In two simple perspectives on copyright, I brought up some ways one can view copyright in a new light — a light not cast by the copyright dependent corporate industries represented by publishing houses and record labels. Obviously, as simple as they are, neither is meant to be a comprehensive treatment of the matter. I hope, though, that readers will at least consider the statements and how they match up with the reality of the matter. Don’t just dismiss them in your rush to offer your own position on the matter: actually think about them.
I decided to offer this response to one of the more common arguments for copyright law. It begins with a quote from a comment on two simple perspectives on copyright, which encapsulates that argument pretty well:
Copyright allows people to try to make money off of certain types of creative work, which gives them an incentive to actually produce that work.
If you have exclusive rights to it, and it’s popular enough, you may never have to create anything again. For every successful creator who is motivated to create more, there’s another motivated to create less. Worse, in a corporate system, it’s inevitable that the creators will not be the major beneficiaries of the profits from their government granted monopolies on ideas.
Copyright isn’t even necessary to make a good living off your creativity. Selling discrete units is far from the only way to make money from your creations — especially now that technology has advanced so far beyond the days of the Gutenberg press. In fact, while those who’ve succumbed to inertia, who are convinced the only way to make a living on creative works is through copyright law because that’s the only way they’ve ever made money on creative works, lament the greater ease of copying and distributing their works without their permission, the truth is that the increased ease and decreased cost of copying and distribution could be a major windfall for content creators. Think about it — why do writers need publishing houses? Why do musicians need record labels?
They only “need” these corporations’ “help” because of the cost of copying and distributing their work. The amount of revenue you need to generate has to overcome these costs before you make any money — which is why publishing houses and record labels insist on acquiring your copyright in exchange for a relative pittance handout from the profits for your own work. With the ability to copy and distribute your own work so easily and cheaply represented by digital technologies (think: Internet), you can now distribute your work yourself, without going through a corporate middleman, and keep all the profits (minus some minimal overhead, of course).
You don’t need anyone else’s permission to publish your work. You don’t have to give anyone else the power to restrict your ability to do what you want with what you’ve created.
If you’re making money with your creativity, but you have to give up ownership of what you create, you’re getting taken for a ride. Obviously, you shouldn’t just abandon a reliable revenue stream if you need the money. What you should do, though, is look for a way to break free, to regain your independence, and to ensure that no corporation has the legal power to tell you what to do with your own creations.
Maybe, at a later date, I’ll go over some business models you might use to establish that independence, and to generate revenue without relying on the artificial scarcity model that relies on copyright law.