05 March 2008

The Copyright Emperor Has No Clothes

Tim Lee has a stonker of a post on Ars Technica drawing parallels between copyright today and property rights debates of the 18th and 19th centuries in the US. It's a hugely-enjoyable, thought-provoking piece.

He also offers some commentary on his own words:

Copyright maximalists love to draw parallels between property rights and copyrights. But if we take that analogy seriously, I think it actually leads in some places that they aren't going to like. Our property rights system was not created by Congressional (or state legislative) fiat. Property rights in land is an organic, bottom up exercize. The job of government isn't to dictate what the property system should look like, but to formalize and reinforce the property arrangements people naturally agree to among themselves.

The fact that our current copyright system is widely ignored and evaded is a sign, I think, that Congress has done a poor job of aligning the copyright system with ordinary individuals' sense of right and wrong. Just as squatters 200 years ago didn't think it was right that they be booted off land they cleared and brought under cultivation in favor of an absentee landowner who had written a check to a distant federal government, so a lot of people feel it's unfair to fine a woman hundreds of thousands of dollars to share a couple of CDs' worth of music. You might believe (as do I) that file sharing is unethical, just as many people believed that squatting was unethical. But at some point, Congress has no choice but to recognize the realities on the ground, just as it did with real property in the 19th century.

As I've noted elsewhere on this blog, the copyright debate is really hotting up as people start to question the outrageous claims and assumptions of the maximalists. The great thing is, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the copyright emperor has no clothes.


Unknown said...

It's worth flagging up this OAN posting c/o Gavin Baker.

"Why let all of your ideas die with you? Current Copyright law prevents anyone from building upon your creativity for 70 years after your death. Live on in collaboration with others. Make an intellectual property donation. By donating your IP into the public domain you will "promote the progress of science and useful arts" (U.S. Constitution). Ensure that your creativity will live on after you are gone, make a donation today."

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, I saw that thanks. Trouble is, it uses the old "eye-pea" stuff a bit too much for my liking....

Unknown said...

Since I'm not particularly well versed on old "eye pea", could you please expand upon your comment?


Glyn Moody said...

Sorry. I'm so averse to the phrase "IP" that I prefer to use the homophonic "eye-pea".