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The Madness of Copyright · Wednesday August 27, 2008 by Crosbie Fitch

On the Recording Industry vs The People blog Ray Beckerman asks Have copyright owners gone mad?. He further inquires “Have the content owners gone completely mad? Are they actually trying to destroy our love of music?”.

I respond:

You should seriously start wondering if copyright itself isn’t mad.

It should clearly be insane to grant distribution, performance and reproduction privileges in the same world in which there exists an instantaneous diffusion device (aka The Internet).

Grants of monopoly have long been recognised as unnatural and hence unethical privileges, but that hasn’t stopped those who would benefit from them from enacting them (a mere three years after the ink had dried on the US constitution that gave no sanction beyond the securing of an author’s natural, exclusive right).

When the nature of information and our digital facility with it renders reproduction monopolies unviable, reveals them for the ineffective anachronisms they truly are, then sanity should be credited to those who have divested themselves of copyright.

The future for copyright is abolition, final emancipation for all people from the last vestiges of inegalitarianism.

Ray then replies:

Dear crosbie,

As someone who has been working in copyright law for 34 years, in my opinion, real copyright law isn’t nearly as bad as you think it is.

Always bear in mind that the RIAA’s manufactured version isn’t really the law.

The real radicals here are the RIAA lawyers, who will say anything if you pay them enough, and who lie every day in court.

I don’t know why you want to try to out-radical the radicals.

I then answer the aspersion of radicalism:

Ray,

You are effectively committing the logical fallacy of an ‘appeal to moderation’, i.e. that proponents of anything but compromise are invalidated by their extremism.

It remains plausible, and becomes ever more demonstrable, that a monopoly over the reproduction of published intellectual works is socially detrimental, no matter the length of its term.

You may choose to portray me, or this position as radical or extreme, but that portrayal does not actually add any weight to a counter argument.

Unfortunately, Ray rejected this comment, finding it a tad off topic.

Dear crosbie, I have rejected your last comment — and could have rejected your first comment — on the ground that it is off topic. The subject of the post is abuse of existing copyright law.

If I were one of the PR trolls at the RIAA I would love to have someone like yourself posting comments like that, which deflect attention from the subject at hand, and play the reductio ad absurdum game.

If you’re not actually working for the RIAA, and really do believe that all copyright law is bad, then you’re in the wrong forum; this blog is about real problems going on in the real world.

This blog, on the other hand, is about real solutions to real problems going on in the real world, namely the real problem that is copyright, the interim solution of its licensed neutralisation (aka copyleft), and the real solution of its abolition – not least, the research and development of revenue mechanisms that operate without copyright’s suspension of the public’s cultural liberty.

Ray Beckerman said 3921 days ago :

No offense intended, crosbie. The RIAA lawyers are constantly seeking to disparage me and frequently cite my blog to the Judges.

I have nothing against ‘radicalism’ or ‘extremism’ in defense of what is right, nor against ‘conservatism’, for that matter, which seeks to preserve what is right.

I am for right and against wrong. And I am not ‘moderate’ about standing up for what I believe in.

If you really believe all copyright law (as opposed to abuse of copyright law, or as opposed to poorly drafted copyright law), is wrong, then go ahead and make your case for that, although I’ve yet to see such a case made by anybody.

I’m in the present struggle not because of passionate feelings about copyright law, but because I am a strong believer in the rule of law itself, and because I detest bullies, extortionists, and collusionists.

I am a practicing lawyer; these are real cases with real people suffering in them; and if the law as it exists were actually being applied, these people would not be suffering and the lawsuits would not exist. And so my mission is to see the law applied.

If it is your mission to abolish the law, that is your case to make, but it is not mine, and not one that will help any living breathing person I know, since it would never happen in our lifetimes.

And I feel no confidence at all that if it were to happen, it would be such a good thing to enable anyone to just rip off the creations of anyone else, without compensation, and without even acknowledgment.

Crosbie Fitch said 3916 days ago :

Ray, it is not my mission to abolish copyright, however its abolition does appear to be an inevitability – given the current alternative of prosecuting the people for enjoying their cultural liberty.

The fact is, the populace at large are engaged in wholesale copyright infringement.

If copyright’s privileging of publishers is to supersede natural law then the likes of RIAA and MPAA are indeed legally entitled to prosecute the people for enjoying liberties that their government had long ago ceded to create copyright. Consequently, if you support copyright law then you should not attempt to frustrate or thwart the RIAA/MPAA in their pursuit of its enforcement.

Either people should be free to share and build upon published works, or they should surrender this liberty to permit the monopoly of copyright to remain viable, and thus permit publishers’ traditional business models to remain viable.

In other words, either copyright is an unethical mercantile privilege, or the people are simply incorrigible pirates.

I can only conclude that copyright, being in opposition to natural law (that people are naturally free to copy, perform, exchange, and build upon published works), and consequently being bad law, is socially harmful, counter-productive, and is ultimately detrimental to innovation and cultural enrichment.

Law is supposed to arise from the people. It is not supposed to represent the interests of publishing corporations in facilitating their commerce with the people.

Whilst I clearly see no benefit in protecting anachronistic monopolies at the expense of a persecuted public, I think we both agree that producers of intellectual works should have their exclusive rights secured, and that owners of such intellectual property should have remedies against theft. Moreover, without the monopoly of copyright, producers of intellectual works should at last be able to exchange their labour in a free and fair market. As for acknowledgement, the respectful crediting of artists whose work one has built upon should be even more forthcoming once the threat of litigation for doing so has been removed. Even with less incentive to falsely claim originality, any wilful misattribution that does occur should be recognised as a misdemeanour.

Rather than subjugate the people to mercantile privilege, let’s improve the law such that it better expresses the natural law of the people.

Stephan Kinsella said 3915 days ago :

Beckerman: “If you really believe all copyright law (as opposed to abuse of copyright law, or as opposed to poorly drafted copyright law), is wrong, then go ahead and make your case for that, although I’ve yet to see such a case made by anybody.”

Two comments. First, the burden of proof is on someone advocating a bureaucratic, legislated, artificial-rights system that facially infringes property rights. Second, of course principled cases have been made, e.g. by me (I’m a practicing IP attorney), in my Against Intellectual Property.



 

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