Re: Information & Power /Alexandria library

Dan Fabulich (
Tue, 4 May 1999 02:29:54 -0400 (EDT)

On Mon, 3 May 1999, Gina Miller wrote:

> I write poetry, and I wouldn't put it in any type of public eyesight without
> a copyright, this ensures the security of my work. No other party can claim
> it to be theirs, at least not for 70 years or so. This is a measure that
> does hold up in court, if someone else tags their name to a work of poetry I
> created, a copyright proves it. If this is "arguable because we don't
> protect markets in other things", then get on it, don't try to demean what's
> authors have, it's a needed tool. It is for my protection, not the
> government.

This, I think, confuses copyright with plagiarism. No one is proposing that I should be able to say that I wrote your poetry. Abolishing copyright would give me the ability to make copies of your poetry and give it to others, with your name on it, without asking you first.

Many people believe that copyright is unjustified, because, unlike stealing, when I copy your poetry, you still have a copy for yourself, whereas if I were to steal your computer, only I would have the computer. Others, acting on a more Lockean theory of property, might argue that putting in the effort to creating a given piece of information gives one the right to force others not to copy it. I do not believe that there is a fact of the matter at stake here.

With that being said, I think that actually enforcing copyright laws is usually a waste of everyone's time and money, since copying is so easy and so difficult to detect; most law enforcement agencies seem to agree with me, and therefore don't even try to catch end consumers giving away the product, but rather attempt to go after bulk producers selling their product. They, too, will eventually become impossible to catch, thanks mostly to encryption technology and the work of anonymizers around the world.

Nonetheless, there are some obvious advantages to enforcing copyright, such as providing incentives for artists and inventors to do what they do. Without copyright, their works could only be sold at the cost it requires to copy them; as a result, we might expect only to see cheap or free innovations and far, far fewer private investments overall. However, since the cost of trying to effectively enforce copyright is and will continue to be very very high, these benefits may not outweight the cost involved in enforcing the law.