A few people have directed my attention to copyright lawyer Mark Fischer's review of Larry Lessig's most recent book, Remix
. The review is worth reading -- and there are some points on which I agree with Fischer -- particularly with the near impossibility of separating
commercial use from non-commercial use. While Fischer seems sympathetic to the idea that there are some problems with copyright law, he keeps going back to one central idea that is the core of his problem with Lessig's book: that allowing others to remix content without getting permission potentially harms the "original creator."
This is a myth that is all too often found in IP law -- both in patents and in copyrights. This concept of the "original creator" of a piece of work. All works are built on those that came before. All works are inspired by and use bits and pieces of what they've learned or what they've seen, heard and felt. Pretending that there is a true original creator who deserves credit, money or control is a problem -- because it means no
new creative works could be done without getting permission. That would be a tremendous hindrance on creation -- rather than progress (as the Constitution intends).
But because of this false belief in an original creator, Fischer creates some tradeoffs that don't really occur. Specifically, he notes:
If we move toward making content free for copying, distribution and remixing, the professional creators and their distributors will have an even tougher future. Erosion of the copyright system comes at a price. If we have to choose between encouraging original creativity and remixing, why not err on the side of encouraging the originators?
There are multiple problems with this statement. It makes the assumption that allowing free copying of your works makes it harder to earn money. Yet, that's not what we're seeing at all. Those who put in place smart business models
have found that it's even easier to make make a lot more money
than in the previous method. Erosion of the copyright system does not come at a price. It merely changes the business model around, and opens up tremendous new opportunities. And that's for everyone
because it makes the process of building on the works of others easier -- and since all
creativity really does come from building on the works of others, then creativity has the ability to flourish.
So, let's get rid of this myth that there's some "original content creator" and that said "original content creator" needs to be "protected." Neither point is true. Every content creator is building on the works of others, and there are plenty of business models that can be put in place easily that don't require "protection" at all. It may be more difficult for someone who makes their living helping enforce those protections to see it, but we're seeing it every day. Why block off all those innovative new content creators just because of a couple of myths?