Saturday 2 November 2013

Everyman meets a copyright radical

(In the interests of balance: Everyman learns respect for copyright)

Everyman: Nice set of stickers you have there.
Copyright Radical: Glad you like them. Down with the Copyright Fascists!
E: Excuse me?
RadiC: Just practising. Day of Action tomorrow.
E: About copyright?
RadiC: Knowledge is a common resource. Defend the public domain. Preserve the commons.  Freedom is sharing.  Copyright enslaves us.
E: Seemed like a voluntary exchange when I paid for my books.
RadiC:  Information wants to be free.  Copyright bars the way. 
E: Information isn’t free. Movies don’t get made for nothing. 
RadiC: Free as in speech, not free as in beer. 
E: Doesn’t change anything.  Who will make movies if anyone can copy the product?
RadiC: Paintings came before copyright.
E: When mass copying was impossible.
RadiC: So when copying was expensive, the investment to do it had to be protected.  Now it costs nothing, copying has to be stopped?
E: Aren’t you ignoring public goods? 
RadiC On the contrary. Knowledge is a public good.
E: That sounds bad.
RadiC:  How so?
E: This economics textbook says that consumption of a public good is non-rivalrous and non-excludable.  So an unlimited number of people can take a free ride on the author’s creative investment.  That leads to underproduction of creative works.
RadiC: You can prove anything with economics.
E: The book says that copyright addresses the free rider problem by introducing excludability. It creates the possibility of a functioning market.
RadiC: So we end up with big business controlling knowledge. 
E: Not a dynamic marketplace of ideas?
RadiC: Don’t be ridiculous.
E: Isn’t the alternative worse?
RadiC: Knowledge as the commons. Sounds fine to me.
E: If public goods are underproduced, next thing you have the State stepping in to correct market failure.
RadiC: Collective democratic action.
E: A State-sponsored representative elite controlling the creative commons in the interest of the voter coalitions whose interests it serves.  What’s free - as in speech - about that?
RadiC: You’d rather have unaccountable monopoly US corporations?
E: What the State controls the State rations, including knowledge.  Especially knowledge.
RadiC: This is about copyright, not the State controlling speech.
E: Shouldn’t we just try to have the right amount of copyright? Not too little, not too much.
RadiC: ‘Goldilocks Copyright Now!’ Remind me to make a sticker.  

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