Re: Copyrights

David Blenkinsop (
Wed, 12 May 1999 21:54:14 -0600

Earlier, wrote:

> David Blenkinsop wrote:

> >Just thought I'd drop in on this to say that I find this "no need for
> >copyrights" school of thought to be intriguing, however, it does seem
> >sort of impractical, somehow.
> And then:
> >Strictly speaking,
> >stealing something whose copies are inherently unlimited is a nonsense
> >proposition -- and maybe we've recognized that, now, in the popularity
> >of shareware, where copying is not in itself held to be a crime?
> So which is it? In one paragraph you claim that eliminating copyright is
> impractical, in the other you claim that copyright on digital data is
> nonsense... as we're saying.

Sometimes analogies can have a truth to them that goes beyond what literally makes sense -- perhaps I didn't make that perfectly clear, before. If company X develops an information product, named "Y", only to have that product stolen by a free riding competitor, then in such a case the word "stolen" doesn't really have its most usual meaning, i.e., the meaning of corporation X being deprived of the use of something *tangible*. In effect, the complaint of the "X" folks would be that their expense in developing product "Y" has been ruined, as the market has been taken over, effortlessly, by someone else, thus leaving no one with any real incentive to make the effort of developing such products in the future. What's really been stolen is something intangible, namely the market for a product that wouldn't have existed without company X, and *yes*, it certainly can work out that X is deprived of a market, which should have been theirs!

The point is, the "X" people may have a valid claim by reason of having made a specific investment in creating information that people are willing to buy. Thus, the use of words like "steal" and "pirate" for copyright infringements -- and, again, note the limitations of the analogy between stealing an actual "something" on the one hand and "stealing" a marketable info package on the other. If an end user copies an info package for a friend, he can give it away, and keep it, both, but it certainly isn't clear if he's "cut into" a well deserved "company X market" by that act alone.

> But more importantly, you're ignoring the economics of digital distribution.
> Suppose I want a copy of the latest novel by Joe Blow; what do I do: go to
> and pay $0.50 for a copy direct from them, or go to Usenet,
> post asking if someone has a copy to send to me and then arrange for them
> to email it? I don't know about you, but I earn more than $0.50 every
> minute, so it's literally not worth my time to bother trying to avoid paying
> that price. And, incidentally, all the software I write is given away free
> on the Web... works for us.

Suppose your very first search for this novel turns up a "pirate" site that gives away the novel for free, or perhaps just at the cost of viewing an ad or two -- and, say it's unauthorized and returns no cash to the author? Wouldn't you see that as cutting into a legitimate market "turf" for the writer and/or his business associates, perhaps even to the point of discouraging any further quality writing in that type of market?

As for free software, I don't know your business situation, but if you can put out handy and useful information for free, and make money on associated needs or services, then more power to you. I'd still have to think there might also be a need for marketable info -- so are you saying that you wish to take something away from the marketers of shareware, let's say?

> I don't have a particular problem with laws against *selling* unauthorized
> copies, but that's an entirely seperate issue. I have no problem at all with
> laws against selling unauthorized copies and claiming that they're
> authorized copies, but that's just plain old fraud.

Isn't a law against selling unauthorized copies just the same thing as copyright law, to all practical intents and purposes? If unauthorized copying for the sake of making commerce is a crime and a fraud, why then, we are quite in agreement, it would seem! Myself, I can make fun of attitudes that seem to take "piracy" too literally, but I can still see that there's probably a legitimate business rationale for preventing fraudulent copying. What I like to see, really, is the use of technology and business to actually develop things that people need or want, but stealing away the results of some particular marketable effort wouldn't seem to advance that end.

David Blenkinsop <>