Writing a novel is a lot of time-consuming work.
I don't think anyone would argue against the notion that it can be. And I don't think anyone argues against the notion that if someone believes they have efficiently used their time according to their strengths, talents, and endowments, that they should not seek appropriate reward for their time and efforts.
However, just because someone has put a lot of time/effort/skill into something, why should there be a government policy in place that automatically grants a 70-120+ish year monopoly over the products of said time consuming work?
Instead of copyright laws which are unnecessary additional lines in the sand, why can't contract law provide all the benefits of copyright while eliminating many/most/all of the negatives? What do you, as an author, have against using contracts to protect your work? Why must we have additional laws to protect things which you can't prove actually belong to you? What can copyright law provide that non disclosure agreements and user agreements don't provide, except for monopoly controls over distribution channels?
Instead of copyright (which is automatically granted, application not necessary), would it not make more sense if the firm/individual actually had to apply to the people (we the taxpayers) that will be granting this distribution monopoly license (with a seemingly endless term)? Shouldn't the firm/individual have to prove to the people of its jurisdiction that protecting the fruits of its labour are necessary to the promotion and progress of the arts and sciences? How does providing you a distribution monopoly help the progression of the arts and sciences?
Why are libraries some of the most vocal critics against copyright? Please don't say: "vested interest in bolstering collection."
Most novels are only written because the author earns a reasonable living by doing so, and so can have "writing" as a full time job.
This is a form of No True Scotsman. Allow me to demonstrate:
Person A: True authors only write because they can expect to earn wages through their writing products (such as novels), as a result of the presence of copyright.
Person B: This might be true of less than 1% of authors, if it was ever possible to come to some consensus of "what exactly defines an author, professional or otherwise" and "how can our models actually determine the exact motivations for writing?"
Person A: Well, then these 99% of people are not true authors, as they don't earn a reasonable living by doing so through their writing products.
Fact of the matter is, if we really want to debate the notion of why novels/writing products are written, there is no way your statement can be proven correct any time soon (and it won't be anyways). Thus, I argue that (something more grounded in reality):
1) Most writing products (or narrowly defined by you as novels/ebooks) are written because one is either forced to through school or work. I'd put this at about 90% of the total writing products in existence.
2) The next largest percentage of writing products are produced out of pure creativity and enjoyment (best defined as leisure), such as the comments you and I have made here on SlashDot. I'd put this at about 9% of the total writing products.
3) I might be willing to say the next largest group of writing products is produced because one "hopes" to earn some wage through said product, whether or not there is a presence of copyright. I would put this percentage at about 0.8% of the total. 4) The next group would be the group that writes because they hope to earn a wage under the presence of copyright, and they otherwise would not write at all. I'd say less than 0.1% of writers act like this.
5) Then there is the next group group of writers that actually makes a living from their writing products, and there is absolutely no consensus as to whether or not total wages of authors are affected by the presence of copyright and copying technologies, nor whether or not these people would still be motivated to write if no copyright existed. But regardless, this is likely less than 0.1% of writers.
I fail to see how authors will not be able to earn a reasonable wage, if copyright were replaced with better alternatives. Why would firms cease to pay for certain types of writing products? At what point in time do you expect people to stop reading and writing?
Publishers spend about a(sic) much preparing a book (or ebook) for publication as they advance the author.....
This is how it works in every industry, ever. In every industry ever, an employer approaches an employee seeking help (or vice versa). Compensation can be paid upfront for said employee, compensation can be paid as a salary, compensation can be paid in incentives, as well as many other ways. The ways that employees are paid depend on the employee and the employer at the time, in context of their market. Copyright only distorts this.
Why do businesses like restaurants not retain the distribution rights to the derivatives of the products it has sold to you for the next 70-120+ish years?
In the writing industries that seek copyright protection, employees are paid on salary (journalists, reporters, copywriters, multi-book deals, etc...), employees are paid up front (one book deals, signing bonuses on multi book deals, etc), and employees are given incentives (kickbacks on sales after a certain target is hit, product volume, etc). Copyright distorts the writing products market heavily in favour of producers, and it is debatable as to how much of these distortions are actually passed on to the authors. In many cases the guilds and collection agencies are actually totally ignored, or do not distribute amongst themselves appropriately. Either way it is clear (and well researched) that consumers lose, and foot the deadweight loss bill.
The only important mechanism that the government needs to be involved with here is the process of protecting the author or publisher's right of first sale as is protected in every industry in every free market country ever. Some busboy can't just run into a kitchen and deliver the food to a different restaurant, this is called theft, as it would still be called if someone stole your crappy collection of English words in novel form before you published under your name, whether or not copyright existed. Publishers can evaluate their salaries, advances, and incentives accordingly. Instead of relying on a distorted supplier's market for their artificially monopolized good, publishers will seek other sources of revenue for the author. As an example that can easily be replicated in the writing product industries, consult Samsung releasing the most recent Jay-Z album.
Still, I am not sure what the mechanisms of an author's payments have to do with the fact that copyright, as it was created, was a pre and post market censorship policy to ensure that only one person was legally entitled to print the queen's words. It still serves a similar purpose. How do you argue against the notion that copyright still serves to promote censorship, instead of promoting or progressing the arts and sciences?
I fail to see what an author's payment mechanisms have to do with the fact that copyright, as it stands today, is a post market-entry policy designed to create a protective distribution monopoly for said product under copyright. How does this help consumers (when it clearly does not help producers that much), and how can you make the argument that publishers are the best at diffusing and distributing your novel and should thus have a monopoly? Since the advent of the internet, they have clearly shown this is not the case.
I fail to see how an author's payment mechanisms should protect a policy that exists in the face of alternatives; alternatives that don't attempt to create artificial scarcity and a "tragedy of the commons" on the copying and distribution sides of the technology fence, especially since laws protecting the rights of authors have no right to extend that far (as the authors/publishers have no right to tell anyone how to use their copying, storage, and distribution technologies unless they are being a good samaritan reporting real crimes). Why should an author have any say over how I use my computer and my internet?
I still fail to see how an author's payment mechanisms should allow the author or the publisher (without the need for application) an automatic 70-120+ish year distribution monopoly over said collection of words, after the publisher has already brought their good to market with their right of first sale protected.
No one argues against the right of first sale, as protecting market entry is necessary to our freedoms and a functioning society. It avoids the "tragedy of the commons" problem on the "creative performance" side of the publishing, the only tragedy publishers should actually be concerned with, and ensures that the author can actually publish its arrangement of words under its own name. If protecting the right of first sale wasn't a necessary mechanism to ensuring that the "scarce resource" of artistic talent was not subject to the tragedy of the commons, firms would rampantly specialize in plucking artistic product from the artist to publish as its own (not that there hasn't been any examples of this in the real world even with the presence of copyright....). To assume that scarce artistic talent and scarce distribution channels require a marriage through copyright law is a serious uphill argument that real logic/knowledge typically fails to support.
..... (and books rarely sell enough for the author to make anything beyond the advance).
How does the copyright policy help authors sell more copies of the book, or earn larger salaries/advances? In the music industry, we find that sales volumes are higher than they have ever been, and total wages are unchanged. Just because people are not going to pay as much for a book/song/album anymore does not mean that the price of these items are valued incorrectly. On average, books/songs are still priced entirely too high to ask most budget conscious consumers to pay for a copy of the work before being entertained. If an average author truly wanted a larger share of an average consumer's wallet, it would not support copyright law.
Novels would mostly die as an industry.....
This can not be substantiated with fact, or reality. Why did firms and individuals seek to use the printing press before the advent of copyright? Why do firms and individuals currently release material as open source, or creative commons? How on earth does Wikipedia exist? How on earth do people learn to code without being taught?
How is copyright the only way that a firm can recover its costs of publishing?
Who ever said the publisher deserves monopoly protection in order to cover costs?
What kind of business plan includes selling mBs of data in the information age?
Basically this is simply untrue, and ignores a gamut of more favourable possibilities for all members of society.
You can argue about the length of copyright being far too long, but not whether it's needed at all, at least where books are concerned.
I can argue about the length, implementations, language, residual affects, research, and the advantages of alternatives which already exist, all day long. I don't live in the states, but if I did I would claim that copyright law is unconstitutional.
Why is copyright the only system proposed by publishers, in the face of alternatives? Why hasn't there even been the notion of trying something new over the last 15 years, when it is clear that the conclusion of this story is an endless court war against those that make the underlying technologies that support the very existence of these works protected under copyright?
Why is copyright only supported by the publishers within certain mediums, and not those that have built the medium or service the medium (excluding companies that own both patents any copyrights and attempt to do all, see companies like Rogers Telco)? Why do we always witness a merging of firms that build the medium and provide content on the medium?
Why should the taxpayers have to pay search engine programmers for building unnecessary search filters?
After we deem that it might be necessary to grant you a distribution monopoly because of the amount of resources you have spent on your novel or how useful your novel is to the progress, promotion, and preservation of the arts and sciences, why can't we decide the number of days this monopoly will last for on a case to case basis? I can't think of any novel/album/movie/whatever that would actually be granted more than a 3 day head start if they were to actually apply to the taxpayers for their monopoly. Why should you be the only person legally privy to this knowledge contained within your novel unless we consume it in the fashion and context that you desire?
Why do many firms and authors/artists within the copyright protected industries receive many forms of tax breaks and artistic grants, yet the people that provided these grants have no access to the products they create? Why does this contrast the changes being made in many nations as it relates to publicly financed research?
How do you explain the Nigerian film industry?
Copyright law is one of the last government policies I think of when I think of the term free market, or the notion that we should always be helping as many people as possible in the most optimal way. Possibly because I think of a monarchy (the source of copyright's creation for censorship purposes) attempting to do just the opposite. And then I think of some crappy writer trying to push his novel, thinking it is so profound that if copyright didn't exist someone would steal it for themselves and there would be no recourse.
To assume that scarce artistic talent and scarce distribution channels require a marriage through a legalized monopoly under copyright law is a serious uphill argument that real logic/knowledge typically fails to support.