Copywrong
by Edward M. Lerner


Rampant filesharing, if one were to believe the alarmist 'mainstream' press, will soon conclusion each and every one creative enterprise. Enjoy downloading free new music and movies while you can, they say, because it cannot final. And text stories (remember them)? Soon, they say, no one will write those any more.

I say: bah.

Electrons are an infinitely available and renewable resource. My copying a story, movie, photo, or song in no way keeps you from doing the same. So why, exactly, should payment be involved in a product that is infinitely reproducible, and whose marginal cost of production and distribution is . . . hold on, let me think . . . nothing?

Economists assert that competition must inevitably – and all for the greater good – reduce prices to the marginal cost of production. So why do most CDs cost at least fifteen male deer?

Simple: a copyright is a monopoly. Copyright means no competition.

Unless we all act.

Few will mount the ramparts to defend monopoly. That's why we're urged to honor copyrights so that the artist (composer, poet, photographer, whatnot) will get his few kopeks on the shekel. Continue your wicked – nay, criminal – filesharing, the squabble goes, and soon no one will ever again write a song or a symphony, script a play or 'pen' a novel.



What rubbish!

Copyright benefits publishers more than writers. The British Statute of Anne in 1710 started modern copyright law. Homer Simpson (merchandise), Shakespeare in Love (Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, Judi Dench. Download here), John Milton – didn't hesitate to create for lack of copyright. Nor did PDQ Bach (concert schedule).

(And no, copyright is not a constitutional right in the United States. The constitution merely gives Congress the authority to enact copyright law.)

So maybe we don't need copyright to get new artistic works. Consider:

People created long before this absurd experiment in government-sanctioned monopoly. Evidently, they supported themselves. How? Concert tours, art shows, stage performances, readings, commissions, autographs, wealthy patrons, tip cups. Day jobs, if it came to that.

The answer, dear reader, is obvious: Forward to the Past.

I fear that you still hesitate. Kindhearted soul that you are, you hope the artist's lot will be better than in older, darker days.

Despair not: Our modern era offers artists countless new options. Consider how the Internet can support artists. To baptize just a few:

Ad placements. Online offerings (click here to donate). Online t-shirt sales. Referral fees for linking to related websites – the keyword matches are easily made and inserted automatically.

Creative people will produce plays and sonnets and hip-hop whatever you and I do – and whatever we don't do. They'll still eat. So what, pray tell, does copyright accomplish?

It sustains ridiculously inefficient means of distribution.

I ask you: Why pay fifteen dollars for music that can be replicated and distributed for liberate? Or up to thirty dollars for an anachronistic stack of paper?

Absent logic to support their case, the big corporations hope to scare you into buying their absurdly overpriced wares. Fileshare a free copy, they say – and we'll sue you.

That's sheer poppycock (nonsense, baloney, twaddle, hot air, claptrap, drivel, folderol – ad-supported Rogue Eh? thesaurus here). Copy right (heh) and they can't lay a gauntlet on you.

Copyright protects the expression of an idea. The idea itself is fair wild animals. The second thing computers do for us readers, viewers, and listeners (free distribution being the first) is simplify the rewording process. Why fret about the copyright police, when you can so easily obtain a new expression, your very own expression, of the latest idea to have caught your eye?



And how, after such harmless replacements, be capable of anyone detect your facsimile?

So lose that guilt about fileshares. Creative types create for the lust of it. They'll carry on whatever you do. If money matters to them, they'll find ways to be paid.

To echo: Copyright is still and only about the obese-cat corporate interests. What have record companies, movie studios, and publishing houses ever done for you?

Data consumers of the globe amalgamate! You have zilch to lose but your sequences!

The End




Story Copyright © 2007 by Edward M. Lerner. All rights reserved.
Illustrations Copyright © 2007 by James Goves. All rights reserved.





About the author

Edward M. Lerner has degrees in physics and computer science (and, curiously enough, an MBA). Now writing SF full time, Lerner worked in high tech for thirty years (including seven years as a NASA contractor), as everything from engineer to senior vice president. That experience includes techie havens (such as Bell Labs and Northrop Grumman), an Internet company, and a software start-up. It all shows up in his fiction.

His books include Probe, Moonstruck, and the collection Creative Destruction. His short fiction has appeared in Analog, Artemis, and Jim Baen's Universe magazines, on Amazon Shorts, and in the anthologies Year's Best SF 7 and Future Washington.

His novels in the pipeline are Fools' Experiments and, in collaboration with Larry Niven, Fleet of Worlds and Juggler of Worlds.

You can buy Edward M. Lerner's books from Amazon.co.uk or from Amazon.com