Copyright Monopoly Study: "Without Copyright, No Computers"!?

A report named “Copyright In The EU — What Next?” landed on my desk. I didn’t have to read any longer than the introduction, explaining the values, to shake my head in disbelief.

The name of the report is the EU-esque IP/A/STOA/FWC/2008-096/LOT6/SC1, and it begins with the usual “copyright [monopoly] is difficult, there are many troubles on the roads ahead, it is territorial, international cooperation derives from Berne 1886 and WIPO Copyright Treaty 1996” etc etc etc. Then, it tries to give the background for policymaking. I get to, and balk at, this part in its section 3.1.2, “Copyright basics” (my highlights):

The so-called copyright industries are comprised of two main groups: the core copyright industries are based upon the creation distribution, and sale of copyright products and services (e.g., magazines, motion pictures, recorded music, software). Copyright dependent industries are defined as those industries that would not be present without the existence of products and services subject to copyright. Cases in point would be television set manufacturers, DVD player manufacturers or computer manufacturers.

Did you get that?

The people who set the copyright monopoly policy do it from the assumption that computers would not exist if it were not for the passive entertainment industry’s products. For real. This is not a typo.

This is so depressing and penny-dropping at the same time, I don’t know where to begin. “Everything depends on the copyright monopoly, and therefore, it must be safeguarded.” Uhm, no, it doesn’t, and therefore, no, it doesn’t.

UPDATE: Commenter Hans J found the report online as well. It can be read here. I will keep reading it for more in the coming days.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. jeffer

    Absolutely no important technology is dependent on copyright. Some technology for its sale is dependent on content like music and video, but still not copyright. Even old technology like radio and television would have developed and thrived without a single paragraph of copyright law.

    If nothing else the radio manufacturers would have created content themselves to sell the radio set. The same with television, computers, everything. With communication like internet, the users themselves would have created critical levels of content, just like they did with plain old telephony where no copyright was ever present for its mass-adoptation.

  2. PiratGurra

    That’s so inherently dumbstriking.. Also again – they make the obviously stupid argument of economical size of the industry as a comparison to society as a whole. “Something accounts to X% of our current jobs, then it needs to be protected!”. Well the same could’ve been said in the 1800s about the agricultural “industry”. 80% of the people worked with farming so the industry needs protection… We wouldn’t want all those farmers being out of work, right..?

    Society improves wherever old jobs are made unnecessary and can be replaced by more modern ones, not when the old jobs are “protected”.

  3. Hans J

    Can it really be that bad? I’m going to read myself:

    -> The Report as PDF <-

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks for the find!

  4. Ben

    >computers would not exist if it were not for the passive entertainment industry’s products.

    Yes, computers would not exist if it weren’t for copyright, it’s not talking about copyright of media presented on a computers. It’s talking about the copyrights involved in *creating* computers and *not* the content that’s displayed on them.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      That makes no sense at all. Assuming you are referring to the drawings that make up a computer, and also assuming that these meet the bar for being covered by the copyright monopoly (I suspect they don’t), the manufacturers would be much better off — and competition better — without such monopolies on components.

      Much more computers would be created without the monopolies, but still, this is not the case in the text in question. That much is obvious from the context: “TV, DVD players, and computers”.

    2. Rolf

      There are about as many copyrights involved in creating a computer as there are fairies. Not many, that is, unless you happen to believe computers are created by fairies, of course. Based on what you appear to know about these things, that might actually be the case, I guess.

      1. Rolf

        (My comment above was directed at Ben and not Rick, in case that wasn’t obvious.)

        1. themusicologist

          it was obvious…!!
          Scary Devil Monastery has it covered..

    3. Rikard Elfgren

      Can you name one example where a technology has not been adopted for the sole reason that it was free to use.

    4. Scary Devil Monastery

      Empirical evidence throughout history begs to differ.

      For one thing the greatest surges of inventiveness and market expansion has always happened in countries where Intellectual Property was lax or unenforced.

      The “necessity” of IP revolves around the demand being artificially created in the first place. As there is a very real demand for personal computers, entrepreneurs will create and sell such in a very competitive market.

      Both common sense and real history suggests it’s the other way around – computers and all other inventions have happened in spite of IP law or by ignoring it. Not the other way around.

      1. PiratGurra

        Protectionist legislation has been there in all times. In the 1800 it tried to thwart the industrial revolution by laws protecting the guilds (factories were in practice illegal because the craftsmen of the guilds had monopoly on their respective “trade” or “industry”).

        Now the publishing guilds use IP law to try and thwart the information revolution by making the practical benefits and possible innovations and competitive entrepreneurship of the internet illegal.

        Looking back, not many people living today would protect the ones trying to stop the industrial revolution. Those who still think that those protectionist and conservative laws were good back then are generally thought of as uneducated radicals.

        How will the following generations judge us depending on how we treat the internet and the new technical opportunities today?

    5. Werner

      I work for a motherboard manufacturer in Taiwan.

      Our attitude towards trying to protect our IP regarding schematics, drawings and pin configurations is: there is little point making an effort keeping those secret.

      If a competitor wants our schematics, they can always bribe one of our employees or someone at the factory to get them. And by the time our boards are already being manufactured, a competitor would be quite late to the market anyway (if they start to study our schematics when are already debugging our boards).
      Also the choice of components on the boards depend on agreements/relationships we have with component retailers, known requirements of our biggest customers/distributors etc… so a competitor would really not have that much benefit from our schematics.

      And: drawing a board is not nearly all there is to it — debugging the board from manufacturing errors is a bigger cost anyway.

      So from my perspective, our existence is not dependent on copyright.

      1. Scary Devil Monastery

        You touched only peripherally on the main point where computer components are concerned – within six months that product will be obsolete and thus you have to reinvent and add to your blueprints every three months anyway.

        Hence patenting a specific design is an absolute waste of effort. At least where computers are concerned, where IP law is nothing more than a set of concrete overshoes.

    6. Steven

      The first Apple personal computer came with complete schematics, anyone who wanted to (and had the necessary equipment) could make a 100% identical copy. Clearly Apple wasn’t (at the time) worried about copyright. Realistically, at the time that personal computers were being introduced to the market, patents and trademarks were a lot more important to prevent this type of copying than copyright could have possibly been.

      1. Steven

        Let’s also not forget (just to add to this little history lesson) what happened when Apple did start worrying about people copying their machines. At the time, the Apple II line of personal computers was by far the most popular, the first Macintosh was not even on the market yet (undoubtedly, they were working on it behind the scenes.. as evidenced by some of the advances they made with the Apple IIGS model).

        Apple, at that point, decided they didn’t want anyone copying their computers anymore. No more schematics, lawsuits or threats of lawsuits against any company attempting to make “clone” computers, etc. Meanwhile, IBM came out with the IBM PC and allowed it to be cloned. What happened?

        The obvious thing happened.. the market was literally flooded with IBM PC “clone” or “compatible” machines that could run DOS (and later Windows). Even after the first Macintosh hit the market, clearly a superior product, the PC “clones” were still the most popular machines for home and business use. Apple is just now (mostly thanks to OSX and “external” products like the iPod and the iPhone) starting to catch up to the popularity they enjoyed so many years ago.

  5. konaya

    I think “Ben” is thinking of patents, which are an entirely different matter.

  6. Anteater

    I’m going to be diplomatic here. If you read it slowly ten times over, with a little bit of good will you can see a possible interoperation of the text, that is somewhat truthful.
    “Copyright dependent industries are defined as those industries that would not be present without the existence of products and services subject to copyright. Cases in point would be television set manufacturers, DVD player manufacturers or computer manufacturers.”

    It doesn’t say that copyright itself was necessary for the development of computers, just that some products and services, were. And as of today those “products” are pretty much all subject to copyright in one way or another. It doesn’t ever state, straight out, that the copyright legislation itself was actually crucial in the process of creating said “products”.
    Though, I realize, this is a very kind way of looking at it, and if this was really the point they wanted to get across, hay could have phrased it MUCH BETTER.

    1. Björn Persson

      It’s an instructive example of how to tell a lie by saying the truth.

      It’s true that computer manufacturers wouldn’t exist if there were no software. Sure you could build computers without software, but nobody would do it because they would be useless. Same thing with television sets and DVD players: Nobody would buy them if there were no TV shows or DVD movies, and since nobody would buy them, nobody would make them. It’s also true that software, TV shows and DVD movies are subject to copyright in the current legal system.

      The only part that can be said to be untrue in itself is that they call these industries “copyright dependent”, which sounds like they would be directly dependent on copyright laws. If you’d put the authors up against a wall, they’d probably claim that they needed to define a convenient term for these industries, and that “copyright dependent industries” is an ellipsis for “industries that depend on the existence of certain products and services which are subject to copyright laws”. Thus they may be able to claim that even that part isn’t really a lie.

      And yet, even though most of what is said is true and the rest can be brushed aside as a bad choice of words, the paragraph as a whole is grossly misleading. Unsuspecting readers are likely to get the false impression that manufacturers of computers, TVs and DVD players wouldn’t exist if the copyright monopoly didn’t exist, and that strengthening the copyright monopoly would make those industries thrive even more. I’m sure that’s entirely intentional.

      Then they continue by mentioning some economy-related percentages, and carefully avoid showing the numbers of the “core copyright industries” separately from those of the so-called “copyright dependent industries”, so that the reader is led to believe that the economical effects of the copyright monopoly are similar in all of these industries.

      1. jeffer

        @Björn Persson

        A clear and and brilliant analysis – it couldn’t be explained better!

        And it is in this way the lobbyists work – day and night, all around the world…

      2. sabik

        Except that computer manufacturers existed for some time before software was really covered by copyright… for the first two decades (1950s and 1960s) software was not really sold separately and was shared around pretty indiscriminately. It was only really in the 1970s that the software industry started being a “copyright industry”. Even then, there was always a stream of free software which gradually built back to a situation where, for the last decade or so, the “copyright industry” type of software is pretty much superfluous. If the “copyright industry” software vanished now, computer manufacturers would barely notice.

  7. PiratGurra

    “Finally, it is worth mentioning that there is some anecdotal and case study evidence that links counterfeiting and piracy to organised crime and terrorism at least in selected cases.”

    Links between piracy, organized crime and terrorism! Ohmygod, are our politicians this gullible? :/

  8. Anonymous

    “Copyright dependent industries are defined as those industries that would not be present without the existence of products and services subject to copyright. Cases in point would be television set manufacturers, DVD player manufacturers or computer manufacturers.”

    I can’t get this to say computers wouldn’t exist without copyright. What I get is that copyright dependent industries wouldn’t exist without copyrighted products. Like, record labels wouldn’t exist if there were no copyrights to abuse for songs and stuff.

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