Competing with others is what people already do. They live or die by their talent, the law of copyright has nothing to do with competition.

Lets say that you, Anonymous Coward, create a book, it took you a year to write, then you place it online offering it at say, $5 for each copy. You’ll probably make a few extracts available on line plus a synopsis so people can get a flavour of the work, as they would have had they gone to a traditional bookshop.

Then, if they like what they’ve read, people will pay you $5 and get access to the download page. You hope, so that you can afford to live, that you will sell enough copies to buy food/warmth/shelter while you spend another year writing another book, you have no other income. Note that law of copyright in no way helps you sell your work, you are competing with other authors and if you are not talented you will not sell well or at all. Or if your book price is too high people will not buy it. Copyright has nothing to do with competition, creative talent and pricing is everything when it comes to competing.

However we will take it for granted that you are a talented author and people enjoy your work. Now lets assume a hacker finds some way to bypass the payment page to get access to your book and download it, then he makes your book available to everyone to copy for free.

Being an author is how you make a living, you don’t have a regular salary, being an author is your job and selling books is your income. You will feel both angry and extremely worried. Angry because someone just took your creation that you had laboured over for a year, and extremely worried about how you are going to live.

Now you face yet another another problem, in the world you have proposed there is no law of copyright so you can’t use the law to stop the hacker giving your work away for nothing. Your livelihood has just been destroyed, so how are you going to deal with this Anonymous? In this situation your first thought will be to get a source of money, perhaps you apply for a job, work for a salary, and maybe do some part time writing.

However, the rich seam of culture that you might have contributed to society has just been stunted, it will take much longer to create work, and eventually, although you may be driven to write from some inner need, that inner need may just wither because society has no moral respect for the products of your mind.

Even if you continue to write with the same fervour and inner need, you can no longer do this full time. The volume of work you could have contributed to enrich public culture will be severely restricted. You, as an artist lose, and society loses a valuable contribution to enrich our culture.

Copyright is there to support everyone in their endeavours to enrich public culture. To do so it gives those of the public who create works a temporary monopoly right (called copyright) in order that they may benefit economically from their work for a limited period of time, that they are also given certain moral rights, and these rights benefit society as a whole.

Copyright, like all human ideas, can be used for good or ill. The power of large corporations, who acquire others creativity, has been used to distort the law of copyright to protect their interests primarily and individual creators, such as you Anonymous, are less well protected. This is wrong and is not the original intent of copyright which is at its core, a public right.

Gordon C Harrison

Repubished with permission

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