Copyright

Ian Sommerville’s blog provoked this post, as it gave another chance to talk about copyright:

http://se9book.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/acm-considered-harmful/

It’s all wrapped up in the monopoly grants of copyright. Today’s legal morass of “intellectual property” laws and rulings are just one result that exposes the immorality of having any monopoly copyright enforcement at all. I deliberately avoid the word “protection” because it’s more like a Mafiosi type “protection”. Big Boss owns the neighborhood and as long as you recognize his authority and pay up other subjects’ “copyright” charges, he’ll figuratively kneecap anybody who “violates” yours. It’s not so much “figurative”, because they will put you into a cage it is criminal law.

But as we see with ACM and with Hollywood monopolies, the artists and the authors have to pay a very long debt with the Entrenched Monopolists before they are really able to enjoy the fruits of their intellectual labors. That eliminates the only “moral” argument for it.

Copyright began as a way for kings and rulers to censor content they were displeased with, and that is exactly how many people are applying it today. Whence the many youtube notices that say they nixed a video because of complaints from somebody who didn’t like some of their content included in the posting. ¬†Sometimes it was factual content that slipped past a media corporation’s own (self-censoring)editors that contradicted their usual editorial line. This is why NBC will never allow another appearance of two reporters’ interview with Juanita Broadrick.

Better to have reputation sort it out, and there can also be reputation arbiters that themselves earn their fame. I believe in credit where credit is due.

Especially in software, copyright -and patents- is counter-productive. Assume the premise and conclude the absurdio.

Premise: My idea or algorithm is a property right.
Absurdio conclusion: I have the right to extort compensation from any of 7 billion people worldwide who might come up with the same idea or algorithm –even if they got there first!

That’s why there’s so much “preemptive copyright” registrations, and patents. That’s why even attorneys who offer scathing rebukes of the ideas of “intellectual property” are compelled to copyright their own stuff, to protect their own use of it.

That’s why Richard Stallman himself says he created the GPL and the LGPL, and Eric Raymond the Open Source Foundation. At MIT they saw people take the innovations of code written by hackers in the lab like themselves and slap a copyright lock on it. That’s theft. Hollywood movie studios are among the worst historical offenders of their own stated principles.

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