I have talked before about how I hate current copyright laws and how I think they will one day change, maybe even to the extreme of abolishing copyright all together. I did not however speculate that much on what kind of legal systems will be put in place in the future, with the exception of my belief in the eventual domination in the economic systems of crowd funding, open source, free software, and creative commons.
But not to long ago I got to watching
This got me thinking. It was similar to something I always insisted was true when it came to "intellectual property". Copyright and patents can go screw themselves as far as I am concerned, but trademarks are important. No not just important, important. It's vital that when you buy a product or service you know exactly what you are dealing with and that who you buy it from can be trusted. Without this, all commerce completely falls apart. And it also made me wonder if the attempt at combining copyright, patents, and trademarks into one thing like my oh so hated propaganda term "intellectual property" implies might not be so far from the mark. Of course it still needs to be approached form a completely different angle, and "intellectual property" is still a dumb, backwards, and rather scary concept, but still, credit where credit is due.
So, here is my not so modest proposal about some principles that a new system of laws should hold to:
Information isn't property. First of all this ridiculous fiction of "intellectual property" needs to stop now. If businesses and livelihoods dedicated to creating art or technologies need to be protected, and I agree they do, this isn't the way to do it. It simply isn't. No more talk about "stealing" information. No more propaganda about "ownership" of abstract things. No. This is another issue altogether. This has no more to do with ownership then free speech or privacy does (except to the degree that you own yourself), and in fact has a lot more to do with those two things. Information is something entirely different.
Brand and reputation are important, not content. Let's face it... if, for example, Disney did lose Mickey Mouse's copyright to the public domain (like they should have decades ago)? They would still have trademarks to fall back on. You might be tempted to say that kind of thing is an abuse of trademark law, and maybe it kind of is... but at the same time it kind of is not. A trademark is supposed to protect buyers from making fraudulent purchases. If you buy a movie that has Mickey Mouse splashed on the cover and featured in a staring role, you expect it to come form Disney, and you expect that to mean a particular type of content or level of quality or authenticity. The content hardly matters, you are being sold the brand. That's how basic trademark law works, and it can support a lot of businesses just on it's own.
Remixing content is not the same thing as ripping people off. Lets look at something that sorta exists on the edge of copyright. The good old
. We could talk about a lot of stuff here, like fanfiction, fanart, and good old Rule 34, but I am choosing abridged series because it is closely derived from the original material. Is it legal that you can cut up a bunch of footage form a show and make your own thing from it? Apparently yes because it's a "parody". But, a reasonable objection might be that label of "parody" is rather subjective. Heck, if I had a dime for every video on youtube that was called a "parody" without really being a parody at all... So why not allow all sorts of uses? Telling new stories, creating new fan episodes... and the answer is mostly context. Fair use exists to allow content to be shown in different contexts. You will also notice many later abridged series works, and a hell of a lot of fan fiction, show a little disclaimer at the start like the one at the start of. Thing is? This type of "I don't own this" disclaimer I am pretty sure is completely without legal function. But if it does have one it is to insure that the watcher/reader understands that the work is made in a different context, and that this work should not reflect on the original brand. As far as fair use is concerned, in many situations this shift in context is implied with particular works, but not all, and anything outside of these particular works there is no shift in context and therefor they are unprotected. I say all works that are made in a different context and which do not try to deceive and cannot be taken to be an official product should be.
Creators should be compensated for their labor, but that's it. The original intent of the copyright law was to encourage creators to create, not for them to sit back and reap the rewards for past works, and certainly not to have the rights to all their old works hoarded by huge corporations for decades and decades past their death. The fact is that copyright law has had almost the exact opposite effect: It's stifled innovation and just created a culture filled with parasitic middle men and money grubbing suits. Okay you think a creator should make a living off creating? Fine. You think they should maybe have some exclusive time to distribute works? Okay maybe. If it's no more then ten years. Tops. Maybe it made more sense to have longer terms before but in today's rapidly evolving world there is no point in it. You want more money after that? Be someone worth paying money to!
Redistribution is a matter of trust, respect, and good service, not entitlement. Let's face it, piracy is not going away. Yet it hardly matters as much as it once did. Digital download services are booming, largely because the companies involved learned the most important lesson: Offer a trusted way with good service that lets they pay creators they respect, and most people will do it. Try to enforce your self-entitled belief that you deserve to make money on x thing because you happened to make it and people will ignore you or actively push back. To have trust, the users must be sure they are getting what they think they are getting and paying the people they think they are paying. To have respect, the users must know and understand the reputation of the people they are paying. To have good service the people that they are paying must work for the uses, not opposed to them. It's really that simple. Without trust, the users will find someone they do trust more. Without respect, the users have no reason not to try and get everything they can for free and wouldn't likely by it anyway, and without good service the users will be frustrated trying to buy form you at all. Now does that mean the legal pressure on pirates should just vanish? Eh... maybe not. But on the other hand, I see no reason why people should be protected from them for not having enough of any of those three things.
That's all for now. Maybe some of these don't match up together perfectly... But I think it's a good start to think about at least.