Exceptions to the Copyright rule

John Degen, who is a bit of a nemesis to me, (or at least he would be if he acknowledged points of view which were counter to his, rather than simply shades of his own) wrote yet another blog entry recently extolling the virtues of copyright and how good it is that copyright allows authors to provide for their families even after death.

That post argues that since The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald did not reach its full market potential until after his death, it therefore must be a good thing that the term of copyright always extends beyond the life of the author. His argument is a fallacy because such circumstances are the exception rather than the rule and he offers no evidence regarding the effects of copyright for the majority of cases when said copyright is extended for long periods of time.

I have argued many times in the past that copyright in general is a behavioural control that in general limits free expression. It is therefore something we want to exist in minimal form. It has been necessary in the past to help provide an income for creators, and examples of poverty within the arts community has been used to continually extend it. But how much do we need it now?

I argue against John and say that we need weaker copyright now. Why? Because I want to make artists poorer? No. because it is not as necessary any more to provide the incentive. With the cost of production now almost zero, we have many new authors that never would have existed in the previous economy. While obviously no author would turn down money, these authors are not as motivated by it.

The case I present to counter John's is that of Scott Sigler, who took advantage of new technology to distribute his creations for no cost. While he maintains his copyright on the works, and is now a published author making money from his work, he did not start out that way. That is not what motivated him. Therefore society should be able to get just as vibrent a culture or better with less copyright restrictions. Scott's latest book is available for free PDF download too. At least for a while.

Sure John and other might throw my own fallacy back at me and say "Hey, but this guy is the exception too." That may be true, but he is an exception that could not have existed 20 years ago. His mere existence now shows that copyright is not as necessary as it use to be. And he is but one of many.

It is time to consider rolling back copyright not celebrating that it is as long as it currently is.