Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Specter of Copyism v. Blockheaded Authors

Just posted on SSRN: The Specter of Copyism v. Blockheaded Authors: How User-Generated Content Affects Copyright Policy. Here's the abstract:
Technological advances, because they have radically lowered the costs of creating and distributing expressive works, have shaken the foundations of copyright policy. Once, those who held copyrights in sound recordings, movies, television shows, magazines, and the like could safely assume that the public would do little more than passively consume. Now, though, the masses have seized (peacefully acquired, really) the means of reproducing copyright works, making infringement cheap, easy, and, notwithstanding the law's dictates, widespread. Copyright holders thus understandably fear that their customers have begun to treat expressive works like common property, free for all to use. That, the specter of copyism, does risk upsetting copyright policy, leading to a market failure in the production of expressive works. Even as we recognize that threat, however, we should also appreciate that technological advances have greatly reduced the costs of creating and distributing new works of authorship. Thanks to that deflation, we can increasingly count on authors who care little about the lucre of copyright - blockheads, as Samuel Johnson called them - to supply us with original expressive works. This paper describes the economic push and pull between distributed infringement and distributed authorship - between copyism and blockhead-created content, we might say - and how copyright policy should mediate those forces.

This free-standing article comes largely from various parts of chapters 1, 8, and 9 of my draft book, Intellectual Privilege: Copyright, Common Law, and the Common Good. As always, I welcome your comments.

[Posted at Intellectual Privilege, Agoraphilia, and The Technology Liberation Front.]


Blogger recordjackethistorian said...

As a musician, I’d like to make a rather shocking statement. I think that music has no monetary value. In and of itself, music has no dollar value. I believe that is what the current state of affairs tells us.

I’m not saying that people do not value music highly. To the contrary, they prize it highly. Everyone is impressed when I tell them I play the piano and even more when they find out I can play Mozart and Beethoven. I can enlarge on this idea but there is not space enough.

How do you make sense of what seems to be an impossible situation? First, you must realise the ephemeral nature of music. It is not tangible and therefore does not conform too the usual constraints which allow us to own a car or a piece of property. Copyright law is a piece of fiction which relied on the fact that there was no easy way for the masses to reproduce what they sought to protect. You have already pointed that out.

The other weekend I walked into a Sekora’s classical recordings shop in Vancouver and was greeted by a store full of people. Many of them made purchases while I was there. I was one of them. I could easily have downloaded what I purchased from the Internet. Why didn’t I? The answer is one word. Packaging. I purchased Volume 7 in Hyperion records Schumannn Songs project. The reason was the way it was packaged. There were extensive, valuable notes along with texts presented in a way which I could not reproduce myself without considerable effort.

The Book publishes like the recording industry have completely missed what it is they do best. That is package and distribute. The Internet can do many things, but it will never be able to enable me to download a package like that .. no assembly required.

Nothing could ever replace the education I found on the backs of Long Playing recordings. I doubt they have realised this, and sadly the response to economic difficulties is that the quality of these additional things has gone down the tubes. It is false economy. They drop what was often the deciding factor in a purchase.

Music by itself is disposable. Hard drives crash, iPods are lost or stolen. The truth is that its easy to make more. So Internet users think of their music collections as disposable, just as ephemeral as the sounds recorded on the CD’s who’s music they rip from its container. The serious collectors out there are still collecting. We always will.

Copyright law as it currently stands is unenforceable, counterproductive, a barrier to education and ultimately, a barrier to vibrant and living culture.

I've tried to say to much in to little space, but this is at least food for thought

a.k.a. the Record Jacket Historian

March 3, 2008 at 1:44 AM  

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