Replacements for Copyright (25 Oct 2004)


So there are a number of different proposals for replacing copyright as a model for funding creative artists (or whatever you wish to call them). Some of them I cringe at, generally they propose a government authority which decides what is `art' and dishes out money to it. Much like a lot of direct government funding of the arts does today. I think I'm cringing in the same way that Ian does at such an idea; I mean 'government', 'art', 'committee' - doesn't it make you cringe? It's almost as bad as 'government', 'NHS', 'national IT project' - but that one actually makes me sick; different story.

So there are also less cringe-worthy proposals such as Fairshare. These are usually based on a market, or at least a model of interacting, self-interested parties. But many people of a certain persuasion hear the word property in `intellectual property' and light up. I think the word association goes something like 'property' → 'no government needed' → 'good'. As far as I can see it's that simple.

I keep hitting these people and they really should know better. Let's look at the difference between the government giving out grants and the current copyright system. In the former we are all forced to give up something (money, via taxes) and this is distributed to others via a process (arts boards, funds etc). In the latter we are all forced to give up something (our right to copy freely) and this is distributed to others (copyright holders). This does lead the actually money being distributed via a market system as opposed to government committee, which is a fairly neat hack, but it has ceased to work.

Ponder what would happen if everyone on Earth suddenly had the ability to duplicate physical objects. You could go to a dinner party, really like the wallpaper and, with a click of the fingers, have it in your own house. I would bet that everyone would, within a week, be required to register and have all their fingers broken. Because it preserves the market, right? And markets are good, even when they're a bastard warping of reality caused by the mass of government distorting space-time around it, right?


So one may very well have issues with voting for a libertarian in California given that they can get a little divergent and unhinged in places. But you don't have to agree with the aims of a person to vote for them. Very few Senators are actually going to have a huge impact on the world. One can vote for someone in order to steer the region towards those goals even if one would stop short of agreeing with them. It's also reasonable to interpolate between governments in successive elections.