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I find the tribalism over copyright to be quite odd. It makes sense for many tech companies to lobby to devalue copyright, because they are in the business of profiting by distributing other peoples’ content. (I forget who said it, but the principle is commoditizing your inputs.) And it makes sense for organizations like the MPAA to push back on those efforts. It’s an economic, not moral battle. Netflix used to be on one side, now it’s a content creator and on the other.

The moral calculus, I think, cuts the other way. People complain that Wall Street middle men don’t create value, just move it around, but in the same breath assign moral superiority to companies that just move around content created by other people. Odd.




It seems to me that since economics is exactly about value, there cannot be an economic battle that isn't also a moral battle.


Beautifully said!


Copyright is historically and pragmatically connected to several power struggles in society. The ones that come to mind are surveillance, free speech, personal control and freedoms (e.g. DRM), sharing and spread of information.

(For example, you can see the article about U. California vs Elsevier currently on the front page, or I can expand on why I say copyright has been connected to the above issues.)

I completely agree with one angle on your post, which is that people's personal ethics and desires are only pawns or incidental to the economic players in this game, but that's my explanation for why people follow the game closely and cheer for one side or the other.


> Copyright is historically and pragmatically connected to several power struggles in society. The ones that come to mind are surveillance, free speech, personal control and freedoms (e.g. DRM), sharing and spread of information.

Isn't that just about gaining more power over people, not really a power straggle.


Copyright has always been limited in various ways. Defining what those limits are has always been a back and forth with various interests.

Personally, protection that’s rapidly approaching 200+ years just seems ridiculous. I think a limit to 40 years would have basically zero impact on the creation of new works which seems like the entire point it was created in the first place. The only reason the current situation exists is people making money from other people’s works wanting to continue to do so. That’s got nothing to do with artists.

As to the low end, I would be fine simply abolishing the idea. Shakespeare did not need copyright and I suspect it promotes pandering in a way that’s socially harmful.


Copyright is an wholly artificial concept and only exists so long as we allow it to, and we should only allow it to as long as it is moral.


Isn't that the premise of our society? Ownership, money, ... All of it highly artificial and it only exists as long as we allow it to.

Copyright is more than just a stick that many people see. Copyright is first and foremost an attribution. It's the only formal recognition of someone's unique work. Considering that we are trying to automate all manual labor in the not so distant future, copyright is more and not less important to our society.

I agree, that the tools and practices used today are crude and in many cases unfair, but once we remove the stigma associated with it, we will get more innovation in it.

I can't name many creators that would not like to be recognized for their work and even less that don't want to be paid for it.


>> Considering that we are trying to automate all manual labor in the not so distant future, copyright is more and not less important to our society.

The number of people who derive meaningful income from their copyrighted work is and has been very small, and only a small fraction of that (e.g. Disney) derives a fortune by enforcing draconian copyright laws, so it's not clear if this will change in the future.

Also jobs like janitors and nannies won't be automated for a very long time, and it's not clear if the society benefits more from having yet another person writing a novel or making a movie rather than having the same person clean or take care of children.


>> The number of people who derive meaningful income from their copyrighted work is and has been very small

Depends on how you define it. For instance more than 500k people make on average around $8k/month. I'm not saying it's a mind blowing number, but it's also not little.

>> only a small fraction of that (e.g. Disney) derives a fortune by enforcing draconian copyright laws, so it's not clear if this will change in the future.

It's true that only handful of creators, mostly large companies, earn outsized returns. That however doesn't mean that small creators don't matter nor it means that copyright can't be used for their benefits.

>> Also jobs like janitors and nannies won't be automated for a very long time, and it's not clear if the society benefits more from having yet another person writing a novel or making a movie rather than having the same person clean or take care of children.

The challenge with applying automation on today's world is that we are having hard times to see the "ripple" effect of the change. For instance, if most people don't have to "work" in the traditional sense, then they don't need nannies. Janitors' jobs is becoming fairly automated even today (autonomous vacuums, ...) and the progress will only continue.


> Copyright is first and foremost an attribution

are you sure about this?

It seems to me copyright as it is in common law countries is first and foremost about _controlling distribution_. It's literally the right to make copies.

AFAIU, there is a difference from common law countries, for example.

E.g. in Italy an author cannot ever lose the status of author of a work, even if the the distribution rights are owned by someone else.


Copyright as a legal concept is fairly old and the perception on it changed a lot within the history. For instance SACEM [0] was established 170 years ago in France. The general idea was to allow creators and rights holders to control their distribution but recent changes, in US MMA [1] and in EU the Copyright Directive [2] are now moving from focusing on distribution to getting creators paid.

If we look far enough in the future, copyright will mean something very different that what it means today. But I'm biased, considering that I built company in this space.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Société_des_auteurs,_composite...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_Modernization_Act

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directive_on_Copyright_in_the_...


> I agree, that the tools and practices used today are crude and in many cases unfair,

Was this ever not like that? I'm pretty sure copyright was never even meant for people to have useful enforceable rights to protect their creations, it was always meant for corporations, i.e. the usual business of them pushing legislation to have more power and protection against competition for rich to get richer and all that.


That's actually not true. The original laws were enacted exactly to protect individual composers. Copyright law is old, more than 300 years old [0]. Corporations exploited it the most, as they do with any opportunity, but that doesn't mean the law and our perception of the concept doesn't evolve or can't evolve.

GPS was never meant to be useful for general population. ARPANET was never meant for it either. The market finds its way. I believe, that we are entering an age of attribution and copyright is just the very first step.

[0] https://societe.sacem.fr/en/history


Laws of Tech: Commoditize Your Complement https://www.gwern.net/Complement


> It’s an economic, not moral battle.

Except when the content conglomerates corrupt our democracy by buying legislation and take away our freedoms that are incidental to protecting their profits.


In a world with 7 billion people, we have to find ways to make it make sense for some people to create content and some people to distribute it, etc. If people who are creative have no inherent right to control and benefit from their creations, they have inherent disincentive to actively refuse to add value to the system for others.

The system doesn't work if we can't solve such issues.

If you can come up with a better answer, awesome. (No, I don't accept "UBI" as a better answer.)


Their freedom ends where mine begins. Copyright legislation is a legislative solution to a legislative problem, wheras DRM is a technical non-solution to a non-technical problem, and infringes upon my own rights. The latter is the real problem here.


My basic point is that you don't get access to the thing at all to begin with if:

A. No one bothers to create it because "Fuck you, pay me! I'm not your bitch."

B. No one bothers to distribute it because "Fuck you, pay me! I'm not your bitch."

We quibble a whole lot about where to draw the line, but if you outright make it impossible for the creators and the distributors to make a comfortable living themselves, then you don't have the thing at all to argue about "DRM or no DRM. That is the question."

If we want good things, we need to design a system that facilitates and rewards actions that add value to the system so people have reason to do so.


DRM does not work. Not really anyway.

The games industry struggled with high piracy rates for decades and Steam changed that - not because of Steam's relatively lax DRM, but because Steam itself was more convenient & easier than piracy.

Ever since Origin, Epic Games store, etc.. have started to compete with Steam, piracy rates have started increasing again for the first time in decades. People want to buy things on the platforms they choose, if you don't let them do that they'll pirate content.

This increased fragmentation is starting to hurt the streaming industry too. Just look at how angry people are at Netflix's library being so lackluster nowadays.

I believe the true solution for everybody getting paid is to relax the copyright laws, so content can't be crippled and tied to one service. Not invasive solutions like DRM - those only drive people to more piracy.


I don't particularly disagree with you. But the article doesn't mention DRM, the thing I initially replied to doesn't either and I'm having a lot of trouble understanding why you are suddenly going on about DRM as if I made some kind of pro DRM statement that desperately needs to be shot down.




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