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Thursday 3 October 2013

Copyrights Should Not Be

Copyrights Should Not Be

I know that's a pretty radical stance, but let's consider the following points: first, as this article aptly points out, the copyright extension has become such a parody of what it was meant to be that nothing at all has technically entered the public domain (that is to say, no copyrights expired) this year, nor will they in any year until 2019! This is an abomination, that our entire civilization's creative and intellectual corpus is basically being held hostage by MIckey Fucking Mouse.The people who have been getting the copyrights endlessly extended would honestly wish that public domain just stopped existing, and they've been trying to define fair use out of existence as well.

Second, however, we have the internet. The game changer. Its more transformative to our world than the printing press. People think of it as an innovation on the scale of TV or Radio; it isn't. Its an innovation on the scale of THE WRITTEN WORD. The power it has to transmit ideas instantly over incredible distances and to almost unthinkable numbers of people, and to allow a person who knows how to use it to obtain almost any kind of information in ridiculously absurdly short spans of time, is something that will have social repercussions that we can barely start to imagine. How this will play out in a generation is unclear, how it will change human culture in 100 years is just unimaginable. What amazes me is just how few people seem to get this.

Certainly, copyright defenders don't seem to get this. And its not surprising that the era of "Everything will be copyrighted forever" and of persecuting what by all rights is fair use in works has come at the same time that the internet has largely made peoples copyrights irrelevant. Anyone can write anything now, and anyone can find anything, and the power to defend one's copyright is already effectively zero. You can't stop internet filesharing, you can only make examples of people (which has been proven not to stop anything). In other words, the entire system is broken.

Third, in the big picture of things, the "system" is not particularly old. We've had "copyright" as a concept for only a tiny sliver of human history. For only a tiny fraction of western history. Its not as important as people think. It was a sensible measure at the time it was created and did good things at that point. It does not do so any longer, because the greed of middlemen and parasites who largely have nothing to do with the creative beings that produce actual works has allowed the entire concept to be hijacked.

But this idea, that without copyright no art will be produced and writers will starve to death, is just bullshit. Most of the greatest works of the western world were produced without copyright. There were other systems by which to make money, if you were a creative person.

And that leads us to the last point: what has to change is not a doubling down on a broken model, but to figure out a new system by which people can afford to make a living writing or painting or singing or whatever. One possibility is the money-up-front model of kickstarter; its just one possibility leading the way of how people will make money with creative works in the future.

Clearly, the world is in a transition phase, and probably most people who read this are not yet mentally ready to accept a paradigm where copyright in its current form no longer exists. But its pretty inevitable that this day will come; unless you want to get rid of the internet, you have to get rid of copyright as a system. We can live in this nebulous netherworld of hypocrisy and make-believe, playing pretend that the old rules still exist so that a few fat old bastards can keep making money, for only so long.


(originally posted March 13, 2012, in the old blog)


  1. So "Arrows of Indra" will be declared to be in the public domain tomorrow?

    Money... mouth...

  2. I think there is a need to compromise between rewarding creators for their work and enabling ideas to re-enter the public domain to encourage new/interesting applications of these ideas. A lot of older properties are hard to preserve because nobody can work out who actually owns the rights. That seems rather extreme.

  3. I'm not the publisher of Arrows of Indra, but I did strongly support the decision on the publisher's part to make it an "open" game. Other people can use most of the material in that game in their own products if they so desire.

    I would also strongly prefer it if, after I'm dead, AoI was freely available rather than making money for some asshole I never knew and who had nothing to do with any facet of the game's creation.

  4. A limited copyright is fine. Same for patents. But it needs to be heavily curtailed. The current laws we have are essentially written to benefit a select few corporations with enough influence on government