Occasionally people say intelligent things in the comments area on Slashdot. I think this was stated quite well:
Copyright is taken for granted in modern society; everyone assumes information must be restricted to retain value. This is a very recent change. Shakespeare had no copyright, and throughout human history art was produced without the “protection” of copyright.
Now consider the original purpose of copyright. It was not developed to bring profit to those who distrubute conent. The founding fathers, and others around the world who introduced copyright, intended it to be a legal mechanism to shut down people who pass off the work of others as their own for commercial gain. Copyright periods were very short-only a few years-and typical cases involved large operations that mass produced works without permission.
A modern example of true copyright violation can be found in the movie bootleggers of Hong Kong. Take a walk down the street, and you’ll see a variety of dirt cheap dvd’s with good enough quality that only the most sophisticated consumers can spot the fakes. The pirates reap massive profit and gain control over how the work is presented while the creators are marginalized. This is what copyright was created to stop.
However, corporations bent on extracting maximum profit have perverted copyright into something it was never meant to be. In fact, through the contractual transference of copyright, companies now use copyright laws to screw the original artists! This is why we see non sequitors such as the tax on media: Corporations have no regard for the rights of customers or artists. They will abuse both in the name of profit-that is the purpose they were created for, and they would be deficient if they were not to do so. Lobbying for bad laws is only one mechanism for maximizing profit.
Clearly copyright has lost its original purpose and is now used to restrict the arts rather than encouraging them. Commercial interests, not artistic integrity, drive popular modern artistry. The artists themselves have no power and loathe the corporations that keep them on a leash. Small steps will not fix this. Shortening copyright terms or removing levies will not discourage those who make a living by abusing the system.
To encourage the arts and give artists true freedom we must go back to the models of the past. Artists can make a living through live performance, patronage, and teaching. Corporate middlemen should be removed, and profit should take a back seat to improvement of the human experience. This can only be accomplished by abolishing copyright as we know it.
Of course, you ask, “What will happen to the professional pirates that caused the creation of copyright in the first place? Won’t they run rampant after copyright is abolished?” This problem can be solved through existing mechanisms. We already have trademarks. Trademarks are a mechanism for guaranteeing that the stated brand or credits are accurate. We can simply link content to brand. Suppose an aspiring artist writes a song that turns into a hit. The artist names the song, and trademarks that song name in association with the artist’s own name. Much like how patent implementations are provided along with statements, the song itself is given as an implementation of the trademark. Now, it is illegal to make use of that specific implementation without naming the original artist as its creator, and it is illegal to use the artist’s name and trademark without permission. Professional pirates are outlawed, and bringing a case against them is trivially easy. Artists gain total control of their works, and noone owes anyone anything except the truth.
That’s what copyright was meant to be after all-a method of forcing people to tell the truth, and not lie about where content came from. By abolishing copyright and using more limited mechanisms to enforce honesty we can bring back artistic integrity and remove the subversive corporate influence from the humanities.
I’ve said it before, but the current copyright laws only encourage “rock stars” and cost inflation due to too many middle men in the distribution process. Do we all need to listen to the same artists?
I firmly believe that if copyright laws are modified or eliminated, and big labels die out, art and music will flourish.
CDs shouldn’t cost what they do. CDs cost what they do because of a convoluted distribution system designed to make superstars and rich record labels. If independent labels and artists do their own distribution locally or through the internet, costs can be reduced.
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash