Copyright vs Copywrong

The author of this article below states that there should be no copyright (based on another blog he read), so I'm copying his article verbatim here for you to read:
If You're Arguing That Someone 'Deserves' Copyright, Your Argument Is Wrong
from the it's-not-about-what-anyone-deserves dept

by Mike Masnick  Fri, Apr 8th 2011

For many years, we've explained why the debate about copyright is not a moral issue at all. Yet, whenever we get into discussions on it, sooner or later, someone makes an argument about how this or that creator "deserves to make a living" from their art. There are two things wrong with this statement. First, it assumes, incorrectly, that the way you make a living is from copyright. It is not. In fact, much of what we discuss on this blog are ways in which artists might be better off by not enforcing all of the privileges copyright grants them. But, more importantly, the use of the word "deserves" is especially problematic.

Julian Sanchez, who has been doing excellent work on copyright issues of late, has a nice post about how such arguments are totally irrelevant to copyright policy
. He notes that it's no surprise that artistic and creative people want greater copyright privileges, and fewer exceptions such as fair use, but that's meaningless:

These will often be wonderful, likeable, creative people, and the correct policy response to these objections as such is: Cry me a fucking river; now piss off.

And the reasoning why is that copyright policy is not about what someone deserves or about rewarding people based on some moral grounding. Its purpose is and has always been clear: to provide incentive to promote progress. There are tradeoffs in these policies, and the end argument should never be about what someone deserves, but about what is the best net result for society on that progress bar. As Sanchez explains:
Wise assessment of copyright policy should have nothing to do with how you feel about the person or entity who holds the right at any particular time, because copyright policy is not about identifying wonderful and meritorious people and ensuring--certainly not as an end in itself, anyway--that their income is proportioned to their intrinsic moral desert--or lack thereof. We are all the massive beneficiaries of millennia of accumulated human scientific knowledge and cultural output, and not one of us did anything do deserve a jot of it. We're all just extremely lucky not to have been born cavemen. The greatest creative genius alive would be hard pressed to create a smiley faced smeared in dung on a tree trunk without that huge and completely undeserved inheritance. 

So banish the word "deserve" from your mind when you think about copyright. Nobody "deserves" a goddamn thing. (I say this, for what it's worth, as someone who makes his living entirely through the production of "intellectual property.") The only--the only--relevant question is whether a marginal restriction on the general ability to use information incentivizes enough additional information production over the long run to justify denying that marginal use to every other human being on the planet, whether for simple consumption or further creation.

Exactly right. Yet, somehow, I get the feeling that people will continue to toss out moral arguments. They can't resist... and since they tend not to have the empirical data to support their position, it always gets reduced to irrelevant moral arguments.
If you want to read the original, here is the link: techdirt

***
First, the ironic thing is that for Mike Masnick’s blog above, he wrote 277 words and copied 239 words from another blog. Yes, he quoted those words and provided a link to the original article, but he also copied nearly ½ of his blog. Pretty easy work for a writer…
***
The author states: "So banish the word "deserve" from your mind when you think about copyright. Nobody "deserves" a goddamn thing." So following the author's logic, I suppose the plumber who came to fix my pipes doesn't "deserve a goddamn thing" for fixing them, other than my thanks. Insert any other occupation for plumber and you can make the same argument. "But wait," you say, "the plumber did a real job, not like an artist." But what then of the artist? Is that not a real job? Do they not produce something of value? Judging by the sales of books, music, event tickets, etc., what artists do is, and has been, in high demand. 
So does this argument mean that someone else "deserves" to make a profit off of any art they want to take and use/modify/abuse? I believe the "fair use" laws are a bit restrictive in the digital age and need to be changed. But without them, we have nothing more than all out abuse of copyrighted works. Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter have certainly shown that news/gossip/memes travel at lightspeed today, and are available to everyone on the planet with a digital connection. And this global sharing is hopefully a good thing, uniting diverse peoples and showing that we truly are "all one." 
I agree that the current copyright laws are archaic and don't meet the needs of the digital age—but the opposite, no copyright, is not the answer either. A good example of archaic copyright law allows the family of long dead artists to still control their works. Why should a great-great grand child of an artist have any sort of control over the works of a long dead relative, when the only connection to the works is bloodline? I can see direct 1st generation (son/daughter/spouse) defendants retaining the copyrights, but when they are gone, works should become public domain.

The same can be said for mega-corporations controlling books/music/etc ad infinitum. There is certainly no incentive for a company to come up with new works when they can just sit on the old ones that are still gathering a profit. 
But certainly a living, breathing artist is much different than an artist's long term future descendants, or a faceless corporation. As an artist, my art is my work, is my "product." I see my song/book/painting as my way to make a living. What difference is there between someone taking my art without paying for it, and someone going to the store and taking goods without paying for them? If I'm a song writer and spend years learning my craft, should someone else be legally able to put out recording of my song and make money off of it, just because I don't "deserve" to have copyright protection and a fair share of the profits?

The other end of things is say you buy a car, once you pay for it, you are free to do what you want. You can modify it with new and different parts, paint it, even blow it up or crash it if you want. You can also resell it to another owner who can do what they want with it. But a car (or any other hard good) is NOT copyrighted—artistic works are. 
As an artist, why don't I "deserve" to be paid for my work if I want to be paid? Sure, I have the option to just give my work away, but then so does the plumber (or anyone else). Also, why should someone else make money off of my work when they didn't do anything but copy it? I put in the years of study, the years of working everyday to reach the point to create the stolen work. Why should someone else just take it and do what they want with it, without my permission? 

Permission is the important word here, as current copyright laws are very restrictive as to what sort of permissions an artist can give towards use of their works. As an artist, Creative Commons (CC) addresses many of the modern copyright issues by letting me choose how much "control" I retain over my work. I'm able to release something and allow others to modify it (like a remix or mash up of a music track), either for, or not for profit. I can also retain the right to be credited for the original work that inspired whatever modification, so that people can find me if they are interested in the original. And it I want, I can even give it away completely, letting others do what they want with it. CC makes a lot more sense to me today than ©.

When artists cannot profit from their works, they will stop making art, and become plumbers, so they can be paid for what they do…


~ MB

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation, Part 2 - Developing A Rhythmic Language

The Art of Improvisation Extra: MONA FOMA, Part 3 of 4

Nature as Nurture