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Others are 'Eliminating the Impossible' too · Monday October 25, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

Just as we are getting to grips with hyperlinking or streaming as a means of ‘sharing’ published works without daring to permanently copy them (risking copyright litigation), some authors are taking it upon themselves to copy their blog articles across the web (or are encouraging others to do so). I’m sure we’ll figure it all out eventually, when it’s appropriate to copy, link, or stream, and to do so without persuasion from an 18th century privilege.

So, as Eric Hellman’s article Bounty Markets for Open-Access eBooks has been copied into at least two other blogs, Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom and TeleRead: Bring the E-Books Home, I won’t copy it here. Pick a link!

When you have recognised that a monopoly in making and distributing copies of intellectual works is impossible (let alone unethical) in this information age, you must eliminate copyright from any role in the future of business models concerning the exchange of intellectual work. What’s left, however preposterous or incredible, must be the truth.

If you cannot sell copies, you must sell the intellectual work. It is obviously the latter work that is expensive and valuable, and the former that can be done with negligible skill, materials, and expense. What’s so amazing is the indoctrination that makes people insist the opposite, that artists should give their work to publishers for nothing, but the prospect of a royalty on sale of copies that all bar the publisher are prohibited from making. A royalty that often fails to materialise despite colossal monopoly profits ending up in publishers’ creatively accounted coffers (until the inertia of the monopoly is inexorably exhausted).

Forget the anachronism of the traditional 18th century publisher, a hangover from Queen Anne’s Stationers’ Company. It’s time to shift one’s paradigm to a more ethical relationship, one between artist and audience, that recognises that he who does the work should be paid the free market rate. Those fans who want the artist’s work pay the artist for it – at a price both agree on. The audience pay for the communications infrastructure and reproduction machinery that copies and distributes all artists’ work. What other work is left to pay for? Or are we supposed to keep publishing corporations forever in the lifestyle to which they would remain accustomed? Is copyright truly sacred?

Eric Hellman stands to cross the Rubicon, to shift paradigms from business based upon the unethical privilege of a reproduction monopoly in copies to a business based upon free market exchange of intellectual work. Perhaps you’ll join him?

Eric Hellman said 3508 days ago :

Thanks for making me aware of “Contingency Markets”. But when Julius Caesar and his legion crossed the Rubicon, he broke the law of imperium and made war inevitable. That’s not what I’m doing. First of all, by creating a Bounty Market for ebooks I’m would not be breaking any law. I’m not interested in war, either, I think of it as constructing new social practice to replace in part an incumbent system fracturing from deep internal contradictions. Hope that still seems worth joining!

Eric Hellman said 3508 days ago :

Should also note that TeleRead republished after asking my permission, C4SIF didn’t. I think that’s really rude.

Crosbie Fitch said 3508 days ago :

Eric, thank you for making others aware that it is possible to exchange intellectual work for good money without a state granted monopoly.

As to war, you may not have noticed the pirates on the digitally diffused seas, the many bankruptcies and imprisonments of impudent music and movie sharers, but we are in the midst of a cultural, civil cyberwar. War is already upon us!

When an impossible monopoly exhibits exhaustion even with suspended disbelief, then necessity mothers the invention of an alternative exchange mechanism. The sooner bounty markets, threshold pledge systems, crowdfunding mechanisms, and micropatronage facilities are developed, the sooner the copyright wars can end.

By ‘cross the Rubicon’, I meant that once your eyes are fully open to the extreme anachronism of an 18th century privilege against copying being enforced in the information age of our 21st century, and once you realise you need no longer cling to copyright (as if to the edge of a shipwrecked hull mere feet above the beach) because there is an alternative, then you let go – and there’s no going back! Having resolved ‘deep internal contradictions’ you have joined the culturally liberated ‘enemy’. You cannot unlearn such enlightenment.

Those who commit the thought crime of recognising the invalidity and injustice of immortal corporations and their amassed privilege have effectively broken imperium. Others cross the Rubicon almost every day: 23rd Oct The Golems of Wall Street and 25th Oct Jurassic Ballot: When Corporations Ruled the Earth. The inevitable war between immortal corporations and mortal human beings is engaged, at least in the hearts and minds of those who possess them.

Crosbie Fitch said 3508 days ago :

Eric, as for republication, it is the copyright inculcated permission culture that instils adherence to the press tradition of seeking a (self-)publisher’s permission prior to any promotion of an author or their work. Really, you should remove all possible obstacles to your work being disseminated as widely and as rapidly as possible.

Ask Nina Paley. She finds that even Creative Commons is developing an intrinsic “Share, unless there’s the slightest chance of commercial use occurring” connotation (which creates a decision cost and thus “don’t share” is the safe default). Cory Doctorow even goes so far as to say “Asking permission to use a CC-licensed work isn’t polite, it’s rude – adds work to the creator’s day, undermines the value of CC”.

What is far more important is to ensure that your work is not plagiarised, that it is not misattributed to another – even unwittingly or by implication. I’d say you have some grievance against C4SIF because it appears in the RSS feed and on the web site that your article is attributed to Stephan Kinsella. Bloggers should either butt out and publish an article as by its original author, or should (under a different title) introduce and blockquote the article. As you can see from my comment there, it wasn’t clear to me even then who was posting it or when.

Eric Hellman said 3508 days ago :

Note that in its republication, C4SIF added a license claim onto the post that wasn’t there in the original. That goes well beyond the sort of “use” that Cory Doctorow talks about. And I agree with you about the confusing attribution.

Crosbie Fitch said 3508 days ago :

Eric, do you mean the CC-BY license at the foot of the web page? That could only license the copyright held by the site. It can’t claim that all work published on the site is similarly licensed.

drew Roberts said 3506 days ago :

“Why not let people sponsor any and every book they cared about?”

I think this idea might have legs and might add interesting twists for the short term for the purpose spoken of.



Crosbie Fitch said 3505 days ago :

Drew, yup, sounds like a good idea to me. Amazingly, quidbooks.com is still available! So you could use the ContingencyMarket.com to create a web facility that enabled any author’s devoted readers to sponsor the production of their next book @ £1. If you have at least 10,000 readers it might be quite lucrative. (Probably more likely for the second novel than the first.)

drew Roberts said 3505 days ago :


that could play too but I was particularly speaking of paying authors of existing books that you like to put them under a Free license such as the Creative Commons BY-SA license.

This might be difficult depending on what agreements they have signed and with whom.

No reason a site could not do both though.

Crosbie Fitch said 3505 days ago :

This idea of selling the public’s liberty back to it is the sort of thing LiberateIP.com and SellYourRights.com were into.

Of course, ethically, liberty should be restored on principle, not on payment.

drew Roberts said 3504 days ago :

It might get some people thinking and open some eyes though.

I mean, if you can sell the liberty after the fact it should be obvious that you can make the deal before the fact.

Plus, it might build some momentum.

Crosbie Fitch said 3504 days ago :

That’s a good point Drew, but it could risk inadvertently entrenching the idea that copyright was good/necessary – just as some people think the GPL demonstrates that copyright is necessary.

I’m reminded of the Broken Window Fallacy, that suspending people’s cultural liberty spurs them to pay for that which they might otherwise take for granted (as if that was justification).

But hey, although I’m focused on non-copyright revenue mechanisms, I’d not stop others using the Contingency Market to explore interim mechanisms that provide financial persuasion for copyright holders to liberate their audience – where ethical arguments are insufficiently persuasive. Record labels could find this a viable way of realising the value of their back-catalogue – before it’s too late.




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