Re: Information & Power /Copyrights

Lee Daniel Crocker (
Tue, 4 May 1999 15:37:50 -0700 (PDT)

> >No one can claim your work as theirs, ever, even without copyright--
> >that's simple fraud.
> In theory, perhaps. In practice, there isn't anything you can do about it
> unless you also have copyright protection. This is because you can only sue
> over a fraud that causes monetary damage of some kind - and if your work is
> not protected by copyright, you can't possibly prove such harm.

That's partly true, in practice. But a finding of fraud would not require harm to the author--it would require harm to the consumer, also hard to prove but not impossible. In a world without copyrights, the author's physical availability, timeliness, and other intangibles will have significant monetary value beyond the mere product. One who represents that ey can provide those values when ey cannot has done measurable, prosecutable harm to customers and to the reputation of the original author. In a world without copyrights, these things would have to be taken more seriously by the courts; today, authors rely on copyrights instead.

> If I post someone's work as my own, we have the case mentioned above. If I
> publish it with no attribution at all, the only law I have violated is the
> copyright.

And your point is?

> First, allow me to point out that a programmer is in a completely different
> situation that a novelist, an artist, or a film producer...

Very true. The abolition of copyright in software (and the even more hideous impediment of software patents) is much easier than the case for novels and movies, because it requires less imagination (we have existing examples to point to).

> For writers, musicians, and other such content creators, the situation is
> completely different. Once produced, their works are completely static
> bodies of information. You don't have to worry about version 2.0, or bug
> fixes, or compatability with other products, or any other such support
> issues. Consequently, there is no particular reason why anyone would ever
> need to bother with paying the author. Abolishing copyright would
> completely destroy the monetary value of such works, leaving their authors
> with no means of getting paid.

That's two different contentions that you intermix: (1) destroying the value of the work itself, and (2) destroying the artists' means of making money. Today, because of copyright, it is assumed that they are the same thing--artists make money by selling their works. In a world without copyrights, things change, but artists still make money-- probably more--just in different ways. Value is created by demand, and the creative talents of artists will always be in demand. Today, authors do free tours to support book sales. Without copyright, they'd probably sell books to advertise profit-making personal appearances or other services. Books and movies would have more advertisements. There would be a lot of cheap knock-off works, so official endorsements and recommendations would carry more weight (and therefore more value). Without copyrights, the artist's research is cheap and easy. Ey gets hired for a lot more one-off work doing things like news and commercials. Ey gets hired to help translate, interpret, and adapt others' work. Yes, abolishing copyright reduces the marketability of the work product. But it does nothing to the real value--the artist's creative work itself. And it makes the work products of all artists available to everyone--including other artists--to the benefit of all.

I've spoken a lot more about this in the archives, so forgive me for being short here, but I haven't had a good debate on the subject in a while, so I'm due for some exercise.

Lee Daniel Crocker <> <>
"All inventions or works of authorship original to me, herein and past,
are placed irrevocably in the public domain, and may be used or modified
for any purpose, without permission, attribution, or notification."--LDC