How Copyright Can Be Viewed As Anti-Property
from the removing-rights dept
And, in fact, there's a reasonable argument that when most of the transactions are licenses but are represented as purchases, it's actually very much against the basic principles of property, rather than for them. Martin points us to a fascinating and thoughtful writeup, by Nicklas Lundblad, originally written in Swedish, but the Google translation is quite readable, that discusses how the recent actions by Amazon to delete purchased George Orwell ebooks on the Kindle demonstrates just how anti-property "licensing" is (my own edit of part of the translation):
What is interesting with the time, however, is that it illustrates an example of a conflict that has not been seen very often - between the copyright and ownership of individual copies of a work which we have purchased legally. As noted in the article above, we would probably flinch [if someone] knocked on the door, courteously explained that the publisher who sold us the last part of Harry Potter no longer wants to provide a paper edition, and that therefore they had brought with him a little gasoline to burn up our copy . Most of us would probably shut the door again, put on a little coffee and [laugh]... [if anyone] would try their hand at this. But in the transition to the digital economy it will make it harder for us to protect our own space and our property, as more and more terminals are now sold [with what is] charmingly called a "kill switch". The iPhone will have, like the Kindle and other terminals: an opportunity to, at a distance, without our consent in the case (but we have certainly agreed to it in any agreement anywhere) change the content of the technologies we use.And that very fact is incredibly anti-property. The idea that something we believe we have legitimately purchased can suddenly be snatched away from us, at a distance, with no recourse is not property. It's the opposite of property. In the comments to our original post, someone pointed out that for all the copyright maximalists who like to refer to infringement as "theft," Amazon's deletion of 1984 was a lot closer to "theft" in that people who had purchased something suddenly found that it was gone. Poof. That is extremely anti-property, and anti-free market -- and that's a problem:
The original article goes on to note that while a contractual agreement is the cornerstone of the free market, a license agreement built on copyright is quite different. It's built with a very strong imbalance, backed up by government protectionism, that changes the free market structure. Lundblad notes:
The license is like a parody of a contract because the contract coordinating effect been eliminated from the outset by a law which gives one party all the bargaining power.While I have no doubt that this will upset and anger the folks who believe that copyright is absolutely 100% property, it's a rather compelling explanation of how copyright isn't just not like property, but in many ways is anti-property in that it violates some of the basic tenets of true property and true property rights.