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The Cultural Liberty Blog will post articles concerning individual liberty, especially concerning its restoration from archaic privileges such as copyright and patent.
Questions? · Wednesday June 20, 2007 by Crosbie Fitch
Hi Mr Fitch. I really enjoy your blog “Cultural Liberty,” as in it you have concisely made points regarding the ethics of copyright that I find very hard to articulate. I have a question regarding piracy, however. Do you consider the act of copying a work without paying its creator immoral?
In my eyes, the answer is a resounding no, analogous to it not being immoral to simply not give charity. While it’s a good thing to give charity, it would be silly to think someone is committing an immoral act for not doing so.
Along with this, there are logical issues with contending that one must support the creator of a work of art: for one, it is impossible to accurately determine how much exactly one must support the creator with. The marginal cost of any information is 0, so there will be no economic justification for any charged price. Instead, you are just arbitrarily subjected to the opinions of the work’s creator! Moreover, the acts of not acquiring the information and freely (i.e., without payment) acquiring the information are identical with regards to the creator, vis-a-vis profits.
Sorry that these ideas of mine are not particularly well-formed or focused. As I said, I have a hard time articulating these views. But I find it tremendously absurd when people are condemned for pirating material, which I feel would be akin to condemning someone for not providing money to a particular charity. Do you have any thoughts in this regard?
Even copyright does not imply that copying a covered work is immoral. It is simply a privilege – that the copyright holder has the power to sue the infringer of the monopoly. It’s a commercial power, not a moral right.
So, no, if you are in legitimate possession of a work (you did not steal it), then there is nothing immoral about making (and selling if you can) as many copies as you like.
This was the case before 1709 and the case after.
Nature determines morality, not Queen Anne.
If you want to be a patron of an artist go ahead.
If you want an artist to produce more work, make them an offer. If an artist wants your money, they may offer you their work in exchange. This is how the free market operates for material work, and it can work just as well for intellectual work – see Kickstarter.
Of course, if you want a book printed, pay a printer. If you want 10,000 CDs pressed pay a CD duplicator. Copyright is an 18th century anachronism and an ethical abomination (by annulling the people’s natural right to copy, to leave it, by exclusion, in the hands of a few).
I don’t think artists should be treated like charities, but like craftsmen.