.

glyn moody said...

@Thomas: thanks, great stuff

Michael said...

I agree there's a good case for bringing copyright down to say 10 years in most fields. There might be some areas where it takes longer than that to recoup your investment: so allow people to apply for a renewal, if they can show that they have not yet recovered their costs.

glyn moody said...

@Michael: renewal fees are such a reasonable idea that I don't see how anyone can object: if copyright is valuable, people will pay for it. If it's not, they won't, and it goes into the public domain.

Jason Block said...

"It won't do them any good, and probably won't do their descendants much good either, since the income at this point is generally close to zero"

True in a lot of cases but demonstrably untrue for all popular authors who retain some renown after their death. The reprint business is alive and well, thank you, and we can assume that writers, like everyone else, ran their business with their children and grandchildren in mind. Regardless, it is their individual rights you want to diminish, you can give your own away if you want.

"practically all my income from writing comes within the first couple of years; after that, it's dribs and drabs"

Many, many writers, particularly novelists and other creative writers, enjoy the benefits of multiple reprints and new editions, all over the world, during their lifetime. In fact, many older writers release new books primarily to focus attention on their back catalog, the most famous of which will sit beside it on the shelf in shiny new editions. That is the reality of the business as dictated by the consumer.

Now I can see your point for a technology writer, since computer technology products are dated so quickly.

"Now, clearly I'm not JK Rowling, but the point is, neither are 99.99999% of authors"

You're right, most writers don't make a lot of money. Therefore, for a full time writer, reprint rights are crucial and negotiated very carefully.

"This is based on the rough syllogism that all artists draw on their predecessors in some way"

Nothing in copyright law prevents that, it only prevents copying - the most uninspired of things you can do as an artist, it's what your teacher makes you do.

"they typically go to art school, where they learn to *copy* the masters in order to learn their techniques"

The operative word here is learn.

"When we access something online, we copy it to our computers (even audio streaming has to be assembled into copies of small chunks of sound before we can hear it)"

The ubiquity of the mechanism has no effect upon rights, neither does the lack of a mechanism.

"Digital plasticity - the ability to compute with any content - makes the clumsy copying and learning processes of the past trivially easy."

At risk of going off-point, the reason artists make copies in school is to learn. Making a digital copy does not have the same effect. The implication here is that it does.

"anyone can sample music, distort it and mix it with their own; texts can be excerpted and juxtaposed with others drawn from very diverse backgrounds to create mosaics of meaning"

Again, off point, but artists were doing this with analog technology in the 50's through the 80's to stunning effect, with tape, photographs, photocopies, etc., digital technology made this easier but it is a child of WWII era analog technology not the digital. I personally feel it's old hat.

"The idea of using just part of a work was not really a concern"

Well, it was, just not addressed with copyright - anymore than was trademark or patent - it was handled with plagiarism laws.

"As the media industry (sic) ratchets up copyright terms again and again, creation has become subservient to the corporation, and the creators are cut off from their past - and hence future"

Reducing copyright to the degree you propose only strengthens the positions of corporations in their relations with artists. It allows them to exploit a work without renumerating the artist. Copyright enables the artist to choose who he works with and on what terms.

Remember, even though the term extension to life plus seventy five years was for Disney, the extension to life plus fifty was for Twain.

Jason Block said...

"renewal fees are such a reasonable idea that I don't see how anyone can object"

Because, just like other rights, copyright is protected for the artist by default. He shouldn't have to act to protect his right any more than you should have to sign up for free speech.

glyn moody said...

@Jason: thanks for all the interesting comments.

I think part of the problem is this idea of "rights": copyright is a *monopoly*, and like other monopolies, is a bad thing because it is about *restricting* others' rights. It is not like the right to free speech.

Copyright is a deal: artists get a government-granted, time-limited monopoly in return for creating. It's a bargain: it's supposed to be fair - the term is supposed to be just long enough to encourage creation, but not so long as to prevent the rest of us drawing on that creation in a reasonable time.

That bargain has not just been broken, but abused again and again as the term has been lengthened, with nothing given in return.

Things were bad enough in the analogue world, but in the digital world they are catastrophic. Potentially, we can give all the world's knowledge in digital form to every child on this planet (modulo having a mobile phone to access it) for free, helping to liberate many of them from poverty in the process.

We're not doing that largely because copyright is stopping us. That essentially says that artists have a greater "right" to their monopolies than six billion people have to knowledge and the chance to escape poverty through knowledge.

Even if the copyright bargain was fair before we went digital, it certainly isn't now when it deprives so many of knowledge and of that chance.

Michael said...

>Because, just like other rights, copyright is protected for the artist by default. He shouldn't have to act to protect his right any more than you should have to sign up for free speech.

There's a difference: free speech doesn't restrict other people. The problem is that copyright rules, taken literally, stop me doing what I've just done: quoting your message. So I think it's a good idea that someone who wants to protect their work should be expected to stake their claim explicitly.

glyn moody said...

@Michael: exactly

Crosbie Fitch said...

Oh yes, I remember the signing of that social contract. It was a great day. It seems just like yesterday. There were a few billion of us sat round that large table, and we all agreed in that glorious moment of philanthropic selflessness that we would all surrender our liberty to share and build upon each others' published works so that our heroic printers could charge us for copies.

I've never known a greater outpouring of generosity and human sacrifice.

As everyone knows, to surrender an inalienable right just so that Caxton and his crew can afford a decent living is the least a grateful people can do.

It's so sad, that some miserable people are today begrudging publishers their rightful exploitation of our suspended cultural liberty. Frankly, 150 years is too brief an opportunity for them to properly recoup the great expense of their investment in each print run they engage in. I really think we should today strongly consider making copyright permanent and perpetual. The printers deserve it.

What say ye?

glyn moody said...

@crosbie: I say I'm still waiting for your book of poems on the subject of intellectual monopolies...

Great stuff.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Book of poems, Glyn? No publisher would touch it. And I won't be able to publish it online because to celebrate the tricentennial of copyright's enactment in 1710, the publishers will again be given the privilege of excluding anyone from making use of their Internet.

I presumed you'd heard?

In 2010 any publishing corporation (music, movies, software, news, etc.) can exclude anyone they feel is competing with them (aka unsigned artists, podcasters, free software developers, etc.) from access to the Internet.

Learning from the costs of prosecuting copyright, publishers are now only obliged to provide three (extortionately unfavourable) deals where upon acceptance you can remain connected, but if you refuse all three that's it. No more Internet access at your address or under the householder's name.

Each time you decline a deal, the publisher publicly records this fact with a simple public statement: "J'accuse!"

The privilege of excluding others from something is often described as property, though this is of course an unnatural, legal form, unlike natural, physical possession. To all intents and purposes the publishing corporations will take effective ownership of the Internet in 2010 when the legislation to achieve this is enacted (codename '3-strikes').

Anyway, I trust we will all dutifully give our enthusiastic consent to the updating and renewal of our social contract: the transfer of ownership of the Internet from us the public to the publishing corporations. We do so enjoy the benefits of their very hard work in promoting our cultural and technological progress. We can again continue to selflessly sacrifice our liberty to communicate so that the publishers remain in control of all communication channels, and the government is then reassured that they control the publishing corporations (to ensure they act in our best interests - suppression of sedition, etc.).

glyn moody said...

@Crosbie: too good, too good...

You're wasted here, Crosbie...

Jason Block said...

Sorry to reply so late. If copyright is a monopoly, so too are all property rights, and that isn't the case. A monopoly is control over resources of a given type. If a company, like Google for instance, were to control rights to all books in a jurisdiction, that is a monopoly. Control over a single book or group of books is not a monopoly, any more than owning a PC gives me control of the computer market.

Copyright was primarily a bargain between presses who were used to printing whatever they wanted and those that wanted esclusivity with writers. The ability to publish at will puts the internet user squarely in the camp of publishers, who were well represented in the debate. The ubiquity of presses has no effect on the moral compromise.

glyn moody said...

@jason: a key difference is that physical property is it is rivalrous: only one of us can have it at once. Digital content isn't: if you have a copy and I make a copy, you lose nothing (you still have a copy).

So copyright is a real monopoly, trying to exclude everyone from having those copies. Physical property is only a monopoly in a trivial sense.

Jason Block said...

"....copyright is stopping us. That essentially says that artists have a greater "right" to their monopolies than six billion people have to knowledge and the chance to escape poverty through knowledge"

That's a persuasive argument and one that was used by many in the US in the early nineteenth century in opposition to international copyright (and local enforcement). The presses and those ideologically persuaded by them were very vocal. However, knowledge is not copyrightable, only the expression of knowledge.

The barriers to knowledge have more to do with language and education barriers than distribution. This anticopyright argument is something of a red herring at this point, in an age when real knwowledge, copyrighted or not, is more widely available in more different forms than ever.

As I said, knowledge is not copyrightable, and I'm not convinced that people have a fundamental right to mass produce Mickey Mouse T-shirts.

glyn moody said...

@jason: but the problem is, knowledge doesn't exist in an abstract, non-copyrighted form. It's instantiated in stuff that you can't copy, and generally can't even access because copyright allows barriers to be erected.

This is exactly what open access is fighting: even though knowledge might be theoretically available, try telling that to poor students at poor universities in developing countries....

Crosbie Fitch said...

Yes, everyone has a natural monopoly over the physical copies in their possession (hence natural exclusive right).

However, the usual (unqualified) meaning of 'monopoly' is the state granted privilege, i.e. an unnatural monopoly.

Copyright and patent are privileges, unnatural monopolies governing use, reproduction, performance, etc.

Trademark is a regulation designed to protect the natural monopoly of identity by providing a registry of unique identifier-associations. Unfortunately, it's descending into an unnatural monopoly over the use of symbols, colours, names, words, shapes, etc.

Jason Block said...

Crosbie, I think we disagree in that I believe that certain types of property rights are a natural right and that there is a natural right of authorship, or under French law, a 'moral right'. Those moral rights are manifest in civil law.

Jason Block said...

Glyn, I think the base problem is funding for poor universities. Better funding means more resources. Also, staff and faculty at poorer universities aren't versed in digital systems yet. I gather there is a huge problem with core journals not existing in digital subscription form yet, but I think people would be more than willing to invest in changing that and offering subscriptions to a university at an individual price if they felt secure.

It's true knowledge doesn't exist in abstract form, and it's also true that someone has to get paid to put it into concrete form. Thus the barriers. Lack of copyright or patent would only increase hoarding - people wouldn't share their discoveries at all, so that only they could profit from them.

glyn moody said...

@jason: I quite agree creator need to get paid (speaking as a writer) I just think the current system is inefficient and ill-suited to the digital age.

As to hoarding, I think open source has shown that people do want to share, and it's in part because structures like copyright and patents are in place that they struggle to do so. It's interesting how the ideas behind free software are now spreading elsewhere - open access, open content, open science etc. etc.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Jason, I do recognise moral rights in so far as they derive from natural rights. However, there is a tendency or temptation (induced by the proprietary perspective of copyright) to warp moral rights toward proprietary rights.

The right to integrity is a right against falsehood (against one's modified work being presented as original or authorised). It is not an author's privilege to veto any modification of their work.

Similarly, plagiarism is misattribution (falsehood). The right here is to truth, not a privilege of preventing anyone else copying one's published work.

Truth is not a matter of property. No-one 'owns' the truth.

Thus an author has no natural right to sell the attribution of their work. The truth is inviolable, not a commodity that can be sold. You may decide not to complain if someone sells your work with their name on it, e.g. if they have paid you to ghostwrite a bedtime story for them. But, their money does not change the truth.

Natural rights are suspended or interfered with by privilege, not protected. The abolition of copyright is an end to privilege, and thus a RESTORATION of natural rights.

It is copyright that persuades plagiarism by persuading people not to credit their sources (even of inspiration) for fear of infringement.

Without the privilege of copyright people still have the natural right against plagiarism, against misattribution, against misrepresentation, etc. But most critically, the individual's natural right to copy, to improve, to share and build upon mankind's art and knowledge is restored.

Jason Block said...

"I think open source has shown that people do want to share"

For the record, I still support Open Source, Copyleft, GPL's, Free Software, etc., I think it's all great, it should however be the individual's choice, whatever is best for their project or work.

Truth be told I think code should be it's own 'type' of IP, not copyrightable or patentable. The length and type of protection for code is open to debate I guess, but I do know that it may be a little like a book, a little like an invention, but it isn't really either thing.

I support life plus fifty for copyright but not the term extension, if for no other reason than it is a plain example of graft and cronyism.

I'd actually be open to shortening the term of corporate copyright, to me most of the problems people are discussing come from corporate accrual of large amounts of IP. Individuals creating and sharing (or not) is a vibrant culture, but we're in a top-down situation where all the culture is being generated by large corporations and spoon fed to the people. I don't think IP law created that, just the opposite, it happened in businesses where artists didn't own enough of what they created. Corporate accrual of the creations of individuals is toxic to culture, and in my mind a lack of protection for an individuals creative rights only encourages that situation.

End users republishing and repurposing work makes cultural matters worse as we endlessly recycle the same tired memes that originated in boardrooms in the first place. The 'cut and paste' art just puts the same genes back into the pool, and we all know what happens if you do that long enough.

Jason Block said...

"the individual's natural right to copy, to improve, to share and build upon mankind's art and knowledge is restored."

Copyright doesn't stop anyone from doing that - in theory or practice. You can make copies. You just can't make copies for everyone (publish it). You can improve upon it, you just can't pass it off as your own. You can share it, give it away, but like I said, you can't re-publish it. And you are free to recast knoweledge in whatever form you wish, whenever and wherever you wish, as wikipeida illustrates. The thing you can't do is publish the work without the permission of the author.

glyn moody said...

@Jason: it's interesting, you say that people can make copies of anything, but they can't distribute them. Well, I'd turn that around, and say that creators don't have to share their works (i.e. they don't publish), but that if they share them at all, then everyone gets to have a copy (a bit like the GPL).

For me, it's a question of greatest good for the greatest number, and the author's "rights" (and I'm an author of several books) don't take precedence over these. Sharing simply optimises the situation, while copyright does not.

If you want to be a *public* author, then your stuff gets shared; if you don't want that to happen, fair enough - but don't publish...

Crosbie Fitch said...

Jason, copyright prohibits all copies and derivatives - even those made in the privacy of your own home. There are minor exceptions, e.g. ephemeral copies, de minimis, fair use/dealing, etc.

But, copyright certainly has no clause covering misattribution/plagiarism. Copyright is a reproduction monopoly, and nothing to do with authorship or any other moral rights. People may well assume it's about 'copying' as in plagiarism, but it's about copying as in communication.

Copyright is also not an authorial right, but a transferable privilege designed to be wielded by the intended holder (a publisher/printer). The author has a natural right to privacy, an exclusive right (and a natural right of publication) that means the author can determine when they publish their work (if at all). Copyright cares not one whit for the author, only the holder of the privilege to the covered work.

The only thing that impresses me about the apologists for copyright and patent, is the astounding feat of DoubleThink that's necessary to believe that not only are these privileges not a constraint upon cultural and technological progress, but they actually accelerate it.

Jason Block said...

"If you want to be a *public* author, then your stuff gets shared; if you don't want that to happen, fair enough - but don't publish..."

And people opting to not share their valuable information at all is exactly what would happen in the world you imagine. Copyright and patent encourage innovation and originality and encourage people to publish. Things which are important for the common good.

Meanwhile those publishing for entertainment might continue to participate without means to profit from the fruit of their labor, but the professional class of creative people would cease to exist. We would return to a system of patronage where the wealthy dictate what is created and preserved. That is contrary to the public good.

Jason Block said...

"The only thing that impresses me about the apologists for copyright and patent, is the astounding feat of DoubleThink that's necessary to believe that not only are these privileges not a constraint upon cultural and technological progress, but they actually accelerate it."

Well, the evidence that would support what you call 'doublethink' is all around us. We are surrounded by art and invention, the vast majority of which occurred since the implementation of modern copyright (which gives authors, not printers, the right of reproduction, starting with the Statute of Anne in 1709). We enjoy constant access to creative works, works of design, music and art have penetrated every aspect of modern life and surround us all twenty four hours a day. We have entire classes of trained, dedicated professionals creating more art and invention for public consumption constantly, a unique phenomena in history.

The world before the rights of the author were established was one of patronage and control by the very wealthy on the one hand and poor itenerant entertainers on the other. Copyright and patent ended all that. Do you claim that we'd have even more culture and more invention of higher quality if there was never copyright? There is no evidence for that. None. All the evidence, the vibrant culture and learning of the post-enlightenment world, points to the contrary.

glyn moody said...

@jason: I beg to differ: people would just adapt and find new ways to make money. Those who don't really care about the money - amateurs and academics, for example - wouldn't even need to do that.

Crosbie Fitch said...

Jason, you can take the red pill, and you will be right. Copyright and patent were the primary enablers and drivers of the cultural and technological innovations of the industrial revolution, indispensable to art and science of the 20th century.

Or you can take the blue pill, and realise that those unethical privileges were brakes on cultural progress that inhibited cultural and technological intercourse thus hiding lost progress that can never be recovered, instead diverting wealth to immortal publishing corporations.

Putting it metaphorically, it's not easy discovering that your parents exploited slaves on a cotton plantation. You can kid yourself it was wholly for their own benefit, and prevented the starvation that would otherwise have faced them. Alternatively, you can realise that it is you who have inherited ill gotten gains, and the slaves who have had their livelihoods stolen from them.

But it's too terrifying to believe in any evidence that the slaves could have prospered without your kind parents.

Similarly, you don't want to believe in the possibility of artists and inventors being paid without the grant of monopolies to corporations.

You don't want to believe that art and technology progress far more effectively if people are free to share and build upon each other's published work.

You may prefer to believe that without monopolies the only prospect of reward for creativity lies in the hands of a few fickle and aristocratic patrons.

Patronage is actually a dimensionally correct exchange, i.e. of labour for money. It's certainly far superior to suspending people's liberty for the exploitation of a monopoly.

An artist's audience is their market. An artist's customers are their fans. The fans are the artist's patrons. All they need to do is exchange their labour and money directly. No need to divert 99% of it for the enrichment of monopoly holders.

Similarly for those masses who would patronise the discoverers of cures, or inventors of improved designs.

But, those wealthy monopoly holders, unsurprisingly, are desperate to retain them, and will resort to the equivalent of ethnic cleansing to rid themselves of those who threaten them.

To expound the strength and superiority of monopoly as a political or religious statement may well be a mercenary survival strategy in a world where governments represent corporations. However, there are a few who put ethics and the natural rights of the individual ahead of those considerations.

Don't worry though. We'll soon be disconnected, excommunicated, and silenced, never to be heard from again.

Michael said...

>Copyright and patent encourage innovation and originality and encourage people to publish.

Well, firstly, this thread is about copyright. Please don't drag patents into it. Patents might work for physical artefacts, but there is plently of evidence that for purely intellectual products, their effect is almost entirely negative. If composers could patent musical ideas, and if they enforced their patents, then we would have very little music to enjoy.

As for copyright, Glyn isn't arguing that it isn't needed at all, he's arguing that we should have less of it. I think he's entirely right. I'm a published book author, and I wouldn't have invested a year of my life into writing a book unless I had some prospect of a return in royalties, and copyright definitely has a useful role there. But when I publish a blog, which I do in order to influence people rather than to make money, copyright serves no useful purpose at all. As a starter, I think copyright shouldn't exist unless it is explicitly claimed. And then I think there should be some hoops to jump through if you want to justify extending it beyond 10 years - perhaps by requiring the copyright holder to pay a renewal fee.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, no matter how much we debate this, it will just slowly get longer and longer by the corparations ignoring us.