1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9273/authors-beware-of-copyright/

Authors: Beware of Copyright

January 21, 2009 by

When an author signs a publication contract, insofar as it contains strict and traditional copyright notices, he is pretty much signing his life away. It used to be that the publisher would maintain control only so long as the book is in print. Today, with digital printing, this means forever: your lifetime plus 70 years.

During this time, you can’t even quote significant portions of your own writing without permission from the publisher, and you could find yourself paying the publisher for the rights. You can’t read your own book aloud and sell the results. You certainly can’t give a journal a chapter.

You could try to be sneaky and change the text a bit, right? Wrong. They’ve thought of that. You will own and control new matter but the old matter is still the private possession of The Man.

What if the publisher isn’t marketing your book? You can yell and scream but they don’t have to answer. In fact, most publishers have a system for dealings with authors. It’s called voice mail. Emails go unanswered.

You are done for. You sold your soul and you can’t get it back. Not within your lifetime. Your creation, which copyright is designed to protect, is now the possession of someone else. This follows the trajectory as laid out in Michele Boldrin and David Levine’s smashing new book Against Intellectual Monopoly.

As they explain, this racket began in the 17th century when government instituted the idea of ownership of ideas, precisely so that the government could crush ideas it didn’t like. Only approved authors got the stamp of approval. Same with art. But then the authors and creators rose up and demand their rights in the 18th century, and the copyright idea was transferred from government to private parties, who were then in a position to crush competitors. In the 20th century, this changed again, when the right was transferred from individuals to corporations.

In the digital age that exists simultaneous to the most tyrannical copyright laws ever, this is creating an intolerable situation that amounts to a form of involuntary servitude. Creators write and paint and watch corporate interlopers doom their work to obscurity. The creator hoped to make a dent in the universe but only sees his material land in the recycle bin of history.

Yes, it is done by contract–contract backed by the power of the state. So why do authors put up with it? Mostly because it is a convention, and they haven’t known about alternatives. Also, they are bribed by the ego-exploiting promise of royalties that never arrive.

The practical effects can be devastating. There is, for example, a book on Austrian business cycles that was published some years ago, and it is print from an academic house, but in print only in the most technical sense. It is essentially unaffordable for anyone but a state-fund library with an inelastic demand curve.
The Mises Institute wants to bring it back in paperback and make it affordable. Nope, can’t happen. The publisher says that it will do it for us, at a very high price with virtually no discount. They are in their legal rights to do this.

Of course it makes the whole project completely unviable. No deal. The authors are cornered. There is nothing they can do. There is nothing we can do. A great Austrian book, written over the course of ten years, is consigned to the dusty shelves of a handful of libraries, for at least another 70 years.

This is only one case of a hundred that I’ve seen. It is even worse when the author is dead. The publisher may or may not have handed back the rights to the manuscript. Those rights may or may not have been transferred. They may or may not have been handed on in the will or perhaps they are part of probate.

Yes, a potential new publisher can hunt this down to find out who among 6 billion potential owners actually controls rights to this manuscript. A lawyer is always glad to spend vast amounts of your money doing research. He may or may not come up with an answer you can trust. Meanwhile, you have spent the equivalent of a first print run.

Most potential publishers will say: to heck with it. Again, you have failed to be immortalized by your work. This goes for artists and musical compositions and even recordings of your band or voice. Thanks to federal law since the 1980s, all this material is bound up in a thicket of law, and this thicket will not evaporate for more than one hundred years.

This is what the “intellectual property” of copyright has wrought.

So I say to all authors: please look at your contracts. Don’t sign your life away. Publish on the condition of Creative Commons. Claim your rights back as a creator and an author.

How does this work? You have to copyright your work if only to prevent others from claiming copyright and thereby binding all other living persons, including you, from publishing it. Once you claim copyright, add that it is published under the Creative Common License 3.0. This rids your manuscript or song or painting of copyright’s provision of doom: the requirement that only one institution can control it.

In other words, it makes your creation part of the free market. It can be posted, recorded, shown, photograph, celebrated by one and all forever. Isn’t this why you create in the first place? Isn’t this what drove you to write, paint, photograph, sing, or whatever? You want to make a difference. You want credit for your work. This permits this.

Old-fashioned copyright is nothing but a form of modern tyranny in the digital age. It has no future. Bail out of this wicked institution and make sure that your work has a future too.

{ 57 comments }

andras January 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Jeff: “This is what “intellectual property” has wrought.”

Why should a damaging contract be identified with intellectual property? Or should not be after all as

Jeff’s conclusion: “Claim your rights back as a creator and an author.”

Jmh January 21, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Mind giving the name of the book so at least we can check the library for it?

Jeffrey Tucker January 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

These contracts are universal and made possible only by IP

I feel funny giving the name since it really is the authors’ business.

Silas Barta January 21, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Jeffrey_Tucker: I understand that you’re saying this partly as a way to show authors an alternative, but it’s also a biased polemic against copyright. While I agree that the ever-longer terms are ridiculous, would you even consider endorsing these arguments in any other context? Would you consider factory workers exploited in that they sign away any claim to the stuff they help make? No, you’d point out that they’re free to take their labor to someone else who will offer better compensation.

Would you complain that these poor workers keep getting fooled by false expectations of the returns from that kind of factory work? No, you’d say that they can think for themselves, and if they can’t accurately guess the returns, it’s their own fault.

Would you complain that these factory workers are signing contracts “backed by the power of the state”? No, you’d point out that a) the involvement of the state is incidental, as there are non-state methods of contract enforcement, that b) no one forces them to sign these contracts, and that c) there are good reasons why factory owners prefer to exclusively own what the workers have helped to build.

It’s tiresome to see libertarians constantly inverting their arguments when the topic turns to IP. “Oh, am I okay with workers being denied shares in the fruits of their labor because of a contract they signed? Of course! Oh, wait, were we talking about intellectual property? Never mind, in that case, it’s an atrocity.

Inquisitor January 21, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I think that’s a problem with Rod Long’s books too, like his Reason & Value or his book on Wittgenstein. Very hard to find and very pricy.

I Hate Taxes January 21, 2009 at 3:05 pm

How can you protect Intellectual Property in a world of 6 Billion plus human beings and hundreads of millions of computers and cheap printers and internet and file swapping.

I saw borrow the book at the dusty library, scan all the pages and distribute the book in peer-to-peer software file swapping. Go underground and fight to spread the ideas you want to spread.

Down with copyright !!! This is the 21st century !

Eric Hood January 21, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Comic book authors went through this some time ago if a work is languishing the author can reassert control and sell it to someone else.

Check out the comic book legal defense fund, they will have the information you need.

Helios January 21, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Silas Barta – bingo, my words precisely! I’m also tired by this IP bashing absurdity, have my favourite libertarians lost their common sense? What socialist nonsense is this? What’ll be next, are they gonna start an IP proletariat? An IP International? Fight against authors’ exploitation? Seriously, people, don’t do this. We are in the midst of the biggest events since the fall of the Soviet empire and you’re toying with the idea that art and research are people’s property?

Per-Olof Samuelsson January 21, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I must be naive, I always thought “copyright” meant the *author’s* right to his own work. Now, it seems it means the exact opposite.

Are we living in a Hegelian universe?

prettyskin January 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Free market– should be able to do business as long as there are customers within reach– nefarious or not, that includes Intellectual Property.

Geoffrey Allan Plauche January 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Actually, last I heard, the publication of Roderick’s book on Wittgenstein is being held up over copyright issues pertaining to some very long quotes.

Daniel C January 21, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Roderick’s book on Wittgenstein is actually available (in early draft form) as a PDF on his website. . .for now. Look on the main page, almost all the way to the bottom.

Bruce Koerber January 21, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Dear Jeffrey,

Thanks for the information about Creative Common License 3.0.

With warm regards,
Bruce

Maty January 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I must say that this piece raised a good point, and was much better written than the original article insofar as it focused on a concrete problem rather than blowing smoke in all directions; however, the problem seems to be with concrete [i]Copyright laws[i\] that need to be updated in order to accommodate advances in technology rather than the [i]concept[i\] of Intellectual Property per-se.

But one thing I fail to grasp is the idea of ‘Creative Commons’ as a remedy… If I understand correctly, under creative commons anyone and everyone would have free license to use the work as they please, am I right? If so, how can a writer (or any artist for that matter) ever hope to get paid for his work? I mean, recognition and changing the world is fine, but I’m sure every writer also chose his profession to put some food on the table… (or is he supposed to depend on some users’ integrity to ‘donate’ for their use of his material–wouldn’t that put him in the shoes of a beggar?)

Even with present Copyrights Laws (though I think they may very well they should be fixed) it sounds like an artist would be better off going with a publisher and seeing some proceeds than under creative commons.

Perhaps a better alternative would be self-publishing on the web, which seems to be getting easier and more popular… I’m curious why the author didn’t mention that if the idea is to make the artist autonomous…

Gil January 21, 2009 at 8:36 pm

To say I.P. was a con to restrict ideas of the masses to enrich a few is equivalent to saying landownership was a way of making the landless trespassers and allowing the newly enriched land tyrants the right to shoot people they didn’t like without consequences.

newson January 21, 2009 at 9:03 pm

yes, the current welter of laws is ineffective to guarantee “the artist” the true value of his thoughts. what we need is to redouble our efforts, train many more attorneys, and stiffen the penalties.
that’s bound to solve the problem.

the state’s past successful track record in solving thorny problems inspires a warm sense of hope in me.

are kafka’s works still subject to copyright?

newson January 21, 2009 at 9:14 pm

the writer/artist only produces his masterpiece through the suffering that abject poverty creates.
let them live in garrets and eat stale bread, it’s every romantic’s dream.

Maty January 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

newson said:

“the writer/artist only produces his masterpiece through the suffering that abject poverty creates.
let them live in garrets and eat stale bread, it’s every romantic’s dream.”

I hope this was a joke. Even if it was, it’s in bad taste. And if it wasn’t, you must be a very sad human being…

Gil January 21, 2009 at 10:14 pm

What of bigmammal’s question whether I.P. can being privately enforced via enforcers knocking on the door of someone who had violated their employer’s I.P.?

Becky January 22, 2009 at 12:54 am

I am not an expert when it comes to giving advice on copyright laws, however I had my eyes opened after reading “Clearance and Copyright ” by Michael C. Donaldson. I had no idea how many ways people could get themselves in trouble – without knowing that what they were doing was wrong. I was really impressed with the way that Mr. Donaldson took an otherwise confusing topic and brought insight and clarity to a number of copyright issues. This book is a must for anyone trying to find answers to their copyright questions.

Jab January 22, 2009 at 12:57 am

Of course without IP rights, the Publisher could just publish it without your permission since you couldn’t own it.

Andras is right. Freedom allows us to enter into unfavorable contracts should we chose to do so. While I applaud Mr. Tucker’s role in warning authors about possible pitfalls, the broader implication of having no IP rights is far worse.

I honestly don’t get this Marxist subsection of an otherwise free-market-supporting organization. Virtually every argument against IP at mises.org is identical to far-left leaning arguments against property rights in general (that they are arbitrary assignments by the government). Property rights and ownership are axiomatic to the free market, and we’ve been far better served by assigning more property rights over assigning “public” rights.

crosson January 22, 2009 at 1:59 am

Regardless of whether IP is right or wrong is really irrelevent to the point of this article.

Clearly current IP laws are not best suited to encourage intellectual growth as creators often get their ideas tied up into some organization without realizing it until later.

All these IP toters scream panic in fears of lost wages from the artist, however it is the very artist who is getting scammed from doing business with his own work.

Not to mention that without IP laws what you would have instead is civil contracts between private party’s. It’s not like these things will just magically dissapear. Obviously good folks like yourself want to protect your ideas. Why not have more control over the contracts you sign? You see? It’s just that you won’t have government interference in the private trade process. Short of protecting from fraud/theft ect…

If you want to make the argument that IP protects private property, then you should at least amend to your argument that IP needs to be reformed to actually PROTECT the original owner of that private property.

When an artist signs some of his work via various IP laws he is in effect selling his idea without knowing it. Thusly probably signing his idea away for less then market value.

It’s like thinking your renting your home, but when you come back to take your house realize that your tenants now own it.

If anything I would think that the IP toters would be more outraged at the current situation then people against IP.

Gil January 22, 2009 at 2:05 am

Gee, did you know that many a property owner could declare his perimeter by putting notches into trees? Does he have to abide by the excuses of trespassers who were looking for a fenceline or a signpost?

ktibuk January 22, 2009 at 6:45 am

I used to get upset at seeing these anti IP posts here all the time but now I think differently.

These posts are great tools that expose the real “socialist” in an “IP socialist”.

Also looking at the comments I am glad more people with intellectual consistency is showing up at this site.

RWW January 22, 2009 at 7:28 am

Labels and sweeping approvals of those who agree with you are no more convincing than your usual weak attempts at actual argument, ktibuk.

Brently January 22, 2009 at 7:34 am

Let us not forget that any author or artist that wishes to retain full creative control of his work may self-publish.

This requires him to “beat the pavement”, but the profit margin is much higher per unit. Also, his success is truly determined by the free market.

newson January 22, 2009 at 8:07 am

jab says:
“Of course without IP rights, the Publisher could just publish it without your permission since you couldn’t own it.”

…and as a consequence the author is going to be very discriminating about which publisher he selects. dodgy operators will be shunned; trustworthy and professional printers will be sought out. in short, a market in reliability developments.

the contracting publisher will pump out the work as quickly as possible to capitalize on the early, richer profits.

if the book’s sales explode, non-contracting publishers will swarm in to print the work, and whilst this is of no direct financial benefit to the originator, his fame is spread (and can be capitalized upon in the publishing negotiations for the next work).

newson January 22, 2009 at 8:19 am

has anybody read “Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (2004)” by lawrence lessig? just curious.

Kirk Reeves January 22, 2009 at 9:21 am

I enjoyed your two recent essays on copyright. Something you are probably aware of. Copyright law are written for Laywers, by lawers for the benefit of lawyers

I have a TV show and dealing with copyright is a headache. The people who supposely hold the copyright do not benefit. This was my lesson. I started my TV show to play music but quickly learned it could cost me 25,000 to play a song one time. You were upset the tv crew made you take down the painting in your office. They did it because
1.) It could cost them $25,000 or more. (A $100,000 if they took a chance and filmed with the painting)

2.) They probalby didn’t have the time to wait around to get permission. It can take six month or more.

The lawyers get the money.

I wanted to use a very famous song played by Louis Armstrong called
Do you know what it makes to miss New Orleans. The copyright holder was the daughter of the songwriter who recieved the copyright in your father’s will. She took back the copyright which was being being handled by an agency and she was in the process of switching when I contacted her. She was thrilled I wanted to play her father song since it wasn’t being played anymore, being a song from the 40′s. It meant people still remember her father and his music. But th new agency didn’t want t let her give me the rights. They were taking a lot of time and holding out for a lot of money. She finally decided she still had the right and it was hers to do with as she like so as long as I gave her a DVD of the show, I could use the music and the hell with the lawyers.

You may also be aware how easy it can be to lose copyright to a corporation even if you never signed a contract. One way you can lose a copyright is if you in any way can be considered a work-for-hire even if you are unpaid. Another way is some of the public access and other cable station will claim your copyright unless you make it clear you are the copyright holder And there are a lot more ways as well.

the last thing about copyright is how it increases the lenght of it “protection” For music is used to be 28 years and you could renew it for another 28 years. If we had the same copyright laws in effect, I would be free to play music from the early 50′s the beginning of early rck and roll. But no, music is under copyrigt protection if it was written in 1925. But even that is not enough. I am starting to see music that is in the public domain written in 1921 still under copy-right protection so the protection is getting retro-active. 1924, now 1921, who know how far back?

Even classical music is under copyright protection. Look in any recent sheet music book and you will see the Music of Mozart, Beethoven and other copyrighted by this shyster outfit called “Beam me up Scotty” It iis not a new arrangement because I”ve seen the arrangement in other older music so I am wondering what gives.

Last if the copyright protection was in force in the 1920 and 30′s, fairy tales, and early musical works would not gained the popularity they did. Consider Disney. Most of they early stories used public domain fairy tales. They would not been able to because most fairy tales were written in the 1800′s to 1900′s. As well as the famous great literiture works such as Dickens, Twain and others. Dinsey would have been barred by copyright. Or maybe not. When Disney wanted to do their new Tinkerbelle movie they claimed the Peter Pan copyright had run out in the United States. But then Disney had the money to fight that. Most people don’t.

Toban January 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

For all those who are confused why the Mises scholars reject IP, read Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property. He completely blows apart the notion that information is property. I remember Walter Block saying that this article completely changed his position.

Jab January 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

Funny how the new libertarianpapers.org uses the Creative Commons license which is based, like the software GPL license, upon copyright law. They could have openly and overtly placed everything in the public domain had they chosen to do so.

So, is copyright good or bad? Or is it just bad for everyone else but good for libertarianpapers.org and other mises.org entities?

Joshua Park January 22, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Authors ought to get a good agent if they are worried about not getting paid fairly for their own work. That’s the dirty, lawyer-ridden reality as it stands. I wonder… does Art and Literature fall into the same category as patents for hinges and water pumps?

I don’t think it’s fair and honest, for example, if I were to copy the text of “The Shack” and sell it as my own. In a world without at least some IP, where do authors stand? We’re not talking about something fungible like an apple or barrels of oil. We’re talking about a unique combination of words that form a novel or poem.

Several posters, (not to mention Mr. Tucker) have obviously read Against Intellectual Property. Perhaps someone could summarize how someone like J.K. Rowling would operate her business in a world without ©, ®, and IP?

Thanks in advance.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 2:19 pm

“Several posters, (not to mention Mr. Tucker) have obviously read Against Intellectual Property. Perhaps someone could summarize how someone like J.K. Rowling would operate her business in a world without ©, ®, and IP?”

Who knows? We can’t all be entrepreneurs. She’d probably figure something out, though. My guess is she’s write serially, or simply write more, or publish online with advertising revenues, or work product placement into her stories, or work on commission for wealthy patrons. There are tons of business models that don’t rely on monopolizing information.

jeffrey January 22, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Ok, this is interesting. There are 100 sites on the web publishing Harry Potter fan fiction, some 1000 pages long, all of them illicit. Many of these would be in print. The book stores would carry Harry Potter and 100 HP knockoffs. It would be an industry far larger than the current one. Would Rowling be poorer or richer? I don’t think there is any way to know. But the main thing is that the world be a better place.

Jab January 22, 2009 at 3:00 pm

But the main thing is that the world be a better place.

Because “Harry Potter” probably would never have been written in the first place?

I might actually agree with that…. ;)

Many leftists would argue, and have argued, that the world would be a better place without fences or the ability to put up fences. I guess that’s the next “libertarian” objective.

Who knows? We can’t all be entrepreneurs. She’d probably figure something out, though. My guess is she’s write serially, or simply write more, or publish online with advertising revenues, or work product placement into her stories, or work on commission for wealthy patrons. There are tons of business models that don’t rely on monopolizing information.

All these “models” require her ability to be able to control the fruit of her own labor. Otherwise, thousands of other people would be publishing her work and getting the “advertising revenue” within seconds of her publication of the work (I won’t put “her” work since, under this scenario, she doesn’t own it.).

Mike January 22, 2009 at 3:00 pm

“Ok, this is interesting. There are 100 sites on the web publishing Harry Potter fan fiction, some 1000 pages long, all of them illicit. Many of these would be in print. The book stores would carry Harry Potter and 100 HP knockoffs. It would be an industry far larger than the current one. Would Rowling be poorer or richer? I don’t think there is any way to know. But the main thing is that the world be a better place.”

I’ll even go so far as to say that she would likely be poorer, but, as Rothbard would say, “So what?” If X% of her wealth is a result of her IP monopolization, then I don’t care if she would be X% poorer without IP. That’s not to say I think she’d be *poor*, however. Look at Cory Doctorow. He publishes under Creative Commons, and he seems to be doing fine for himself.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 3:05 pm

“All these “models” require her ability to be able to control the fruit of her own labor. Otherwise, thousands of other people would be publishing her work and getting the “advertising revenue” within seconds of her publication of the work (I won’t put “her” work since, under this scenario, she doesn’t own it.).”

What? Maybe you misunderstood me, but no, they don’t. Say you publish online, in regular intervals. Fans would know to visit your site for the next chapter of a story, and would put up with banner ads to do so. If a competing site published with fewer (or no) ads, well, tough. It’s called competition. But you would always have the advantage of being *first* to publish, and I suspect readers would value that, and advertisers would pay extra for it.

RWW January 22, 2009 at 3:08 pm

If a competing site published with fewer (or no) ads, well, tough. It’s called competition.

But Mike, it’s just so distasteful.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm

“But Mike, it’s just so distasteful.”

Time to outlaw rudeness.

Joshua Park January 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Even if we were to limit the business model to selling physical paper books in stores, we still may run into problems. Say, for example, that IP is removed and there are 100 fan fiction stories out there that are good enough to publish and sell. We might assume that it would increase Harry Potter’s popularity (increasing demand), and so the original works would be sold more than before. On the other hand, those people interested in Harry Potter already have a limited supply of money, so their resources might be spent on some Hermione fan-fiction-story rather than the gold-leaf-embossed version of Goblet of Fire. In the latter scenario, Ms. Rowling would have less money than before.

Taking a different approach, what if some publisher, let’s call them Antarctic Fowl Publishing (AFP), decides that they ought to get in on the action and not only reprints Rowling’s books, but they do so at a lower cost. You see, they wouldn’t have an agreement to pay her royalties, so they can pass on the savings to undercut the current publisher. AFP could do the same to the 100 fan-fiction stories, couldn’t they?

Or, am I completely off? I’ve read neither Against Intellectual Monopoly nor Against Intellectual Property (yet), so perhaps I misunderstand the proposals. Do those authors and their supporters seek to rid the world of Copyright, or just Intellectual Property?

This is the difference between reprinting Harry Potter the book vs using Harry Potter the character.

Mike January 22, 2009 at 3:39 pm

“Taking a different approach, what if some publisher, let’s call them Antarctic Fowl Publishing (AFP), decides that they ought to get in on the action and not only reprints Rowling’s books, but they do so at a lower cost. You see, they wouldn’t have an agreement to pay her royalties, so they can pass on the savings to undercut the current publisher. AFP could do the same to the 100 fan-fiction stories, couldn’t they?”

Yes, so long as they don’t defraud the consumer.

“Or, am I completely off? I’ve read neither Against Intellectual Monopoly nor Against Intellectual Property (yet), so perhaps I misunderstand the proposals. Do those authors and their supporters seek to rid the world of Copyright, or just Intellectual Property?”

Copyright is a form of intellectual property, so both.

Joshua Park January 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

“Yes, so long as they don’t defraud the consumer.”

Really? So, the most successful business model in the publishing world would be to re-publish cheaper versions of popular books. They would have significantly lower operating costs if they didn’t have to pay authors. Other publishers would end up paying a small fee to authors so that they could have a crack at the first-run of books, since it would take a bit of time for the knockoff companies to re-produce the books. Why pay big bucks for something that will only be copied and distributed more cheaply by your competition, or freely by Internet folk?

Unless I’m missing something, I think it would drive down the demand for authors drastically. Authors might be able to work out some deal for “first run”, but they certainly wouldn’t get anything after that. Why would a potential author care to spend hours and hours writing some new novel if they know they’ll only scrape out a few pennies from the deal? That is, if they could find any publisher at all who would be willing to pay for new material. Since first-run publishing would be much more costly than reprint publishing, I wonder if the literary world would simply regurgitate all the works that are currently available.

An author might take the plunge anyway and shop out their manuscript to AFP after all. What’s to stop them from saying, “Thanks, mate. Of you go, then; we’re not paying you one Fed Penny.” Even if the author only sends the first three chapters, AFP can still give them the California Wave and hire some hack writer to sloppily finish out the story. No signed contract, right?

Sigh. This isn’t competition–this is madness. (Or, is it Sparta? I’m so confused.)

Mike January 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

Joshua Park,

I don’t mean any offense, but these questions have been addressed ad nauseum in this and other threads. I suggest you read the book in question, “Against Intellectual Monopoly,” which addresses this and many other issues.

Phil Thompson January 22, 2009 at 4:23 pm

I agree strongly with your article “Authors: Beware of Copyright.”

Something many authors may not be aware of is the fact that publishing for free under Creative Commons does not mean working for nothing.

In the last year or two, I have read all or part of a number of novels by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross (two I can think of offhand) by downloading the full text from their websites. And then, having determined that I like the book, I’ve gone ahead and ordered it from a retailer. I wrote to Stross to thank him for letting me download Accelerando so I could confirm it was worth buying, and he replied that he hears that a lot: People who download his books tend to go on to buy them.

It’s the same with the many O’Reilly technical books: I can download many of them from the Web (some even legally) and then I buy the ones I determine I will actually use. I certainly buy more books as a result of intelligently evaluating the contents than I would if I had to drive over an hour to the nearest town with a Barnes & Noble, stand in the aisles, and page through a wall of books at once.

Maybe it’s counterintuitive to authors who have been indoctrinated that copyright == getting paid, but my experience is that creative use of Creative Commons licenses with share and reuse options leads to hard-copy book sales.

Maty January 22, 2009 at 10:40 pm

I think that on the level of principles the problem is that we all use the general word ‘ideas’ here to denote different things—the anti-IP people take it to mean concrete instances of knowledge and therefore rightfully reply that no one can ‘own’ what’s in their heads, while the pro-IP people take it for anything that is non-physical—and hence the confusion.

So why not simplify it?

As I mentioned in a previous post, no can own or copyright an idea per-se—nor can one do so with knowledge. Property is the result of work; either one’s own, or someone else’s. However, when one takes isolated ideas and groups them together in a certain way; in a particular order and fashion that is distinct and personal to him—he creates a new unit. All those ideas that have been previously isolated and continue to be so outside of his work, once formulated by the power of his mind, constitute a new whole. This does not mean that the individual ideas, concepts, information, or knowledge used therein are his property and cannot be used by others—what it means is that the new whole, the particular combination he has attained, is his property and cannot be replicated without consent.

Just because an author is using concepts—non-material units—for raw materials and not steel, concrete or any other physical commodity does it mean that he should not own the end result of his effort? And can you really claim that the end result of his work is only the PHYSICAL book and naught more? After all, what has he been toiling over all those years—binding and pressing papers, or contemplating concepts and grouping them into logical units, glued together by coherence and his unique style of expression?

Just as the mason, whose workplace is physical, would own the house his hands have built—should not a writer, whose workspace is conceptual, own the structure his mind erected?

So if you have worked hard to infer certain truths which the author happened to demonstrate in his book, or even if you have exerted your mental faculties to grasp the contents of his very book, it does not mean that the author now owns the ideas in your mind—you obviously own them because you have worked to put them there, and you are free to use them and express them in any way you wish. However, you are not free to appropriate the author’s expression—even if you memorized his entire text.

Ideas DO NOT equal their expression, formulation, or presentation—even though many of us may hold the same truths in our minds, we all have our own way of explaining and expressing them. If we wish to repeat or paraphrase someone else’s expression—would cite or credit them. Why? Because we acknowledge their work and the fact that even though the idea is equally ours—the expression is theirs.

The thing that concerns me most about the anti-IP arguments presented herein is that they all seem to do away with the process of creation and its significance–regarding man-made creations once revealed to the world as equally metaphysical as the rocks and leaves…

Now, as a foot note, I do hope that this post is going to be answered intelligently and not ignored as my previous lengthily posts. Up to this point I have approached this debate as an exchange of ideas where everyone engaged is seeking to reach the truth, and gave most comments due time and consideration. Others arguing in favor of IP seem to have taken a similarly mature approach, taking the time to consider comments and trying to reason through them (even if not always successfully). However, those arguing against IP seem to have (mostly) confined themselves to being dismissive (bordering on elusive), while at times seemingly aiming at ridicule rather than intelligent discourse.

As for myself, I have been curious to hear the case for anti-IP and was open to challenging my own convictions. However, none of the arguments offered thus far withstood my deconstruction, nor were my counterarguments counteracted. Seeing as much confusion on both side has resulted from the use of analogies on the practical lever—I have sought in this post to bring the matter down to the level of principle, and to two fundamental questions:

1. Is a man entitled to the result of his work, and
2. Is he then entitled to set the terms under which he is willing to trade it?

These questions are at the root of the discussion, and I think that at this point, if we are not to talk in vain, we should strive to focus on the roots.

This would my last attempt to engage in this discourse intelligently, and if again it goes unanswered, I can only conclude that those arguing against IP simply have no answers and stop wasting my time. Those who care can keep on playing in the sand box…

====================================

jeffrey said:

“Would Rowling be poorer or richer? I don’t think there is any way to know. But the main thing is that the world be a better place.”

So much for the ‘individual’ as the standard of value…

Maty January 22, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Sorry, I meant to post the above under ‘A Book That Changes Everything’…

Gil Guillory January 23, 2009 at 7:43 am

Jab writes above:
“Funny how the new libertarianpapers.org uses the Creative Commons license which is based, like the software GPL license, upon copyright law. They could have openly and overtly placed everything in the public domain had they chosen to do so.”

This misunderstands copyright law. It is Federal Law that upon authoring a work, a copyright is created. There is no method under Federal Law by which an author can “place into the public domain” his work. The Creative Commons licenses *must* use copyright law as its basis, because that is the legal environment in which we operate. It would be unwise to merely ignore copyright law, just as it would be unwise to ignore tax law.

Jab January 23, 2009 at 12:13 pm

This misunderstands copyright law. It is Federal Law that upon authoring a work, a copyright is created. There is no method under Federal Law by which an author can “place into the public domain” his work. The Creative Commons licenses *must* use copyright law as its basis, because that is the legal environment in which we operate. It would be unwise to merely ignore copyright law, just as it would be unwise to ignore tax law.

Yet software is often explicitly placed into the public domain.

If “CC 3.0″ is a valid license, you could just as easily create a license that has all the effects of public domain without any restrictions whatsoever. A lot of software is issued with exactly that type of license.

Stephan Kinsella January 23, 2009 at 1:19 pm

For people above who in ignorance criticize us for using the Attribution license instead of just “putting it in the public domain”–there is no reliable way to do this. See my blog posts hereand here regarding this.

Jab January 23, 2009 at 3:40 pm

For people above who in ignorance criticize us for using the Attribution license instead of just “putting it in the public domain”–there is no reliable way to do this. See my blog posts hereand here regarding this.

Yes, I’d seen at least one of your blog posts, but in the Wikipedia article you reference, it has a quote:

Although Computer Associates only mentioned the issue in passing, Nimmer observes that the public domain is particularly rich and valuable for computer programs. He seems to say that a computer program author who wishes to release his work into the public domain may either include it in a book as example code or post it on a “bulletin board” and encourage sharing and distribution. (Nimmer is the treatise most widely cited in copyright opinions, and is generally authoritative)

Publishing work to a website is more “shared and distributed” than either a book or an old-school bulletin board.”

But, again, it’s beside the point. If “CC 3.0″ is a valid, non-revokable license, then you could just as easily make a valid, non-revokable license that had the same effect as public domain — with no requirements, attribution or otherwise.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: