|Hey Hacker News.|
I guess I often think like a hacker or a mathematician, in that I consider the simple component parts, and imagine them in different combinations, and try to extract general principles of things.
Something about copyright has always seemed very anachronistic to me. I mean, I know it's the law, and yet it's so hard to enforce, ever since the means of copying has become electronic.
In fact, a monopoly over intellectual property seems somehow inherently wrong to me. Never mind the fact that long-lived software patents are harmful in such a fast-moving industry, or that worked composed after 1930 will likely never enter the public domain, thanks to lobbying of the Congress every few years by special interests to extend the term of copyright. Never mind the efforts by the RIAA that bear a resemblance to extortion. The very principle that someone should have absolute say over who in the world can make a copy or derivative work of something they have released, seems to be flawed. If you don't think so, read on.
Certainly changing the situation by argument is not going to be easy. Lots of people may argue one way or the other, but policy is usually decided when issues come to a head.
I am considering doing an extremely controversial hack in order to highlight the problems with the copyright system. From what I know, the hack is completely legal, because of the very law that is in place. It can generate a lot of money for anyone who reads this and decides to do it, and at the same time if enough people do it, it will gain media attention and lawmakers will have to rethink copyright policy. But at the same time I AM NOT RECOMMENDING IT TO ANYONE because I am not a lawyer. Check with your lawyer before attempting this. I am just thinking out loud at this point and this is not legal advice or encouragement to action :)
Here is the hack:
A pyramid scheme is illegal, because it exists solely to make money from new people signing up. A multi-level marketing scheme on the other hand is legal, and the major difference is: there is a product, and the focus is on selling the product, not on signing people up.
Well, you say, why not turn a pyramid scheme into a multi-level marketing scheme by simply selling "air" as the product? Well, the product has to be something that people want. Enter... COPYRIGHT.
1) Make a copyrighted work of actual value. Say, a computer program, a recipe, an e-book, or just a nice painting.
2) Sell copyright licenses in the following way: if any person buys ONE copy of your work, they then can get commissions if they refer buyers to you. That is the ONLY way to become an affiliate.
3) Any affiliate can get commissions up to, say, 4 levels deep for copies their buyers helped sell to others, etc.
Remember, due to copyright law, you have absolute say as to who has a license to copy the book and who hasn't. You simply set the rules to make it a multi-level marketing scheme.
Except what is the difference between this and a pyramid scheme? How much does it cost to copy the book? Practically ZERO. Unlike Amway, Mary Kay, Herbalife and other companies that have done MLM with actual products, this has almost ZERO transactional cost and negligible cost per item sold, and the marketing is viral. The copyright law currently applies equally to electronic copies that cost $0 to produce and tangible physical copies.
The economics of this MLM scheme are exactly the same as a pyramid scheme. If someone challenges the legality of this, you just point them here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/ and explain that you as the copyright owner are the sole arbiter of who can sell your copyrighted work and how, and you are at liberty to compensate whomever you wish for selling your work with a commission.
I AM NOT A LAWYER. PLEASE CHECK WITH A LAWYER BEFORE DOING THIS. But it seems to me that selling copyrighted works this way is completely legal. But should it be legal to make what is effectively a pyramid scheme? If not, then perhaps the very principles of copyright today needs to be rethought. And the hackers can trigger it.
Anyway, just a thought.