Some people have asked me why I keep saying “the copyright monopoly” instead of just “copyright”. Isn’t this just cheap rhetoric?, they ask. It is neither cheap nor rhetoric, and as is often the case when I choose words, it makes an important point.
If you listen to copyright lawyers discussing in courtrooms, they never use the casual language of “we hold the copyright to this movie”. Rather, they will use the legalese expression “we hold the exclusive rights to this (…)”.
Now, legislative language and legalese can be very complex, and we all have a duty to explain the complexities of the copyright monopoly to the public in as easy-to-grasp terms as we can.
An exclusive right is something theoretical and mystical for most people. Therefore, I much prefer the semantically and thesaurusally identical monopoly.
Now, it should be carefully noted that I use the copyright industry’s own language here, only replacing a term with a more widely-understood synonym.
There is another point to this. By always saying “the copyright monopoly” instead of “copyright”, you reinforce the nature of the legislation — that it is an exclusive right, or a monopoly, that is in opposition to property rights, and is not a property right itself. Just this straightforward use of accurate, descriptive language will accomplish that.
I spoke with two legal professors yesterday, and they had no problems whatsoever using the “monopoly” term when discussing the legislation, as it is fully correct. (Although, when challenged on this by a third legal scholar, I clarified that I speak of a statutory monopoly — de jure — rather than an abused dominant market position — de facto. After that, everybody was happy and the discussion continued.)
Finally, the copyright industry hates when I say “the copyright monopoly”, just because it describes the legislation’s nature to those who haven’t yet taken time to delve into the issues. Also, monopoly is a negative word. But it is negative for a very good reason. If people react negatively when I use correct and easy-to-understand words to describe the legal situation, that’s not because of me; that’s because of the situation itself.
So I’d love to see more people say “the copyright monopoly” consistently. We have a mission ahead of us to educate the public on the nature of this legislation.