While not enough people recognize it, the real purpose
of copyright law is to provide an incentive for the creation of more content. The government felt that there was a market failure, where not enough "content" would be produced without a limited monopoly, and thus, copyright was born. However, that happened back in the day when creating content wasn't easy. You pretty much had to go through a professional process. These days, thanks to new technologies, creating content is exceptionally easy -- and thus, a big part of the very basis for copyright no longer makes sense. We're drowning in content -- and it's not because of the "incentive" of copyright. There are plenty of incentives for creating content these days and very few have anything to do with copyright.
However, because of that bright line, where copyright was really designed for professional content creators, you end up with bizarre conclusions
about how communications
should be owned
. This stems from the fact that these new technologies have blurred the boundaries between content and communications
. Traditionally, professional content was about a one-to-many communication system. However, today, most content is really about many-to-many communication. This isn't new. Nearly four years ago, we pointed
to some early work by Greg Lastowka and Dan Hunter (who are still doing good work in this field) pointing out how copyright law doesn't make sense
for many-to-many communications.
But with that border being made increasingly blurry (and it's only going to get more so), it's causing more and more people to recognize how troublesome existing copyright law is -- because all it does is hinder
that kind of communication. That is, rather than acting as incentive for content creation (as is it's basic purpose), it's instead hindering content creation. That's because it only targets one increasingly less relevant type of content creation, while hindering the increasingly more popular one. This realization is occurring to more and more people, and the latest is Jeff Jarvis, who has come to the conclusion that the "creative class" is a myth
. And he's right. These days, we're all
the creative class -- and copyright is holding us back.
I've long disagreed with those who say that copyright kills creativity, for I do believe that there is no scarcity of inspiration. But I now understand their position better. I also have learned that when creations are restricted it is the creator who suffers more because his creation won't find its full and true public, its spark finds no kindling, and the fire dies. The creative class, copyright, mass media, and curmudgeonly critics stop what should be a continuing process of creation; like reverse alchemists, they turn abundance into scarcity, gold into lead.
In the essay, Jarvis also dives into a fuller recognition of the economics of scarcity and abundance
But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let's assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.
Welcome to the party, Jeff.