Copyright Redux

Another post on copyright. I'm sure that most of you are tired of it by now. I sure am. But copyright is out of control and the copyright industry is an insatiable and rapacious beast that will happily gobble up our freedoms and destroy the Internet if we let it.

This week I found two excellent articles addressing these problems. One, The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World, explains how copyrights aren't and never were meant to benefit authors, musicians, or other content producers. They were developed explicitly to protect the distributors of artistic content. That is, the publishers and record companies. The article is long and detailed but is mandatory reading. The TL;DR is that copyright began as a means of censoring authors in sixteenth-century England and then as a way of continuing the power and profit of the London Company of Stationers to whom the task of censorship had been outsourced. The article makes the case that the largest fear of the copyright industry is that people will discover this truth. Really, you must read this article.

The second article, The Declared Value System: Managing Monopolies for the Public Good, was written by Karl Fogel over at Falkvinge & Co. on INFOPOLICY. Fogel proposes a fix for the copyright mess. The idea is simple. If the creator does not register a copyright, the work simply enters the public domain. The copyright owner can choose instead to declare a value for the work and register it for a one year copyright for a fixed percentage, 1% say, of the declared value. The copyright could be renewed a limited number of times. At any time a third party can pay the owner the declared value and at that point the work enters the public domain. Read the article for a thorough explanation of the plan and how it balances the rights of creators and the public.

Fogel notes that exactly the same plan would also work to clean up the patent mess which, if anything, is in even worse shape than copyright. The copyright industry, of course, will not like this idea; it's not in accord with their business plan. And they sure don't want people going around talking about the dirty little secret of copyright's history and real purpose. That's why it's important that you spread the word.

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