[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Gnu-arch-users] [OT] copyright and economic incentive

From: Tom Lord
Subject: Re: [Gnu-arch-users] [OT] copyright and economic incentive
Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 12:16:28 -0800 (PST)

    > From: address@hidden

    > On Sun, Nov 23, 2003 at 10:46:09AM -0800, Tom Lord wrote:

    > > Perhaps the primary reason for system of copyright is to provide
    > > economic incentive for authors and inventors doing creative work.[1]
    > ...
    > > copyright is a mechanism by which the state may grant 
    > > an economic monopoly regarding some creative work with the aim of
    > > securing for the writer or inventor a sufficient portion of the
    > > economic rewards from the work
    > ...
    > > Recent events demonstrate that if such monopolies are not already
    > > impractical, they will be unambiguously so within our lifetimes.
    > > The "right to copy" is no longer something the state can control.

    > You are obviously confusing patents with copyright.
    > All the above points are valid wrt patents.  They make no sense in a
    > discussion about copyright.

On the contrary -- my comments on copyright and monopoly are a close
paraphrase of discussions between, for example, Thomas Jefferson and
James Madison as they and others were writing the provisions of the US
Constitution that give power to the US federal government to establish
a copyright system.  One of the late drafts of the provision even said
"copyright" rather than simply "exclusive rights" and at least one
analysis I read (sorry, lost the URL) reports that the change was made
in committee, not reported on, and was therefore most likely seen as a
change in form rather than substance.

I suggest googling around a bit for good histories of copyright.  They
are a _little_ hard to find but far from impossible.  Throughout its
long history, copyright and its close antecedents have been
inextricably linked to monopoly.  When these intersect with a shift in
the theory of the state from a system of power descending from a
sovereign ruler to power being granted to the state by soveriegn
individuals, the thinking about the relationship between copyright,
monopoly, and incentive becomes quite clear and well expressed.  In
the US, at least, the courts and legislature uphold that view clearly
and well up until about 30 years ago when our recent troubles started
to arise.

    > Copyright is the legal ownership put on a work. Nothing more. 

I can only answer from a US perspective but you have to be careful
what you mean by "ownership".  Copyright has never been fully
comparable to ownership of land, for example, in the US.  That's
built-in to our constitution.

The question then is, what does "ownership" mean in the context of 
copyright.  The specific parameters of that ownership -- the control
granted to a copyright holder -- that is the monopoly.   Nobody else
shares that control unless the holder permits it.

    > There is no monopoly, certainly no state controlled one.  

Here, however, I will make a comparison to land ownership.

If the state recognizes my ownership of an acre, it has (more or less)
given me a monopoly for the fruits of the productive use of that land.
I might lease it to the farmer next door -- but I would have no basis
for such a lease unless I did not start with a monopoly.  (As an
alternative, we might imagine a society in which the right to farm my
acre belonged to whoever bid to make the most productive use of it --
my monopoly being limited to a grant of 1% of the wholesale price of
the crops produced.)

If the state recognizes my copyright in a book, it has (more or less)
given me a monopoly to make money by printing and selling the book.
My monopoly in the US has been constructed with limits such as "fair
use" or "right of first sale".

    > The primairy reason is, and always will be, to make the work a
    > legal entity that can be under the influence of contracts.  The
    > GPL is a good example of such a contract.

That does not contradict that copyright is a grant of monopoly -- it
is a large part of the essense of it.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]