Copyright Is Not A Welfare System For Musicians

from the please-explain dept

As the battle over copyright term extension is still going on in the UK, the Register has an interview with a former general manager of Motown, talking about how those in favor of extending the length of performance rights screwed up because they had successful musicians like Cliff Richard as the figurehead for the movement, leading people to question why a successful musician needs any more money. Instead, he points out that they should have focused on the studio musicians or less well known players where "500 quid a year to them that's a significant amount of money." Of course, that bases the entire argument on the idea that copyright is some sort of welfare program for content creators. It's not. It's very clearly laid out purpose is simply to put in place the incentives for creation of new content. The content that was created 50 years ago does not need any more incentive to be created. Yes, additional money to these musicians probably would be nice for them, but copyright isn't designed as a system to support musicians. They did this work 50 years ago. They got paid then, and they've been paid for it for 50 years, as the law stated. It was enough incentive for them back then -- and it's one of the few jobs in the world where you get paid for work you did 50 years ago. If we want to create a welfare system for musicians, that's a different discussion -- but don't try to hide a welfare system in copyright.

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  1. identicon
    Newob, 26 Jan 2007 @ 4:46pm

    A modest proposal

    The intent of copyright is to incent future creators of artistic work. Therefore only creators of art should own copyrights. The business of transferring copyright only leads to the person with the most money owning the most creative works and thusly earning the most benefit from them. This does not incent future artists, it only incents future monopolizers.

    Ideas should be free. A digital copy is more akin to an idea than it is to a physical work. A digital copy is just data, which is essentially an idea from the perspective of a computer which holds that data. We, human beings, are now entering a new phase in the evolution of ideas, in which artificial brains can think and make copies of their ideas, which like lighting one candle with another candle, does not diminish the fire but makes more of it.

    The founders of the Constitution did not have computers and so they did not consider whether computers should be able to share their ideas for free. But Jefferson did specifically say that a thing like fire that can be copied without reducing the original, should be free of ownership.

    I believe that computers should be able to share ideas for free, and so digital copies of songs, software, and all other data should be free of ownership. Copyright should therefore apply only to hard copies and the read-only media that contain data, and should not restrict digital copying.

    Today the law has got the issue of piracy backwards. The transfer of copyright is piracy, because it enables a business which appropriates the rights of creators for the person with the most money. On the other hand, the more abundant a digital copy is, the less possible is plagiarism and counterfeit. Digital distribution, which preserves attribution and permits virtually instantaneous searching and referencing, is the antithesis of plagiarism and counterfeit.

    I have a humble proposal. We, the cognoscenti who perceive that copyright as it exists is hindering the spread of factual information and hindering science, as well as hindering creativity by burdening new artisitic works with the cost of every copyrighted thing that they sample, should petition for an amendment to the constitution. This amemendment at is core should insist on two things: Copyright should not be transferable. Digital copies should be free to share over computer networks.

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