1. Content
  2. Index
  3. Search
  4. RSS/Subscribe

Constructively Criticising Copyright · Tuesday April 20, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

I post this here, because ORG’s Jim Killock finds my comment below too offensive to permit to appear beneath his recent blog item entitled When Copyright Goes Bad

Copyright isn’t going bad – it’s always been bad, ever since the privilege was granted to the Stationers’ Guild by Queen Anne in 1710.

What’s going on is that more and more people are discovering that their natural liberty to share and build upon their own culture has been suspended by an iniquitous 18th century anachronism.

It seems ORG doesn’t mind comment as long as it’s ‘on message’, i.e. remains in accord with ORG’s support for copyright. A rather peculiar policy…

Update 22 Apr 2010 · 1:53pm

As Ibutton77 kindly brings to my attention, ORG has now relented and permitted my comment to appear. Whether their embargo of my comment would ever have been lifted had I not blogged my comment here is open to conjecture, but a discriminatory embargo isn’t much better than discriminatory ‘moderation’.

SteelWolf said 4016 days ago :

It’s unfortunate that organizations like this are so enamored by the institution that perpetrates the very grievances they fight against.

The idea that “IP” is inherently a good thing is never questioned, despite the horrendous mess it has become. Rather than fixing the real problem, they want to minimize the symptoms through reform or limitation. I think such a strategy has even less of a chance of working in the long run than outright elimination.

Crosbie Fitch said 4016 days ago :

The Pirate Party suffers from it too. It’s a sacrifice of principle in pursuit of membership. If such organisations perceive popular support for copyright simultaneously with popular outcry against its enforcement, then they believe they too must engage in such doublethink. They must shun the ‘extremists’ in order to focus discussion on reaching a prophesized balance between the interests of publishing corporations in enforcement and the interests of individual copyright aspirants in one day enjoying their privilege (as all hope for stardom).

The Pirate Party UK has now excluded me from access to my discussions critical of copyright on their forums (unless I pay to become a member of a party whose support for copyright I object to). ORG has ejected me from their discussion list, censured me on their web based forums, and informs me my comments are not welcome on their blog articles.

It’s not very inspiring is it?

Even Nina Paley notices the stigma against copyright abolitionism:

“I’m now artist-in-residence at QuestionCopyright.org, and do what I can to promote alternatives to copyright. (Actually I’m a copyright abolitionist, but many find that identification unpalatable.)”

If the likes of PPUK and ORG try to play down or suppress the existence of abolitionists and the natural rights argument against copyright, are they really demonstrating they will act in the best interests of the public they court?

Even lawyers have led a sheltered life in this respect – see
‘Copyright Abolitionists’ Fight for Freedom-Based Distribution of Artistic Work

Ibutton77 said 4015 days ago :

Bwaha, you’re comment is showing at their article presently. It claims circa 10:36am.

Now how do we get your blog to display time in addition to date, demonstrating you posted this before they let your posting through on that end? ;3

I would very much like to know what prompts Lawrence Lessig to cling to his middle-ground stance. I have heard him say on many occasions that reform is good and abolition is bad. He seems eager to present a strong foundation for his case against (strong) copyright, just as we do, however I want to know what his specific argument is against abolition.

Do you guys happen to know if he’s gone about clarifying that anywhere yet?

Steve R. said 4015 days ago :

@SteelWolf: The reason why the validity of “IP” is never questioned is because in the US you are “born” with it. Not “born” in the literal sense, but burned into your mind as part of one’s education. The concept behind “IP” is really quite simple and carries significant moral/ethical weight. Don’t artists deserve some sort of limited “protection” for creativity? Even I wouldn’t argue against that.

However, over the years, “IP” has morphed into a demon that now threatens our liberties. As you begin to observe and be affected by this increasingly onerous demon; the light bulb in your head finally goes off and you get around to asking the question concerning the validity of “IP”.

Since the video clip was made by experts in the field, this issue should have been further explored. In fact, I would say that this is a major shortcoming in the fight against oppressive “IP”. It leaves those favoring so-called “IP” with popular support that “IP” is a real property right that must be protected. The reality is that the thieves are the those asserting “IP” ownership since they are depriving the public of their rights. The public must be made aware of this.

Crosbie Fitch said 4014 days ago :

Ibutton77, as for Lawrence Lessig, given the extent of his career in law I wouldn’t be surprised if he sees law as an unimpeachably virtuous institution, and any social problems it causes as perfectly amenable to legal solution, i.e. in copyright’s case, Creative Commons licenses. I suggest that he is therefore a wholly committed advocate of copyright and supports the notion that an author should have the privilege of determining how their work may be communicated or exploited by society (despite the fact the privilege was created for the press).

So to copyright advocates, copyright abolition is pretty much heresy, and to support the proposition that copyright is an unconstitutional instrument of injustice would be akin to the apostasy of confessing to the pope’s fallibility and conceding that the Earth orbits the Sun.

As I said on his blog “If there’s any man who will have done more than any other to prolong the lifespan of copyright legislation more than a century beyond its 200 year use by date (1910) by popularising its use by impotent self-publishers, it’s Lawrence Lessig.”

Without Creative Commons, there’d be far less respect for copyright (see Creative Commons consolidates old-school copyright?). So it’s really just postponed the build up of social pressure for ‘something to be done’ about copyright. Perversely, the publishing corporations are doing an excellent job at stoking the furnace with ACTA, and the draconian copyright enforcement legislation it is intended to spawn, such as the UK’s Digital Economy Act. So, it is ACTA we can look to as a spur to copyright’s inexorable abolition.

As for how Lawrence Lessig prefers to argue against abolition, see Lawrence Lessig warns against abolishing copyright for an example. No doubt his argument has improved since 2008.

For comparison also check out William Patry’s book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars and a video presentation (W.Patry is someone else who developed a ‘Don’t publish Crosbie’s comments any more’ policy).

Crosbie Fitch said 4014 days ago :

Steve R, I’d readily agree that a great proportion of popular support for copyright and patent derives almost entirely from indoctrination. That’s why we get such unfounded justifications for it, e.g. “Creators deserve the reward of a monopoly: for their gift to mankind, and as an incentive to others’ creativity” and “To sell a copy is to sell another’s work, to steal the fruits of another’s labour”.

Monkey D. Luffy said 4008 days ago :

Considering how pervasive the pro copyright arguments are, even to the point where some claim it needs to be extended longer than it already is, I don’t understand why argument in favor of abolishing it is so frowned apon as to be banished from the debate by some copyright reform advocates. If nothing else, taking that off the table in the copyright debate is a terrible tactic. Look at the opposition – ACTA, DMCA, U.K. Digital Economy Bill, the pro copyright “as is” crowed has shown no lack of aggression. Even if an organization such as PPUK favours reform rather than abolition it should not stifle argument from people favouring abolition, if anything it should telling the whole pro ACTA Digital Economy Bill, three strikes side that if that is where they insist on going(which they are) then they (PPUK) will cease trying to compromise on copyright and push for an all out ban. The pro copyright people bring all their weapons to the table, the reform crowed should do likewise.

Crosbie Fitch said 4008 days ago :

Monkey, I see maximalism as aggression, reform as appeasement, and abolition as principled, but then perhaps I would…

I think reform organisations have given up hope (if they ever had it) of persuading the populace that copyright isn’t actually an individual’s right, but a privilege intended for the press. They focus on making enforcement a little more humane, if not more rigorously applied (instead of infringement being assumed, and innocence a matter for the infringer to prove).

Far more people need to question copyright – fundamentally.

Crosbie Fitch said 4007 days ago :

See Can Copyright Be Saved? for another example of people with the strange notion that the way to preserve a privilege is to prevent its detractors having the opportunity to raise arguments against it.

I’m referring in particular to Rick’s comment in which he requests: “Hey moderator! Can we please NOT have any more posts from C. Fitch?”

Jassmonsteret said 4007 days ago :

Hi, I’ve been reading this blog for a while and started questioning copyright myself as a result.

“What’s going on is that more and more people are discovering that their natural liberty to share and build upon their own culture has been suspended by an iniquitous 18th century anachronism.”

I have two objections, first, who’s to say that what’s natural is what is good? Or that when something is natural, it is the right thing to do?
The second one is that you claim copying a right we are born with. I think that we are not really born with any rights, just as we are not born with any language, but that we agree that we are born with them.

Crosbie Fitch said 4007 days ago :

Jassmonsteret, I suggest you search the web to consider and compare diverse explanations of natural law and natural rights (and criticisms thereof).

Primarily focussed in the digital realm, I exhort the restoration of the individual’s natural rights concerning the possession, creation, communication and exchange of intellectual work, through the abolition of the privileges that derogate from them (copyright and patent). I enumerate natural rights as: Life, Privacy, Truth, and Liberty. They are the innate needs, powers and imperatives of human beings if considered as equals in a harmonious community. Inegalitarian states can grant greater powers and privileges, but then these are not natural, and are, as Paine says, instruments of injustice.

For further reading I’d suggest The Ethics of Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard

There’s always The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine




Recent Articles

Recent Comments



Natural Right

Legal Rights






Being Privy


Personal Data





Moral Rights







Freedom of Speech

Freedom vs Liberty

Official Secrets Act













US Constitution

'exclusive right'












No Rights






Amnesty International

Copyleft (Wikipedia)

Electronic Frontier

Free Culture F'n

Free Culture UK

Free S/w Foundation


Against Monopoly

One Small Voice



Question Copyright







Downhill Battle

Publishers vs Public


Rethinking Copyright


Against Monopoly

Ecstasy of Influence

Libertarian Case



Janet Hawtin

Nina Paley

Rob Myers

Scott Carpenter