The Question Was Never “How Do We Make Sure Artists Are Paid”. It Was Always “How Do We Ensure Art Is Made And Available”.
The copyright monopoly was never intended to ensure income for a particular group of people. This is a common false counterargument in the copyright monopoly debate, even among people who agree that the current monopoly is beyond insane: “but we must find a way to ensure that artists are compensated for their work”. This is simply a thoroughly false statement; the goal of policymaking is to ensure art is created and available to the public, and whether somebody is paid for it is completely beside the point.
This argument about rewarding creators of art is a very common way of trying to derail a discussion about the copyright monopoly. Regardless of the logical dishonesty in defending a system that locks 99.995% of artists away from any royalty with the argument that “artists must get paid”, and then steals most of the rest of the money from the 0.005% of the artists, it’s still a recurring argument. The problem is that it is utterly false and a diversion; compensating artists monetarily was never a goal with the copyright monopoly.
As I’ve written before, nobody is entitled to any compensation for any amount of work, ranging from minuscule to infinite. The only thing that entitles an entrepreneur – artists included – to any kind of compensation is a sale.
When no sales are made, is this a problem for an artist? Undoubtedly so. Sometimes even tragic. But does that make it a problem for the entire world? There are three answers to that question: No, no, and no, in that order.
No trade ever had special laws guaranteeing its income, especially not against the progress of technology. When households got electricity in the 1920s, and the biggest industry in most European and American cities went belly-up in a few years – the icemaking industry – nobody asked for a refrigerator fee, despite many personal tragedies.
Going back to the specifics of the copyright monopoly, the US Constitution is positively crystal clear in its justification for the existence of the copyright monopoly:
…to promote the progress of science and the useful arts…
Do you see anything about securing income for any particular group in society there? No? That’s because it’s not there. It was never a goal.
The copyright monopoly is a balance between two competing interests: the public’s interest in having new culture and knowledge produced, and the same public’s interest in having access to culture and knowledge. The public is the only stakeholder in the copyright monopoly construct. The only stakeholder. Somebody’s income or non-income does not factor into it.
So the problems that needs to be solved are two: how we make sure that new culture gets created, and how me make sure that this culture is available to the public at large. How somebody gets compensated is not a problem on the table.
(At this point, several people would argue that no culture would get made if people aren’t compensated for making it. That statement is blatantly false, as proven by successful authors like Cory Doctorow, whose books are free to copy. As are mine. Once you realize that successful authors do earn money even with rampant copying, you can relax the neurotic “every copy must be controlled” attitude. But even if they didn’t, that would still not be an argument to give up freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, and expression online.)