Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The end of copyright

This article by Ernest Adams succintly encapsulates many of the thoughts I've had about copyright.
There’s no intrinsic reason why someone should continue to get paid for something long, long after the labor they expended on it is complete. Architects don’t get paid every time someone steps into one of their buildings. They’re paid to design the building, and that’s that. The ostensible reason we have patent and copyright law is, as the US Constitution says, “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” But travesties like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act don’t promote the progress of science; they actively discourage it. So do software and biotechnology patents. The patent system was intended to allow inventors to profit for a limited time on particular inventions, not to allow huge technology companies to put a stranglehold on innovation by patenting every tiny advance they make.

After addressing the "how will artists get paid" question, Adams makes the most important point in this debate:
Of course, some alternative distribution models still rely on copyright, and publishers will still be trying to prevent people from redistributing their content. But sooner or later that model is doomed. The perceived value of a thing is inversely proportional to the ease with which it can be duplicated. If the public simply refuse to acknowledge that copying books or movies or software is wrong, then in a democracy, it will eventually cease to be wrong. People elect the legislators, and legislators make the laws.



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