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The Future of Copyright is a Train Wreck · Wednesday January 28, 2009 by Crosbie Fitch

I am reminded by Improbulus (via ORG) that David Lammy, Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property (UK), has launched an Intellectual Property Office initiative on the future direction of copyright:
© the future – Developing a copyright agenda for the 21st century

It begins “The copyright system is of fundamental importance to the future health and prosperity of our creative industries and our economy”, but a century or two ago a similar initiative might just as well have begun “The trade in slaves and their exploitation is of fundamental importance to the future health and prosperity of our manufacturing industries and our economy”.

Both of these statements demonstrate a lack of imagination, bordering upon a self-interested refusal, to envision a future in which a healthy and prosperous industry can be achieved without suspending individual liberty.

Of course, it is not in dispute that the suspension of individual liberty can be lucrative to those privileged with its suspension, nor that such beneficiaries will be keen to retain it. However, this unethical exploitation is not something to look forward to in the future, but an embarrassment to consign to the history books.

As for the IPO’s request for comments on the future direction of copyright I’d suggest that it can be compared to that of Robert Mugabe’s direction of Zimbabwe. Presumably well intentioned, but all his directions lead Zimbabwe to its doom. Despite everyone else’s attempts to stop the runaway train of his ‘government’, it continues on, inexorably as if in a slow motion crash.

Until people start recognising that copyright is an unethical anachronism, a vestige of a bygone era in which individual liberty was considered secondary to industrial prosperity, then any direction will be the wrong direction.

Copyright has to be abolished. Asking for comments on the future direction of copyright is like asking the same for slavery (with any unenthusiastic comments to be ignored).

Just as with Zimbabwe, the sooner copyright runs out of steam and its crash is complete the better for everyone, when people can rediscover their culture free of its totalitarian yoke and resume the enjoyment of their freedom to share and build upon it.

Attempting to adjust the direction of copyright onto an apparently less damaging course, at best simply postpones its inevitable crash (abolition) and thus extends the duration of its current damage.

The plutocratic publishers (à la Mugabe) do not need my assistance in their lobbied direction of copyright toward abolition – and they are doing an excellent job of making it sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately, until people see the damage that copyright does they will be unable to recognise that it should be abolished. Therefore, Cassandras such as I eventually realise, despite trying, that there’s nothing we can do or say to avert the disaster.

The train wreck that is copyright’s future has to happen.

Alex Bowles said 3705 days ago :

Hegel would likely agree. And so would Gibbon.

Steve R. said 3705 days ago :

The copyright debate seems to overlook two important, but very subtle points. Fist we do not need copyright to be creative. Many people create for the joy of it and out of altruism. Many of the pro-copyright posts that I have read cannot seem to grasp the concept that the voluntary generation of content is a benefit of society. Simply put, if it can’t be monetized its evil.
Second, the pro-copyright crowd, in terms of getting revenue for the creator, has the risk/reward relationship backwards. Simply put, the pro-copyright crowd mistakenly asserts that people won’t create if there is no copyright protection. Why create if my work can be stolen? History I believe demonstrates that people do create whether or not a copyright “toll booth” exists.
As a corollary, the assertion of the pro-copyright crowd is that the ability to obtain revenue “fosters” creativity. Again history demonstrates that people do create even without the expectation of getting paid. Graffiti would be a good example.
As an example of creativity and altruism without the expectation of getting paid, the internet has allowed numerous forums to flourish where participants can make content available for free. I frequently use a forum that helps users with Microsoft Access. I am perpetually amazed at how much help they provide without any expectation of getting paid. The people who create free content really do help both our economy and society in general. Altruism is good and should be encouraged.



 

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