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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9993/imagining-the-fate-of-copyright-in-a-future-world/

Imagining the Fate of Copyright in a Future World

May 21, 2009 by

There’s been much talk lately of the imminent death of copyright, due in part to the increasing digitization of information and media, the Internet, large bandwidth, and encryption. Nora Ephron, for example, recently observed, “We’re in the last days of copyright, if you want to be grim about it….” And see The Death of Copyright, Item #241, Encryption, Strong Privacy, and the Death of Copyright, The Death of Copyright, and many other such comments.

Imagine a world 150, 200, 500 years from now–when virtually every work of art, every novel, ever movie, song, and recording ever produced until today–and many years after–is public domain. Now imagine you want to play muzak in your elevators, or nice background music in your dental office, or car repair waiting room, or restaurant. Or imagine you want to publish a book (or website) of great paintings. If you want to do these things today, most of the works you’d be intersted in are still covered by copyright. Sure, there are older recordings on scratchy 78 rpm LPs, and musty tomes from the time of the Civil War or earlier–but modern stuff, in color, stereo, hi-fi, with modern acting and special effects–most is still subject to copyright. So to play muzak in your elevator or pipe in nice background music to the ceiling speakers of your waiting room, you have to pay annoying royalties each month.

But even now we are starting to see, with the advent of Google Books, The Internet Archive, and Gutenberg, and so on, increasingly modern books entering the public domain. Imagine 400 years from now, and every movie, song, painting, novel published from the dawn of time, every movie made in the 20th and 21st and 22nd centuries, plus hundreds of thousands or even millions of songs, photographs, paintings, … and the last 100 years or so is still locked up. Now let’s say you want to put up a website the 10,000 great paintings; or stream a music or movie station playing great songs and films–will you pay out the nose for the rights to publish the recent stuff? Well, maybe, but if you have an almost unending cornucopia of great, free stuff to choose from–methinks this might exert a strong downward pressure on the ability of copyright holders to extort much money from you. (And this is disregarding practical problems they face, such as some kid downloading all the world’s media into his petabyte thumb drive in 17 seconds via a totally secure encrypted link.)

{ 27 comments }

theblob May 21, 2009 at 8:15 am

Very nice post. I never believed that copyright would survive in the digital age, because its so easy to get around it. But this point never occured to me. Even if in the future there were strict copyright laws and enforcement, there would be an (practical )unlimited library of great books, movies, paintings and music to choose from.

Matthew May 21, 2009 at 9:14 am

While I acknowledge all your points Stephen, you don’t seem to address the possibility that advances in technology during the next 150/200/500 years will render obsolete the media over which copyright will expire. Just as “scratchy 78 rpm LPs” are now basically obsolete, perhaps so will be today’s latest digital recordings, etc.

David C May 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

Today, if one goes into a school teacher supply store, they may see 20 different books that teach the same thing. All in different formats, all with different approaches, all rewritten from scratch and re-written every few years to appease the copyright gods. Now that copyright is dead, I anticipate a great consolidation, a great standardisation of knowledge, and expensive hard back books will evolve into living work-books or on-line presentations/interaction. Not this college ritual where everyone needs to pay for overpriced books from select suppliers and then re-sell them used every year.

Michael Vogt May 21, 2009 at 10:35 am

@Matthew

It’s hard for me to imagine how the quality of today’s MP3s will be considered obsolete in the future to the point that people will choose not to listen to them. Even if people start to prefer a different format – such as Ogg Vorbis or FLAC files, it would be a trivial matter to convert MP3s to such formats on a computer.

The static of old LPs were very noticeable and distracting, but MP3s and Ogg Vorbis files already represent a decline in quality from CDs, but the convenience of reducing the storage space required for music far outweighs the reduced quality in most people’s minds.

If people did want higher quality audio, then I would have expected DVD-Audio and SACD do have done better on the market. But people haven’t really demonstrated a strong desire for higher quality than they have coming out of their combination of MP3 player and earbuds right now.

2nd Amendment May 21, 2009 at 12:44 pm

As a customer I find Muzak and piping to be extremely annoying as they force unwanted music on me.

I will be very satisfied with silence and reading books while waiting or playing on my PSP !

Muzak needs to go to hell and as a free acting customer I tend to avoid places with muzak unless I really have to use their services.

If IP rights means no muzak then I want more IP rights and high fines, LOL !

Muzak must die painfully and go to hell ! In fact, in Hell people don’t suffer because of fire, they suffer because of the muzak piped from the eternal choir in heaven, LOL !

2nd Amendment May 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Copyright is about controlling atoms, not information.

Any physical place that cannot escape their physical location and that cannot move around or run away from cops will be subject to copyright laws because such places are easy to find and control.

Individuals on the other hand can copy music from the internet and carry it with them all around and it’s difficult to know who has what illegal music. They are anonymous as a whole and nobody knows what they pipe.

Inspectors can’t arrest individuals in the street and control their MP3 players to make sure they have paid for all their music.

So IP rights will continue to haunt and harrass business owners but individuals have the power and will always get around it.

And individuals always got around it, even before the digital age it was easy to copy records and tapes and exchange copies with friends at random gatherings.

Sasha Radeta May 21, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Well imagine a libertarian future world, for change…

Copyright is not an issue for anyone who wants to pay the price for co-ownership of books, CDs, or any other work of ownership (real property). By paying this price, you would obtain the right to replicate these works, publish – or do whatever commercial use you want to do. Unfortunately, some pseudo-libertarians want to pay a small price for only a limited use of someone’s property — and then they want to be free to hijack this good and claim the full ownership they never paid for.

Should we prevent authors to contractually sell only a limited use of their works? Should we abolish the right of property holders to attach restrictions in use of their own goods? By the same token, should we force rent-a-car firms to let their clients do whatever they want with rented vehicles, regardless of terms of use through which they acquired limited access to this property…

If a property owner does not have an absolute control over services derived from his property, this logically implies that the owner does not have a legal capacity to exchange any services or use (such as rent or labor) for real property. Hence, arguing that authors should be prevented from protecting their goods from unwanted use implies aggression against private property.

Unfortunately, a non-economist will have a hard time understand that imposing a zero-price for use of books or CDs (through unrestricted, unauthorized use or theft), you would destroy all financial incentives for authors to provide these services to public. Abolishing property rights in these services would also destroy financial incentives for publishers to purchase co-ownership or publishing rights. Fortunately, that is not what the future really holds.

Regards,

Michael Vogt May 21, 2009 at 2:30 pm

@Sasha

I believe copyright is becoming an issue for people who have absolutely no connection to the author of a book:
http://zenhabits.net/2009/04/feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway-or-the-privatization-of-the-english-language/

If copyright were merely a form of contract between two or more consenting parties, I don’t think it would be problematic. But copyright is applied to people regardless of whether they have consented to any contract, or even had any contact with the author or copyright holder.

Your third paragraph seems to suggest that the loss of copyright would somehow abolish contractual rights for authors, which I don’t understand. Authors would still be free to engage in contracts with publishers, they simply wouldn’t have any control over non-contractual parties. The publisher and author would still have the right to publish first, and the first to market has obvious advantages.

Regarding your fourth paragraph, it is the copyright holder who infringes on the absolute control over the property and physical resources of others, who cannot print rightfully owned ink on paper in a certain order, because copyright laws make it illegal to do so. The aggression against property rights goes in the opposite direction from how you see it.

If your last paragraph were true, then one would think that no author would have published any books before copyright was in place. But books were written before the days of copyright. Even though one can download books such as “Against Intellectual Monopoly” and “Against Intellectual Property” for free, the books have sold very well on Amazon.

David C May 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

@sasha

FYI, it’s the creators who get nailed the hardest with copyright and in practice creativity flourishes without copyright controls. How could you not notice the complete disregard for copyright on the internet, did all the artists, developers, and writers run away and hide? No creativity exploded. However, that is a red herring and you know it, this is really about the just nature of property so lets look at that instead.

In your car rental example, if I rent the car to deliver flowers and they didn’t oppose that in the contract I sign, then I didn’t break any contract. Now if the state came along and said that it did anyhow, that’s 3rd party interference, and regulation, and interference in free markets, and interference in how I use my property. Also, if I lend the car to someone else who unknowingly breaks the contract I signed. He is not liable for the contract, I am. But if the state came along and said he is anyhow, that would once again be 3rd party interference, and regulation, and interference in free markets. Amazingly, you go two steps further and say that the state can impose contracts that I and 3rd parties are obliged to uphold even though no contract was ever signed, and that the state can impose controls on how I use non physical entities that are even more restrictive than with physical ones.

All I can say is that it’s sad that you don’t you believe in free markets and property, however re-defining what property means will not help your argument. Do you own slaves on the plantation? Just because somebody calls something a property right doesn’t mean that it is. So prove it’s a property. And don’t give me platitudes like “you can’t prove free speech”, you are not being asked to prove it’s a right, you are being asked to prove it’s a property. A logical rational entity.

scott t May 21, 2009 at 8:04 pm

“I never believed that copyright would survive in the digital age, because its so easy to get around it.”

i guess….should it have ever been survived at all in any age?

i more or less think not.

i expect numerous market methods would have come into place to fund and promote artistic/intellectual endeavors.

Peter May 22, 2009 at 1:38 am

The static of old LPs were very noticeable and distracting, but MP3s and Ogg Vorbis files already represent a decline in quality from CDs, but the convenience of reducing the storage space required for music far outweighs the reduced quality in most people’s minds.

The “quality reduction” is only a technical issue anyway. If you have some electronics you can detect that the signal coming off the CD and the signal coming out of the Vorbis file are different. But you can’t hear the difference, at reasonable compression settings (e.g., ~160-192kpbs Vorbis; 320kbps MP3)

Sasha Radeta May 22, 2009 at 2:49 am

@ Michael Vogt:

Everyone who purchase only a limited (copyrighted) use of a book, knows well that they are not purchasing the full ownership rights (that cost a lot of money for best-sellers). By purchasing only a limited use, you are entering an implicit contract and its violation is nothing but a trespass against owners’ exclusive rights

Like I said: many non-economists will have a hard time understanding why publishers will loose incentive to purchase publishing rights from authors– when price of their product (print) is set to zero by unauthorized use. But that’s a simple fact that comes from the law of demand and supply.

By the way, market for online books is completely different from market for printed books. I dislike online books and like many others, I choose print. That’s why many authors choose to retain copyright over printed books, although they decide to offer their books online (form of advertising).

The fact that unrestricted access to some service (such as use of printed books) drives its price toward zero is an economic axiom that you can’t ever negate. Also, the fact that zero-price destroys financial incentive to provide this service is also true, although communists built their entire ideology trying to ignore this fact.

There will always be authors of pamphlets who will get financial support from their comrades, even without copyright — but if abolishing copyright is so great for the authors, why the vast majority of them choose to retain copyright protection? It should be their free choice, anyway.

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

David C said:

“In your car rental example, if I rent the car to deliver flowers and they didn’t oppose that in the contract I sign, then I didn’t break any contract. ”

David C illustrates a common fallacy in anti-IP arguments… Beautiful!

David C, if your purchase a strictly limited use of someone else car (rent-a-car), you exchanged property title of your money ONLY for certain services (personal use) stipulated in that contract. in this case, the rightful owner (rental company) decides to retain all other services that can be derived from his good. If you decide to go beyond this contractually permitted use, you are in fact trespassing against another person’s property.

I hope this helps… best regards!

Michael Vogt May 22, 2009 at 10:37 am

@Sasha

You didn’t address the problem of applying copyright laws to people who have made no agreements with the author, publisher, bookseller, or anyone else; such as the website I linked to where a blog was sent a letter from a lawyer for using a common phrase that happens to be the title of a book. Copyright is obviously applied to people who’ve had no connection with the copyright holder or anyone else, without consensual agreement. How is the application of copyright to people who have not agreed to its terms not an act of coercion?

You say people know they are buying limited rights in their books and CDs, but I disagree. I don’t think people do understand that they’re only buying “limited rights,” as I have to explain these concepts to people regularly. (Q: Why can’t we put a recording of a church service on our website? A: Copyright forbids us from distributing recordings of the hymns we sing. Q: Why can’t we use this as background music on our video, we already bought the CD? A: Copyright means we can’t distribute a copy.) Such frequent and repeated experiences tell me that copyright is not understood by the general population.

Thus I don’t believe there is truly any understanding or agreement between the bookseller and customer when a customer buys a book or CD, only a law forced upon them by the government without contract or agreement. When the music industry argues that customers shouldn’t be allowed to rip a CD onto their iPod, this strikes almost all customers as silly. They believe they paid for the music, why can’t they listen to it on a different device? Why can’t they make a copy for their spouse to listen to? I don’t think you’ll ever convince people they really only paid for a “limited use license” instead of for the actual CD and the right to use that CD how you please, like any other piece of physical property. This just shows how unnatural copyright really is.

You also say the problem is a lack of understanding of economics. I don’t claim great expertise in economics, but you really don’t know how much I’ve read or studied the subject, so it’s unreasonable to claim our disagreement is due to my economic ignorance instead of a difference of opinion and understanding. Do you really feel that people like Kinsella and Jeffrey Tucker are just ignorant of economics? It seems apparent that they are knowledgeable in economics, and still disagree with you.

I believe a lack of copyright would indeed drive the prices of books down. But what’s wrong with that? I believe fewer books would be written (but I think there are too many books being written as it is, and resources are being wasted because of that), and I also believe that books would be much cheaper.

It’s understandable why authors and composers support copyright, as it creates artificial scarcity, which can make their products worth more. But why should such favoritism be shown to authors and composers? Authors and composers were paid before our current understanding of copyright was enforced, perhaps they weren’t paid as well, but then books and music were cheaper for everyone else, which is surely not a bad thing.

Your idea that copyright is needed to prevent “zero-price” or create incentive is not supported by evidence or logic. Lack of copyright would not provide unrestricted access to books for consumers, they would still have to be printed by publishers and the first publisher would still have the right to be the first to print through contract law (see the 9/11 Commission Report book for an example of this with a book that has no copyright). Contract law and first to publish gives authors and publishers ample opportunity to make money.

If you read the second chapter (8th page) of “Against Intellectual Monopoly” ( http://www.dklevine.com/general/intellectual/against.htm ) you’ll see that British authors were sometimes paid more by American publishers, despite the fact that there was no copyright protection for foreign works in America at the time. The cheapness of such books might have even contributed to the dramatic rise of literacy rates in America as well.

It seems there would still be plenty of money to be made by authors and composers, they simply wouldn’t be shown such favoritism and make as much as they do now, and consumers would have cheaper goods to buy. A different balance, to be sure, but hardly the disastrous scenario you seem to suggest.

Michael Vogt May 22, 2009 at 10:49 am

@Peter

I agree. The difference is pretty minimal for decent MP3 and Ogg Vorbis files. I like to think I have a pretty good audio system at home, and that I can tell the difference if I really pay attention, but that’s with B&W speakers and a Rotel amplifier and preamp. When you’re listening on a iPod with the included ear buds, I can’t imagine you’re going to notice any difference at all.

I brought up that issue for two reasons. First, to show how concern for quality doesn’t seem to be that great for the average consumer, otherwise they’d stick with bulky CD walkmans. Second, the slight degradation in quality was the only argument I could think of for why MP3 files might be considered “obsolete” in later years, and as you’ve pointed out it’s a very weak argument indeed.

Michael Vogt May 22, 2009 at 11:17 am

Are we already seeing what Kinsella is talking about in the classical music world? I just notice far more recordings being released of music whose copyright has expired. I know this is a small store, but look at the selection at magnatune as an example:
http://magnatune.com/genres/classical/

You have to go to the bottom of the page to find three recordings released of classical music composed after 1800.

I would guess that there are better statistics out there, I’ll have to look around and see what I can find.

Michael Vogt May 22, 2009 at 11:28 am

@Sasha

Out of curiosity, have you read “Against Intellectual Property” or “Against Intellectual Monopoly”?

I was supportive of copyright in a far more limited form and term before I read these books. Slowly my mind has been changed on this issue because of these two books. I’d recommend giving them a look. Against Intellectual Property is pretty short, and you could easily print it off and read it in your spare time within a few days. There’s no reason to avoid reading it, I say! :)

Sasha Radeta May 22, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Michael Vogh said:

You didn’t address the problem of applying copyright laws to people who have made no agreements with the author, publisher, bookseller, or anyone else…

However, I did address that issue. If you never contractually purchased the right to reprint or to publish other person’s book (like putting it online) – and yet you decide to do these activities without owner’s consent – you are clearly trespassing and committing theft. Copyright is properly applied to people who never entered any contract only when they use other person’s property without his permission.

However, there is a beautiful example of economic illiteracy of anti-IP crowd. For example, Michael Vogh said:

When the music industry argues that customers shouldn’t be allowed to rip a CD onto their iPod, this strikes almost all customers as silly. They believe they paid for the music, why can’t they listen to it on a different device?

This argument is simply nonsensical. You cannot ever purchase “music.” You can only purchase real goods or services — in this case the service of limited use of a CD (even stipulated in print). Every rational person knows that the purchase of unlimited access, publishing, or co-ownership rights for these CDs cost a lot more money. That’s the price the publishers pay — an everyone knows it’s lot more than $14.99.

I will not even bother to comment that “British authors were sometimes paid more by American publishers” in absence of copyright… This “sometimes” might be a good argument in a ideological pamphlet, but not in a serious discussion about economics. If a business model of relinquishing copyright is so great and get authors paid more– why every single author give up their copyright protection :-))) Why do we even have this discussion, if authors would get paid more by listening to dr. Kinsella?

You demonstrate another example of your trouble with economics by saying:
they (books) would still have to be printed by publishers and the first publisher would still have the right to be the first to print through contract law (see the 9/11 Commission Report book for an example of this with a book that has no copyright)

Anyone remotely familiar with economics knows that prices for inputs (in this case the prices of original manuscripts) are determined by the price of final goods (in this case the price of public book-use). Also, the current prices are always determined by the expectations of future prices (economics 101). If the prices of printed books always go down toward zero in short period of time, what publisher would be crazy to pay large sum of money to authors? If you think that this radical change would not be harmful to a supply of books, you clearly have a problem with the law of supply. by the way, the 9/11 report had a unprecedented marketing promotion before it was published and cannot be compared to the publicity that an ordinary author can ever get — but tell me please — how much money did the state make with this rubbish? Just curious…

By the way, I never implied that Tucker or dr. Kinsella are economically illiterate. That’s why “Against Intellectual Property” is copyrighted by Mises institute, as you could see from page 2 of this PDF file: http://mises.org/books/against.pdf .

What happened to:
“I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby release it into the public domain. This applies worldwide.

In case this is not legally possible, I grant any entity the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law” ??????

Best regards,

scott t May 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

“Your idea that copyright is needed to prevent “zero-price” or create incentive is not supported by evidence or logic. Lack of copyright would not provide unrestricted access to books for consumers…”

this is likely true.

numerous methods of front-end and direct patronage and artistic ‘retainership’ could be developed for endeavors that are now often copyrighted.

higher prices for real goods to support ‘entertainment divisions’ of companies without the dark-cloud copyright.

Michael Vogt May 22, 2009 at 4:37 pm

However, I did address that issue. If you never contractually purchased the right to reprint or to publish other person’s book (like putting it online) – and yet you decide to do these activities without owner’s consent – you are clearly trespassing and committing theft. Copyright is properly applied to people who never entered any contract only when they use other person’s property without his permission.

The “right” to reprint in the case of copyright is nothing more than a coercive monopoly that creates artificial scarcity.

Did you read the blog post I pointed to? The person simply used a phrase that has been around for many years, but was subsequently used as the title of the book, and the lawyers told him he needed to place a (C) next to it. Do you feel this was copyright “properly applied”?

What about derivative works? Should the copyright holder of Gone With the Wind have “the right” to stop The Wind Done Gone from being published? Is this how copyright promotes creativity? Is this copyright properly applied? Had the author of The Wind Done Gone engaged in a theft that is in any way similar to stealing a car or computer?

Copyright infringement isn’t like theft at all. If I make a copy of a CD, it has not taken a CD away from anyone else. That should be plain for all to see.

This argument is simply nonsensical. You cannot ever purchase “music.” You can only purchase real goods or services — in this case the service of limited use of a CD (even stipulated in print). Every rational person knows that the purchase of unlimited access, publishing, or co-ownership rights for these CDs cost a lot more money. That’s the price the publishers pay — an everyone knows it’s lot more than $14.99.

I was talking about popular conception. You ask a person on the street why they bought a CD, they’ll tell you they wanted the “music.” The value for the consumer is being able to listen to the music contained on a CD when they want. That’s what the consumer pays money for. They don’t have any concept that they’ve paid for a limited use license. They’ve just bought a CD that lets them play music when they want.

Is it nonsensical to think that once you’ve bought a CD you should be able to make a copy for your spouse or make a copy to keep on your iPod? Is this criminal? Have they committed an act of aggression? I think you’re wrong about the general public’s understanding of CDs and copyright. People have been sharing copies of tapes for ages, introducing people to new music. Computers have made this an order of magnitude easier, but I don’t believe that changes the average person’s understanding of copyright.

I will not even bother to comment that “British authors were sometimes paid more by American publishers” in absence of copyright… This “sometimes” might be a good argument in a ideological pamphlet, but not in a serious discussion about economics. If a business model of relinquishing copyright is so great and get authors paid more– why every single author give up their copyright protection :-))) Why do we even have this discussion, if authors would get paid more by listening to dr. Kinsella?

How is a real life example of an author getting paid without the use of copyright not a part of a serious discussion about the economics of copyright? I never said authors would get paid more without copyright, in fact I said I expected the opposite for most authors, since they wouldn’t be allowed to create artificial scarcity for published works. But the point is that there’s no reason to believe that authors won’t be paid for their work.

Anyone remotely familiar with economics knows that prices for inputs (in this case the prices of original manuscripts) are determined by the price of final goods (in this case the price of public book-use). Also, the current prices are always determined by the expectations of future prices (economics 101). If the prices of printed books always go down toward zero in short period of time, what publisher would be crazy to pay large sum of money to authors? If you think that this radical change would not be harmful to a supply of books, you clearly have a problem with the law of supply.

The cost of books will be driven down “towards” zero, but obviously will never reach zero. Why are lower costs for books a bad thing? Only from the perspective of authors and publishers, but you conveniently ignore one side of the equation, the people who buy the books. Should there be no concern for them and the exorbitant prices they have to pay due to monopoly rights granted by government?

The reason a publisher would pay money to an author is that they would be first to publish. That was the point of the example given of American publishers paying British authors, who didn’t have copyright protection in America. How else do you explain American publishers paying British authors? Charity? No, they made more money because they were first to market.

If you think monopoly rights are absolutely required for authors and publishers to make money, I think the person suffering from economic ignorance is you.

by the way, the 9/11 report had a unprecedented marketing promotion before it was published and cannot be compared to the publicity that an ordinary author can ever get — but tell me please — how much money did the state make with this rubbish? Just curious…

You’re totally missing the point. The point is that the first to publish gains a significant advantage in sales without the use of copyright. But since you brought it up, there is some mention of it in Against Intellectual Monopoly:

The 81-year-old publisher struck an unusual publishing deal with the 9/11 commission back in May: Norton agreed to issue the paperback version of the report on the day of its public release….Norton did not pay for the publishing rights, but had to foot the bill for a rush printing and shipping job; the commission did not hand over the manuscript until the last possible moment, in order to prevent leaks. The company will not reveal how much this cost, or when precisely it obtained the report. But expedited printings always cost extra, making it that much more difficult for Norton to realize a profit

So we don’t know how much they paid for the right to first access to the document, but they did pay for it.

I don’t know why Against Intellectual Property, Kinsella would be a better person to ask for that information.

Sasha Radeta May 23, 2009 at 6:54 am

Michael,

In order to avoid miles-long replies, I will only outline basic flaws in your logic:

- ordinary person may think that they can purchase “music,” “beauty,” or “fun”… However, from perspective of law and economics, you can only purchase real goods or services.

- When you purchase strictly limited personal use of a CD (a service) for $14.99, you know well that the full ownership and publishing rights cost much more. If you go beyond the use you purchased – it’s a trespass.

- Law demand always holds: if we nationalize works of authorship by providing full access to goods like books or CDs to people who never paid for these ownership rights – authors will loose financial incentives to provide their services again (supply will go down, regardless of income-effect theory). Furthermore, such nationalization would be nothing but a theft and the first step toward communism.

- Mises Institute is not 9/11 commission. Mises Institute does not have an advantage of advertising “9/11 truth” all over media almost 24/7. In absence of copyright protection, it would only make a few dimes as “first-comers” before unauthorized prints would drive all profits to zero. In such environment of legalized trespass and theft, authors would inevitably suffer huge losses and supply of their works would go down (ceteris paribus). If you think such nationalization would benefit society and stimulate impoverished authors to produce more, why does it not work in other areas (socialism tried and failed)?

By the way, the business model in which you provide free online access as an advertisement, while protecting your printed books with copyright is a great idea for some publishers. However, advocating coercion and theft against those who don’t benefit from such model is simply wrong and unlibertarian.

regards,

newson May 23, 2009 at 7:01 am

to sasha:
when i purchase my $14.95 cd, can i loan it to a friend? or must i send him to a public library to achieve the same end?

newson May 23, 2009 at 7:13 am

to sasha:
how do you reconcile “fair use” with your moral argument for ip?

matskralc May 23, 2009 at 9:03 am

- Law demand always holds: if we nationalize works of authorship by providing full access to goods like books or CDs to people who never paid for these ownership rights – authors will loose financial incentives to provide their services again (supply will go down, regardless of income-effect theory). Furthermore, such nationalization would be nothing but a theft and the first step toward communism.

This is clearly borne out by the fact that nobody ever wrote anything before the 16th and 17th centuries when copyright was invented.

Michael Vogt May 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I had trouble finding this, so want to make it available to others. Copyright is automatically granted in the U.S., regardless of whether you want it or not. The reason why Kinsella’s book has a copyright notice is clearly explained here:
http://blog.mises.org/archives/009240.asp

@ Sasha

We’re obviously at the “agree to disagree” stage, but it seems pretty obvious that you haven’t read Against Intellectual Monopoly where they deal with the real world issues you talk about.

But to point out the flaws in your argument:

You’re obviously inconsistent in your belief about how knowledgeable most people are, choosing to see the general public as having very selective knowledge, whereby they understand copyright very well but don’t understand economics in any meaningful sense. :)

You say people are definitely knowledgeable about what “limited use” licenses consumers have bought in their CD, with absolutely no premise or evidence to back up that assertion. Judging by my own experiences with people and New Zealand’s experiences with lawyers who don’t understand copyright law ( http://is.gd/CHsB ), it’s obvious most people don’t understand copyright at all.

It’s likely people don’t understand it because copyright has no basis in natural law and is merely monopoly privilege creating artificial scarcity, disguised as a right. And if so many lawyers don’t understand it, what on earth makes you think the general population does?

You’re obsessed with pointing out that people can only buy goods and services. Apparently suggesting that the general population is only concerned with the value the CD gives them – allowing them to listen to the music on that CD – is a ghastly sin.

But a CD isn’t just a simple good, is it? It’s really a complicated limited use licensing agreement that only allows you to use it in restricted ways, since copying to an iPod or making a backup copy the moral equivalent of theft in your perspective. Understanding the CD as a “good” doesn’t really make things easier to understand, because the good is encumbered with invisible legal restrictions that are in no way self-evident.

And who suggested nationalization? That’s an obvious strawman argument that came out of nowhere. Without copyright, authors can still make agreements with publishers regarding their works, they simply can’t control it once it’s been published.

And copyright isn’t the same as theft, regardless of how much you try to equivocate copyright with property rights. If you steal my car, I don’t have a car. If someone makes a copy of a CD or book, the original still exists and is available for use. This could not be more apparent.

Copyright holders are those capable of true aggression, in that copyright gives you permission to aggress against other people’s rightfully owned property, preventing them from using it as they see fit.

Sasha Radeta May 25, 2009 at 5:47 am

Newson,

If you purchase the limited use of a CD for $14.99, in absence of any contractual restriction, you can only loan this limited use right to your friend. In this case, all other rights are reserved by the author and any unauthorized use is a trespass.

Fair use is a doctrine that allows copyright “trespass” to occur, as long as there is no financial injury to the owner (non-commercial use).

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matskralc,

your comment is a beautiful example of a basic problem with anti-copyright (nationalization of works of authorship) arguments. Before mass-printing was invented- there was no mass production of books and works of authorship. Printing press allowed authors to sell the limited use of their books — which benefited masses by providing cheep access to knowledge that used to be the privilege of aristocracy. It is interesting to note that you advocate the abolishment of copyright, while advocating the return to dark-ages of publishing and literacy before 16th century.

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Michael Vogt,

the alleged ignorance is not an excuse. You can’t buy “music” – period. You only buy certain limited use — and if you’re not sure what you’re buying, get informed. Information is well disclosed.

Even the most uneducated individual knows that publishing and co-ownership rights for CDs cost lot more than say $14.99. Therefore, copyright is just a defense from trespass of unauthorized use. If you believe in private property rights, you also believe in the right to exclude others from unwanted use of your property, while allowing certain use.

Hans Michaud December 5, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Thanks for the piece. It now seems to me that copyright law might quietly, eventually be ignored to death. After a certain point it may just slowly disappear. Or be eventually forgotten. I appreciate all the work you’ve put into this arena. It’s got me thinking on these matters in ways I wouldn’t have previously.

Louigi Verona December 9, 2009 at 4:52 am

@Sasha

“authors will loose financial incentives to provide their services again”

Perhaps. But it is a grave mistake to think that there are no other incentives apart from financial or that financial incentives are the main ones – on the contrary.

In fact, it is the importance that the financial incentive received that makes a lot of untalented people go into music and literature, hoping to make a fortune.

But art is a discipline of the spirit. Artists have always managed to make a living and the strong argument against the necessity of copyright is the fact that a lot of works, which in many cases surpass the quality of the modern pop culture, were created without any serious financial incentives. Although there were popular musicians and writers, hardly any one of them lived in luxury and it was generally not an incentive to start doing art.

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