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Thinking More About My Position on Copyright.

People might have noticed that I was suspended not to long ago, mostly because I was running of my mouth and said something that I don't really mean that basically was encouraging people to ignore terms of service on scripts. I have already started this in a status message but let me be clear: I do NOT think that simply because you might not agree with a law/rule/common practice that you should simply be a rebel and ignore it. There is a time and place for that certainly, humanity would not have gotten this far without a bit of rebellion, and I do count myself as an anarchist. But actions have consequences, and you better be damn sure it's worth it before you start breaking rules willy nilly.

 

This was a case of me not thinking about what I was actually saying. The point I was trying to make was more about how arbitrary peoples idea of what counts as "fair use" and what doesn't can be, not a call for people to actually break or even test the rules. It was a stupid point anyway, because it basically assumed the hypocrisy of a straw-man and took two examples in different context and tried to compare them. And it was a pretty trolly thing to say anyway. Not my smartest idea of a thing to say all around. I think I was in a particularly bad mood that day, as my mood really has kinda been going down hill lately, not that that is an excuse.

 

My suspension is not really what I wanted to talk about though. As far as I am concerned it's over and done with. I served my time, and I hopefully won't be repeating the same mistake twice. It did make me want to examine my position on copyright though, and talk a little about some of the doubts and concerns I have with my way of thinking. Because I realize it's often quite radical, even for most people who are for serious copyright reform, and I always find myself going back and forth on some issues:

 

I often want to push for getting rid of copyright altogether, but I sometimes want to hold back from insisting people go that far, mostly because I can see the argument that it isn't always practical for most people to make a living that way, at least not yet. I have often insisted that donation and croudfunding are both still a viable way of making money in a post-copyright world, and I still think that's true. It's a big economic shift though, and one that is likely to take a long long time.

 

Honestly even a basic reform that gets rid of most or all of the huge unnecessary extensions that lobbyists like Disney put in place so they could continue making money off their old stuff and a crackdown on copyright trolls would probably be enough for me to be more or less happy, if not completely satisfied. There are lots of ways to reform copyright that will make it better for everyone without completely abandoning the concept.

 

But I continue to wonder if it would be better to do so or if it would be better to do the hard thing and abandon the concept while rebuilding a whole new economic model. In the extreme long term I tend to think that any system that relies on people simply following the rules is going to fail. This may be too far away to worry about, but what happens when people start going into space and just vanishing and doing their own thing? How will you enforce the rules then? Even now in today's world there is trouble enough and more and more game companies are turning to micro-transactions and the free to play model out of fears of piracy. For each government crackdown, more and more pirates seem to slip through the cracks. Perhaps that is a sign that the rules of the game needs to be changed?

 

Also, the idea of "copyleft" poses something of a dilemma for me. On the one hand, I do like the idea of things like the GPL and Creative Commons encouraging cooperation and guaranteeing that everyone is free to use and distribute anything that uses them but on the other hand. since copyleft is still based on the use of copyright to restrict the freedom of how things can be used, That is why I have always pretty much refused to list any terms of use at all in any of my scripts and conciser them public domain.

 

On the other hand, I don't look at my scripts as that important, and mostly think of them as small hobby projects. If I ever did a large/serious project, I definitely think I would have to think more carefully about if I would want it to really be in the public domain or not, especially if anyone else wanted to contribute. It's just more practical and lets me not worry about things as much. But wouldn't it be hypocritical for me to do so? I am not really sure if my weird brand of ethics is really comparable with copyleft, but practical concerts may end up winning out in this case. I will cross that bridge when I come to it anyway. Heck if it's public domain and someone wants to contribute, they could GPL it without my permission anyway so it might not matter.

 

Also also, in the end maybe I shouldn't worry quite as much about it more then I have to anyway. I don't produce much, and the rest of world is the way the rest of the world is. Truth is, I am very rarely personally effected by copyright. I really don't pirate things at all, even though I used to when is was much younger I guess. Nowadays it's just easier to buy games on steam then to get them any other way, and I think it's a pretty good way to fund developers actually. Donation is a hassle because I really don't use credit cards at all. Buying a steam gift card though is pretty easy. Heck I almost wish steam had a donation system built in so I could use my steam wallet to fund games I like. I don't even buy or play games all that often, and most of my time is spent reading free fanfiction or free youtube videos.

 

Copyright annoys me, but is it really THAT big of a deal? Probably not. Still think it should be reformed or be abolished though, and I still have very strong feelings about it. Probably more then most other political issues, even some of the real important ones. At least it's one of the few issues I feel strongly about that I think most humans are likely to understand my position on.



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I looked back at some of your blogs regarding copyright like this one and that one, but what exactly about copyright are you against?

 

1. Exclusive rights? People owning exclusive rights to use something they created for extended periods of time?

2. Perceived laziness? People not having to make new things and just keep remixing the old and making money off it?

3. Consumer behavior? People ignoring copyrights, and so we should just get rid of copyrights?

4. Free stuff? Getting it for free is better than being forced to pay for it right?

5. Sharks? 3rd party businesses sending out legal threats and shutting everybody down (eg: what's happening on youtube)?

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Basically all of the above, more or less. :P I find copyright flawed in many many ways, some of which can be seen as selfish reasons and some of which are more about the effect on society as a whole. I think in the end a lot of my objections can boil down to one thing: Copyright is purely a legal restriction based on artificially protecting a particular group's economic interests at the expense of everyone else, not one really based on ethical theory or even real social necessity.
 
Look at it this way. What if suddenly it was made illegal to be disrespectful to woman or minorities? What if complicated manners and codes of conduct were to be enforced to insure that all sexist and racist speech were stamped out everywhere? Would this make for a better world? Would this be worth it to eliminate hate speech once and for all? Some might think so! But to enforce such a legal restriction on speech would be an artificial system designed to protect particular interests, not a ethical imperative or social necessity. We deal with letting people use offensive speech because having the freedom to say what you want is more important than the interests of those who would be protected by limiting this freedom.
 
It's the same argument I could use with a lot of issues. Privacy vs security, prohibition and/or the "war on drugs", ect. I do believe there is actually a time and a place for oversight despite being an anarchist. It needs to be someone's job, in my opinion, to make sure people making things are honest and consumers are well informed. Trademarks for example, I find very important, Marking food and other goods as having been inspected and regulated for some basic safety is a good idea, but I believe it is the consumer's choice if they want deregulated or dangerous products.

 

It should not be anyone's job, I think, to choose what form a economic system may take. If you release a "product" that can be copied and redistributed endlessly, why should it not be allowed to be copied and redistributed endlessly? Why does the economic model for software have to take this particular form? Copyright was created as a way to encourage creators to produce more, and though I don't agree it was their place to do that or the way they went about it, okay maybe they felt it was necessary at the time. But I argue it has failed anyway, and has been corrupted more and more by the interests of people who profit from it.

 

TL;DR: I am pretty much against the whole idea of copyright as a whole, not just any one part of it.

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No, I won't look at copyright the same way I do with freedom of speech.

What's the analogy? Some digital products are free, and therefore all digital products should be free because the freedom to obtain any digital good without any artificial barriers such as unwillingness or inability to spend money is more important than those that would be protected by limiting this freedom?

 

If a product can be copied and redistributed endlessly, there's no reason why it should not be.

And it isn't. There is nothing stopping the distributor from copying and distributing it as many as it wants.

 

Or do you feel that anyone should be allowed to take someone else's creations and re-distribute it themselves however they want, whether they intend to do so for monetary gain, or otherwise?

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I mean, I am not sure if I think of it as quite the same thing except in the sense that I feel it's something that it's about if limiting a freedom for the benefit of particular interests, but I feel it's part of the same larger debate.

 

And yes, I do basically feel that anyone should be allowed to take someone else's creations and re-distribute it themselves however they want. Though their are two major caveats to that. First of all, I think trademarks and authenticity should be protected, and people are sure exactly what they are getting and from where. Second of all I think that in such a system where everyone is free to redistribute something, trying to do so for monetary gain will be rightfully seen as sleazy and underhanded and everyone will just look for it for free anyway.

 

I have said before, this does not mean I don't respect people's hard work in creating works. I just do not agree with the notion that creating a work means you should have a government mandated monopoly on it's distribution, nor do I agree that such a monopoly is needed in order for creators to either create works or make a living, nor that I agree that the actual creators of works are even the main beneficiaries of such a system anymore.

 

Also keep in mind, while I don't like the current law, I am not saying simply ignoring it and engaging in piracy is the answer. I am for actual widespread political and cultural change, not obstinate rebellion. Like I said though, my view of it is really quite radical and I do think reasonable reforms would probably be enough for me in most cases, even if a big part of me rather see copyright just abolished.

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I agree, a government should not be required to tell you that if someone makes something, that is their work, and their property, and you do not have the right to take it and do whatever you want with it without their expressed consent.

People should be aware of this themselves and police their own actions.

 

It is true that copyright law is seen as a tool for some people to take advantage of and profit off others' work. For example, getting them to sign into questionable contracts and then taking control of the rights to distribute it and to shut down anyone else that just happens to even mention it anywhere.

 

However, if a company decides to take your work and make it their own, what can you do? Fight them? With what? Social media shaming? A company will likely have the resources to turn your life upside down if you try to go up against them on your own.

Having some legal tools on your end only serves as protection.

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You talk about a company "taking your work", but the only reason that is even a valid concern is mostly because copyright exist. It's because of copyright that works are seen as valuable things that should be sold as products. If copyright didn't exist how would said company make a profit? Though distribution channels? Okay fair enough, but anyone could just find a free version online anyway. What exactly would such a company actually sell?

 

A creator, that's easy. They sell their time and effort, there skills in creating. I have said it before, that's a niche that can easy be filled with donation and crowdfunding. They have no need to market it as a product to be sold. That's what publishers are for, and distributors. And they are the parasitic middle men who benefit the most from copyright, not creators.

 

You talk about the big shadowy corporations that would "take your work" for their own benefit, yet ironically miss that the only reason those corporations exist is that they use and abuse the copyright system. Disney alone is the biggest reason copyright terms are so out of control.

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So not only are you saying all digital products should be free, they should also be distributed free of charge.
Ok, so it's not just the protection of work that you're against, but you're against the idea of making money from one's own creations.
 
Instead of a creator "selling" their work, they should instead "receive donations" from others. Do you feel that if all work was free, more people would be willing to donate?

 

Copyright law protects creators from these publishers and distributors whose business is built on taking others' work and selling it for them. Even if we were to suppose that all digital works are completely free in your post-copyright society, publishers and distributors would still benefit greatly, if not even moreso, from their freedom to use your work however they wish without your consent, and not having to face any consequences.

 

If copyrights did not exist, publishers and distributors would not exist?

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If you mean publishers and distributors would benefit by gathering a whole bunch of software to distribute, that has happened before and has passed without complaint or incidence. There have after all been tons of shareware and freeware CDs in the past, tons of download sites for free software bundles. These only run into problems when the site in question claims the material it's distributing as it's own and/or claims they are the official distributor, which I think falls under the domain of what I think of as trademark law. Like I said, that is important to defend. Perhaps a new system needs to be invented to avoid that type of fraud, but that's not what copyright is for.
 
If you object to the very notion of anyone ever making any kind of money off of something you did, I have to ask why. This does not need to be a zero-sum game. But big shady publishers and distributors banking on exclusively controlling and monopolizing the redistribution of something? Those are the enemy here, and they would be the ones hurt by copyright being abolished. Parasites that cling purely to the legal system in order to protect their business interests are doing nothing but hurting society.
 
I am not opposed to people making money with their own creations, I am just opposed to the idea that they absolutely have to have a monopoly on distribution to do that. And yes, I do think more people would be willing to donate if things were free. But that's not necessarily the only way a person could make money without hard copyright. Look at Red Hat Enterprise Linux for example. They don't use copyright to protect their business model, they use a combination of trademark and offering a good deal of support. Think about Software as a Service. Even though I am not sure that the "free-to-play" model for games is the best one, it can work well and support games without needing any sort of real copyright. What about a funding goal to make and release future installments of a TV show? Heck, even if everyone hates um, what about ads?

 

I am far from certain about a post-copyright world, but I think it's pretty much assured at this point that the world is shifting in that direction anyway. Like it or not copyright is becoming obsolete, and I feel ending it would do a lot of good, and give a lot of freedom to people to be able to do more and work better. So I support it. About the only way I see copyright doing any sort of good is if it is radically reformed and it's terms vastly reduced, more clauses for fair use put in, and maybe an abandonment term put in for archiving and preventing hoarders.

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I think I see where you're coming from.

 

1. All software should be distributed and re-distributed for free.

2. But people can choose to monetize that software however they wish.

 

So if you make a great piece of software, you're going to have to rely on alternative monetization strategies rather than simply selling the software itself.

Like loading it up with ads, or ask for donations and hope people donate.

 

Pay-what-you-want has been extremely successful, so perhaps it isn't actually necessary to sell software.

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Honestly It's probably not that simple, and there are huge problems with a lot of alternative monetization strategies. I recognize the problems can be daunting however and I don't expect radical positive change overnight. Every little victory, every movement, and every real effort for change can push thing in the right direction, but I don't expect for me to snap my fingers and make the world the way I want. Those are still my feelings on the overall goal I think people should be working to and every moment I spend trying to convince people of that goal is meaningful in my eyes.

 

Also. if I had my way money would not be such a big deal in the first place. I could make the argument that entertainment and art is best when it is done out of true love for the craft and not to make money, but we are not likely to enter a post-scarcity economy any time soon (though it may be more possible then you might think), and as long as people need money they will look for ways to make money. But that's kinda more part of a larger discussion about capitalism, and I don't think it really matters to what I am saying about copyright that much.

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