The ideology of copyright

Peter Nowak is currently running a series of posts offering predictions about the future of science and techology, including weather control (!). The whole series (actually, the entire blog) is worth reading, but today he has a post about the future of copyright, an issue of some interest to me. It’s titled “2021: The move to worldwide copyright,” but I wonder if a better title wouldn’t be “The move to worldwide licensing.” I’m pretty fixated on copyright these days, not so much on licensing, so I’d be happy to hear from anyone with an opinion on the subject. Any thoughts?

Anyway, I’ve posted a couple of lengthy comments there, including one in response to some typically insightful remarks by Russell McOrmond.

The comments allowed me to put to paper something I’ve been thinking about for a while: what would it take for people, companies and governments to move beyond a fixation on copyright toward a focus on what copyright is supposed to do, namely regulate the market in creative works. Competition, I think, isn’t enough:

When it comes to copyright, we’re dealing with a centuries-old policy that is rooted in two core Western beliefs: property and the individual. The major international copyright institutions (WIPO, TRIPS, and now ACTA) are devoted to promoting copyright. It’s so deeply ingrained that people talk as if it’s an end unto itself, rather than one specific tool for regulating markets in creative works. Once people in power start talking about copyright as a tool that should be judged on its effects, then change will become more likely. My biggest hope for the copyright debate is that it will one day shift from the realm of philosophy and legal theory to that of empirical economics. I’m still waiting.

At this point in time, it’s quite obvious that publishers, the other content industries and content creators who profit from the current copyright system believe as a matter of faith that copying is stealing. Hence the lobbying and the legal battles. A decade of bad press and faltering business models haven’t changed that. As far as I can tell, there seems to be very little evidence to suggest that this will change anytime soon. It has nothing with anyone being stupid. One’s ideologies change very slowly, if at all, since they’re at the core of our self-perception. It’s not surprising that companies, run by humans, leave money on the table all the time and often commit what seems like suicide rather than change with the times. I’m not going to make any predictions, but I’d suggest that taking ideology into account may complicate the story.

Read the whole post here.

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