Friday, November 28, 2008

Copyrights and wrongs

There was a discussion going on on the LV forums, and I found myself defending copyright. This, from one whose Facebook page's "I'm a Fan of" box consists entirely of open source stuff, and who defended the public domain with equal fervour some time ago.

Meanwhile, Linux called; they wanted their bootleg Ubuntu back.

I'd do some research and make a compelling pro-copyright argument, but after a 20-page essay, I'm not really in that mood. I'd post my arguments on the forum thread, but I'm not feeling argumentative right now. However, the topic really does call for reflection, and I think, it's worth some brain juice.

First, allow me to clear up my position. I am FOR copyright. I think maintaining copyright after the author has died is pointless. AND I think that once the copyright is expired, you better stop asking for royalties!

Copyright generally has a bad rep. Big record companies and million-dollar lawsuits usually don't help with the reputation. But really, the same can be said of a lot of rights, and just because big corporations can sue based on those rights doesn't mean the principles are bad in any way.

Another fact people use to discredit copyright is its relative newness. People will argue that copyright is quite a recent development, and somehow link it to the hegemony of the corporations. Again, just because it is a concept that has been developed recently doesn't mean it's a bad concept. It just means that there were new situations that needed to be addressed, which required new rules. What new situation? Printing. Selling books. Not that people didn't read before, but printing (and general literacy) certainly made books more widespread, along with counterfeiters and plagiarists.

Ideas can't be copyrighted. But a creative work can. Unfortunately, some people are confusing both. Is music an idea? I don't think so. You can have the idea of playing the guitar. You can have the idea of singing about love or hate or war or flowers. But the final song is not a mere idea. The final arrangement of notes, the arrangement of words, that belongs to you.

Why does it belong to you? Why should it? What's so different between a song and a mere idea? After all, isn't the result a mere succession of ideas?


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