Another brief thought on copyright

I think I get it now. Sort of. The other day I was writing I couldn’t get my head around modern copyright issues. Perhaps that was simply because I couldn’t quite accept the newly found insight that copyright is not a natural right.

Basically, it comes down to this: if I repeat what you wrote, be it music or something else, I did not do any harm to you in doing so. I’m not taking away your possessions by copying them.

In fact, it even makes sense for a radically free market to not have such things as copyrights: copyrights empower you to sell your writings/music/code monopolistically, as it were. Abandoning copyright would enable me to compete with you in selling copies of “your” work (note that without the concept of copyright, it’s actually not your work anymore), which in that narrow context would be preferable.

Continuing along those lines, we could see copyright law rather as an example of market regulation: we want to stimulate production of works by granting authors some form of ownership of their work (ownership is something more than authorship). But by doing that we are in effect putting restrictions on trade of those works.

To get to a practical conclusion, illegally distributing files on which others have copyright is not fundamentally the equivalent of stealing their money, although it is effectively, seeing that we have as a community granted them those rights.

I hope my lawyerly friends will say I’m making some (any?) sense…

On a surprising note, after all of the above, I think I still believe that the current system of copyright doesn’t need too much revision. I’ll have to think a bit more about it, but you can certainly expect more posts on this topic someday.

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