Lyrics.ch Trying to Work out a Settlement
A thoughtful post. Wrong, but thoughtful.
First, there is no connection between creating great art and getting paid. If you really want people to create great art, you'll make it easy for them to be exposed to other people's art by making it publicly accessible. It seems to me that if we really want to preserve and enhance intellectual output, we ought to spend less time locking stuff away from children and more time sharing stuff with them.
Secondly, the argument that "well the artist/inventor/game show host/whatever has to eat and sleep somewhere" is totally spurious. Yes, everyone has to live somewhere and eat stuff, but that does not mean that they have to make their living solely as a creator of intellectual goods. Einstein (the scientist, not Albert Einstein who later changed his name to Albert Brooks and made movies) worked as a patent office clerk. Elvis was a truck driver. John Locke (the philosopher) was a physician. Lots of musicians, writers, inventors, philosophers and other intellectual property "creators" only moonlight as that and have a day job doing something that ought to be paid for, such as building stuff or directing traffic or something.
What motivation would there be to invent, you ask? Whatever happened to the old idea that necessity is the mother of invention, or have we forgotten what necessity feels like because we're too damn rich? We have patents because some whiners wanted the government to protect their moneybags just because they wanted to spend it on something that might not work out. What the hell is that about? I thought the beauty of entrepreneurship was that it encouraged risk taking? If you're not prepared to lose it, don't gamble it.
But you say, I'm exaggerating. Well, yes, I am. But not a lot. If there were no patents, it would have at least two impacts on investments: investors would accept a much longer payback period and wouldn't depend on getting their money back just on one invention. Also, the R & D investment wouldn't have to be as large because the competitor's ideas would be open as well. Yes, truly original research would not be as well compensated as it is today. But if original research can't be done for a reasonable profit without ransacking the public domain, then perhaps it should be left to public institutions like Universities. And don't give me this knee-jerk crap about big government. What we fucking need is right-sized government and sometimes that means spending money on things we all agree we care about. (Unless there aint any more of those things left, in which case its just the law of the jungle out there). Don't worry, businesses will adjust. Trade and commerce existed long before copyright and patents.
As for the writer who spent years writing a book only to never earn a dime - tough luck, buddy. Nobody said that life was going to be easy. If the only reason you were writing it was to get paid, then it probably wasn't worth saying.
"You DO have to pay for thoughts and creative inventions"
Yes it takes effort to do something worthwhile, but that does not mean that the state owes you protection for it. If I spend time doing macrame or raising tulips, or building model cars the state doesn't bust down doors to make sure that I get paid for my time. Culture is many-faceted. It's not just white guys doing important stuff in offices. Why do we draw the line where we do between what you can and cannot patent or copyright? What about tribal medicines? What about herbal remedies? Shouldn't I be compensated for the time I spend raising my children? Naah, we don't pay for that kind of lame-ass crap in America -- that's women's work.
"Do you really believe more people would write software or music if they couldn't make money off it?"
Man, do you care about anything except money? I can think of lots of reasons I would write software or music even if I KNOW I wont make money off it. How about "I enjoy it" for starters. I may not even care if someone else is making money off it, although if there were real freedom in Idea Space, it would be hard for someone who stole my idea to really take people to the cleaners. I may be really pleased that my ideas helped someone else make money, maybe even my competitor. Hey, I don't have anything against making an honest living.
"Wouldn't it be easier for musicians to just perform popular works stolen from others without paying?"
Yes, and that's exactly my point. Why slow down the healthy hybridization of influences by putting up a toll-booth? And say, what about all the royalties your guys owe the Delta Blues men and the rest of the people who really created American music? If you ask me, I don't think they'd give a damn about the money even if you offered it to them because they made music for the love of it. Sure, if they could get paid for it, that was nice, but it was never a career choice.
"Intellectual Property is one of the primary products of most white-collar jobs"
That explains why American companies did better after they got rid of three quarters of those jobs. My idea of intellectual property would not include a transcription of you and your workmates gossiping about the most recent Dilbert cartoon while standing beside the water cooler.
"Radio stations pay to play songs on the air... Copy that to MP3, and suddenly there's less revenue headed to the performer."
Yes, radio stations pay to play songs on the air. In the next sentence you said that they pay for it with advertising. How is it that Joe Blow's MP3 decreases the amount that a station charges for advertising? Well, (you reply) what if everybody just recorded MP3's and then didn't listen to the radio any more? First, that's incredibly unlikely. Second, even if it happens you still have to listen to the radio to get the MP3, and third, if it means radio stations are just dinosaurs headed for extinction, so be it!
"Intellectual property is EXACTLY what we should be happiest paying for. It enriches our lives and our culture."
You know, you sound like the people who wear price tags on their clothing. It's not laying down the cash that makes something good. Are you saying that I should be really excited about Arnie's newly patented cure for cancer JUST BECAUSE ITS SOMEONE'S PROPERTY? Oh, hooray!!! Someone owns it! What I want is a cure for my ailing mother, and ownership of that cure is something that I will just barely tolerate - a necessary evil - not something to be celebrated.
"Claiming that theft is justified by high prices is like saying it's okay to shoplift because the CD prices are too high."
Ehh... let me see... "Theft is justified by high prices" and "It's OK to shoplift because the CD prices are too high" Is there an echo in here? I wouldn't say those things are "like" each other, no. ""You're just repeating the same thing twice." is just like saying "You're just repeating the same thing twice."" would be like what you just said.
"I used to write for a living... and I was sure glad copyright existed."
I appreciate the fact that you're honest enough to reveal your vested interest in copyright. Now I understand why you are in favour of it. A doctor hates naturopaths because they threaten medical livelihood. I can understand that. My dad was a doctor. What you have to accept is that those days are gone and you've got to find something else to support yourself, which you already have done apparently.
I would argue that rather than freeing the spirit, the burden of having to make ones living as a writer, musician, inventor, etc, actually interferes with the creative process. It's as if someone is standing behind you with a gun saying "Hurry up, we want that Requiem by Tuesday." Is this the environment in which one can be the most inspired? It may be OK for real prodigious geniuses like Mozart, but for ordinary people like you and me and 99.99 percent of the population, it's probably a drag. Aren't you just going through the motions when you're fulfilling contractual obligations? Doesn't getting paid for stuff encourage you to write for the lowest common denominator? Doesn't it force you to compromise on quality? Isn't that exactly what Open Source Software was supposed to cure?
Three cheers for freedom, Free the corporate drones toiling in the salt mines of our collective consciousness!!!