posted Aug 05, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Why Copyright?. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

It is worth taking a moment to justify this.

There are some people who believe that copyright is obsolete, if it ever served any purpose, and that the only solution to our current problems is to simply do away with the concept of "ownership" of "intellectual property" entirely. Disregarding for the moment the philosophical reasons, I would like to focus on the practical issues behind this movement.

This movement seems to be driven by the copyright abuses and excesses of the current intellectual property industries. The draconian decades-long copyright that artificially locks up our cultural heritage, the indignities foisted on us in the name of End User License Agreements (EULA), the foolish and easily abused DMCA (see justification of the "foolish" adjective later) that is powered by copyright concerns... these things and many more are accurately diagnosed as problems with the system. It seems only natural that eliminating the system entirely will do away with these problems entirely.

Indeed, eliminating copyright entirely would eliminate these problems, but I think that solution throws out a lot of good stuff as well. While the focus is naturally on the monetary aspects of "copyright", and the abuses of the system made enticing by the prospect of profit, there are a lot of other important aspects that should not be discarded. First, there are the "moral rights", which are typically considered part of copyright. These include, but are not limited to:

Other countries include such things as the right to respond to criticism in the place it is published, the right to (reasonably) retract, and the right to decide when and where to publish a work (drawn from Ronald B. Standler's Moral Rights of Authors in the USA, last revised May 29, 1998).

Moreover, it remains common sense that by and large, the way to get people to do things is to allow them to profit by doing them. Thus, if you want a rich communication heritage, it stands to reason that allowing people to benefit from creating new messages will encourage people to create.


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