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Editorial

davide marney's Journal: Moving Beyond the Copyright Shouting Match

Journal by davide marney

Tech Dirt has a series of articles on the"lies" that the copyright industry tells, and takes particular exception to those in the U.S. Congress who support their cause (see the articles on Rep. Waxman and Sen. Hatch).

I am definitely one of those who feel that the original intent of copyright law has been so distorted that it is now possible to have it serve its opposite purpose: to prevent, rather than promote, the useful arts.

While I am with the author in spirit, I am not in the letter. These articles do little to advance the cause. They are largely just a collection of raw assertions that people are lying. There is little attempt to actually prove any of these claims, as far as I can see.

In the end, what does shouting "liar, liar, pants on fire" truly accomplish? Very little. So, please, let us move on. It is very easy to lay blame and to critique. Much more difficult is to propose a solution.

We have a problem between two communities: the entrenched copyright-holding community, and the consumer. What can be done to bring these two groups to a better understanding of each other's needs?

First, I think we can agree that copyright is a good thing. The right to control copying is rooted in the concept of basic fairness: if a person creates something, they should get to decide who else can have it.

Secondly, I think we can agree that getting something for nothing is unsustainable over the long term. People ought to pay for what they use. None of us would last very long if we never charged anyone for our time and effort.

Thirdly, I think we can agree that the current business model for monetizing the right to copy is broken. Copyright holders try to control distribution and end use, which is technically impossible. Consumer scofflaws use content they haven't paid for, which is unfair.

Add these together, and I think it's pretty obvious that what we need is a consumer-friendly way to pay for content in proportion to how widely it is shared, not purchased. The whole concept of a financial "transaction" with a buyer, seller, and product, works in a retail context, but not in a viral context. Viral communities don't have buyers and sellers, they have friend networks.

It sounds simple, but it hasn't been cracked yet. What would a payment system look like that didn't depend on storefronts and individual transactions? Could we make it lucrative enough to draw the next generation of talent away from the old, out-moded system, and into a new system? Would it be easy enough to implement, such that no reasonable person would object?

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Moving Beyond the Copyright Shouting Match

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