Monday, June 28, 2010

A libertarian analysis of copyright

Interesting post up on Human Advancement about what copyright should be.
It is immoral to try to make money from another's work at the expense of sales by the original author, but this does not preclude all copying nor distribution as immoral.

It is immoral, and ultimately self-destructive, to always seek value for nothing.

Enforcement of any of this is immoral, both by the above, and because enforcement in any but small numbers of edge cases, is not possible without prior restraint or a requirement to prove innocence. Social sanctions are the only way to discipline behavior toward those principles, and that relies on how people evaluate the behaviors.
[Emphasis mine.]
Entire essay is here. Read it. It's good.

I agree with all of the sentiments. I've repeatedly stated that I oppose draconian punishments for filesharing. I also oppose any punishment for limited filesharing—say, e-mailing a song to your friend because you think she'd like it.

On the other hand, I don't believe social sanctions alone will stop abusive sharing. They are mightily powerful if you happen to live in an Amish community or a small tribe with little meaningful connection to the outside world. They're not so powerful if your society enables easy hops to different social circles.

For social sanctions to work, a significant majority needs to disapprove of the bad behavior in question. Saying that's what should happen won't make it happen.

If I come up with some brilliant idea to make it happen, you'll be the first to know.


Jeff Shattuck said...

Good essay and post. To me, though, the essay doesn't tackle what I think is the critical issue, namely: when you buy a song you are not buying the media, you are only buying the right to listen to the song. So here's the question: if I download a song from iTunes, then my hard drive crashes, why do I have to but the song again? Granted, I lost my file, but not my right! Apple, iTunes, the whole lot of them, should d set up their systems so that if you purchase a song and you can prove it, you should never have to repurchase that song, unless it's been changed in someway (remastered, remixed, sampled, etc.).
Anyway, that's my two cents...

Stephan Kinsella said...

IT's not good. It's incoherent and confused. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with copying others' works and profiting from them. It's not immoral and should not be illegal. No one is entitled to a sale, to money in some potential customer's pocket. Period.

Copyright and patent should be abolished, completely, now, immediately ,and the entire IP mentality should also be done away with.