Chad Perrin: SOB

2 August 2006

The Copyright Double-Standard

Filed under: Cognition,Liberty — apotheon @ 04:41

There’s a double-standard implicit in the common supporting arguments for copyright.

Either only the physical product can be bought, sold, traded, and regulated (in which case copyright is null and void), or the content is the important part (in which case, having paid for it, I should be able to store, loan, copy, and use however I like). You can’t have your cake and eat it too — or, rather, you shouldn’t be able to, but the law says you can. Men with guns and badges will make damned sure you can, too, even if that means everybody else just gets to pay to look at the pretty cake, and salivate over it.

That’s exactly what strong copyright law supporters are trying to do: have their cake and eat it too. They want perpetual control over the content, and to that end claim they’re depending on its sale price to maintain their business model — and really, I don’t see how it’s my problem that their business model is not sustainable anyway. They also want perpetual control over the content (see the difference?), and to that end claim that all they’ve sold is the physical medium by which the content is conveyed. Frankly, if what I was after was purchase of the physical medium without any “owernship” of what it contains, I’d go buy a spindle of CD-Rs, a spindle of DVD-Rs, and a ream of blank paper — not albums, movies, and books.

Ultimately, all this intellectual protectionism property crap is just enforced artificial scarcity, one of the “great evils” of monopolism. Considering that, in legal documentation in the US, copyright and patent law are defined as supporting a “temporary monopoly” (no longer effectively temporary thanks to Disney), one must wonder why anti-trust laws don’t apply.

This was inspired by a bit of discussion elsewhere on the subject of intellectual property, including quotes from Bill Gates wherein he calls his own enjoyment of illegally copied content on YouTube theft.

There was the usual, eminently practical (quoted from another source) bit about how trying to force people to pay for content they don’t think is worth the money results in people simply not buying it, of course. It’s a good point, but not a new one. My favorite quoted-from-another-source, however, was this:

Stealing is bad. Why is that? When I was a child, my parents explained it to me very clearly. Stealing is bad, because if you steal another kid’s toy, that other kid cannot play with it any more. Stealing means taking people’s property away from them. And that is exactly why it is bad. Copyright infringement is NOT stealing. It is like not paying your taxes, or not paying the money the mafia demands from you so they won’t burn down your house. It’s still up for debate which of the two it is, but calling it “theft” is just propaganda. If two people can profit from something that used to belong to only one person, without anything being taken away from the first person, that is called “sharing”. Sharing is good. Your parents probably taught you that. Theft is evil. Sharing is good. If you promise to stop referring to copyright infringement as “theft”, I will stop referring to it as “sharing”, and maybe there can be a fair debate then.

Unfortunately, it’s attributed to “anonymous”.

Personal Note: I make money as a writer. Please don’t respond with spurious arguments about how I’d have a different opinion if I depended on copyright for money.


  1. You should tell that to Mortaine. ):

    Comment by Alex — 11 August 2006 @ 08:10

  2. Err . . . tell what to whom?

    Comment by apotheon — 11 August 2006 @ 10:23

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License