Saving Jobs In Copyright Industry Is Counterproductive, Regressive Policy

The copyright industry frequently waves with a magic wand and conjures up numbers about how many jobs can be “saved” if only the internet’s potential and civil liberties are reduced a little bit more. A lot of focus (and ridicule) have been directed at these numbers, which frequently claim that a good part more than the planet’s total production could be saved if only piracy could be eliminated.

However, I’d like to show how the entire angle is wrong to begin with – how saving jobs is always counterproductive, regressive policy: not just in the copyright industry, but in any industry. Humankind’s entire progress has always depended on eliminating jobs while maintaining the same output – not on maintaining the effort required to produce something.

If we had focused on saving jobs, we would still be plowing the fields by hand.

The photograph illustrating this article is a machine known as Spinning Jenny, which serves as a good example. It revolutionized the weaving industry and eliminated so many jobs that laid-off workers destroyed the machines in outrage, as the workers’ manual labor wasn’t necessary to produce cloth any longer.

On this occasion, government stepped in on the side of progress and quelled the uprising. On many other occasions, however, governments have misguidedly taken resources from competitive industries to “save jobs” in obsolete industries – essentially making sure that we spend more effort than necessary for a certain level of output.

This is counterproductive. Humankind’s progress have always depended on getting more done for less effort. Supporting an industry because it gets less done with more effort is misguided, absurd, and counterproductive.

Thus, the copyright industry’s cries about “saving jobs” is ridiculous to begin with – no matter how many jobs can be “saved” by dampening progress.

(Lately in the UK, the copyright industry has cried for help as it is “creating jobs” instead, in a fascinating take on newspeak. The lobby can’t have it both ways – either it is creating jobs without government intervention, in case it will do well on its own, or it requires government assistance to “create” jobs, in which case it’s obsolete and doesn’t deserve resources from other, healthy industries.)

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. Wendy Cockcroft

    While fighting ACTA, one of my chief arguments was that the “jobs” created would be in registration, enforcement, and surveillance, which would require tax revenues. Therefore, such jobs have no value to the economy because they take from tax revenue instead of adding to it.

    Want to reduce piracy? Provide a decent service at an affordable price sans geographical and other restrictions. Address the market instead of distorting it. I’m preaching to the choir, I know…

    1. Neil

      I find the whole jobs argument silly in that here we as a society are spending multi billions of dollars on entertainment which could be better spent in so many other places. We could have better roads and hospitals, more scientific research, even just things like families buying healthier food, because the money that is currently flowing into the entertainment industry would begin to flow into other ventures.
      I believe we would still have a thriving entertainment industry even without any copyright, but even the “worst case” scenario just isn’t that bad.

  2. Ploum

    That’s what I call the Backyard Digging Point:

  3. LennStar

    I know how to create jobs:
    1. buy a tank (weapons industry, resources etc.)
    2. destroy a few houses (building industry, insurance workers, propably helps environment b/c of better, energy-savong houses)
    3. get caught (police, judges, prison…)

    If everyone would do this, we could DOUBLE the GDP!!!

    1. LennStar

      I forgot:
      2.b) You have to blow up your tank, of course. More production from the explosives industry (and glass makers) and more tanks produced from 1.

    2. Aelius Blythe

      There really should be “Like” buttons on these comments. Oh well. *Like*

      The “JOBS!” argument has always been a perplexing one.

      I mean, private prisons ensuring 90% occupancy will be great for the economy! I for one have a dream where my children have a bright future as prison guards, tirelessly serving the booming incarcerated population. Oh wait.

      Yeah, +jobs doesn’t always mean +good.

      I also wish that those yelling “JOBS!” in the copyright arguments would remember all the jobs that they’ve stomped all over in their vendetta against sharing. Or I guess the people working for MegaUpload, and the innovators behind the Pirate Bay, or the countless people working anonymously on sharing sites around the world probably don’t need to feed their children. Richard O’Dwyer probably survives on air.

      If there really was any care for protecting jobs, we’d protect those innovators and entrepreneurs and their employees from persecution. Let the people making the jobs for the future be free to make those jobs. Let the people making progress be free to make progress!

  4. steelneck

    So what? People do not care. That is your problem.

  5. rutros

    But this is only a part of the truth. Copyright don´t create works at all.

    Because the principle is that you get un income without working. You write a book and get income without working for years to come. The artists giving concerts work all the time, the artist making records don’t.

    So it is basically work free income we talk about. Of course there is some initial work done and there is also some creative work done that fails to give income and sometimes the excess money goes back to those projects, but these are minor parts.

    If people were to keep their money instead of giving them to overpaid Hollywood actors etc, more jobs were created by their consumption.

    1. easy

      August 27, 2012 – 15:32
      But this is only a part of the truth. Copyright don´t create works at all.
      Because the principle is that you get un income without working. […]
      So it is basically work free income we talk about.”

      how are exactly monies collected over time is not your concern. it doesn’t mean, though, that you can steal. yes, violating copyright is stealing. doesn’t matter if the original copy is still in a possession of copyright owner. you steal an income that copyright owner would have earned if they had sold a piece of art.

      and for the record, i’m opensource fan/user and always prefer gnu/creative-commons licences. however, if somebody prefers to publish under copyright, it is their free choice and we have to respect that.

  6. lordblackfox

    You makes me thinking that applying this argument is like a regression, if we make a parallel with the working rights we gained against this idea of “more gains → more jobs”.

  7. mijj

    think how many jobs could be created if slavery was re-introduced.

  8. Lord Metroid

    The people who destroyed weaving machines were not only people who recently got unemployed. Also the people who was left employed had a great deal of hatred towards this modernization.

    The employees working conditions. benefits and salaries were greatly reduced as a result of the high unemployment. Furthermore the workers couldn’t organize to stand united in their demands forming of unions were banned and punishable by hanging(seems like the most common punishment in the blood law at the end of 18th century).

    There was little else to do for the poor who barely could survive before the modernization but to destroy the machinery and the produced bolts of fabrics.

    1. Adam3us

      What you say is likely true to some extent in a short-term historic period. However in the big picture mid term automation and the loss jobs for humans previously serving as hamsters turning wheels was a small price to pay. The productivity level, standard of living, and inflation adjusted PPP income have all skyrocketed since then.

      Some buggy whip makers had to have a bad year for automobiles to replace them.

      Evolutionary pressures apply to job skills also in a free market.

  9. […] Saving Jobs In Copyright Industry Is Counterproductive, Regressive Policy […]

  10. Peter

    It is an easy and simplistic argument to say that we must discard old technologies in favour of new and presumably more efficient ones. Put yourself in the place of the displaced workers who now had no jobs and hence no income and, in those days before welfare, no way to feed their families other than begging.

    Who benefited most from this increased productivity? The mill owners, not the majority of the population. I agree that saving jobs in the copyright industry is counter-productive – it does not benefit the majority of the population. It mostly benefits the wealthy owners and top-level managers of the old-line businesses. It does not even benefit the majority of people working in the industry, beyond allowing them to keep their jobs – surely one of their more important goals.

    The point I am trying to make is that our goal must not be to shut down the copyright industry or to adopt the most efficient and productive technologies, but to maintain the most viable society we can.

    To this end, I think that it would be more useful to hear how you believe society would function without the copyright industry than to read an impassioned plea pitting old technology against productivity.

    1. Colin Carr

      Hello Peter,
      I think we could in theory reform copyright law as follows.
      1. Copyright can only belong to the original creator of a work. It cannot be sold, rented, inherited etc.
      1a. It therefore follows that copyright ceases to exist when the author of a work dies, if it has not already expired.
      2. Only a living human being can own copyright to his original work. A corporate body may not own the copyright to a work.
      3. Copyright may only exist for a limited period of a few years. The absolute maximum should be no more than 20 years, maybe it should be a lot less.
      4. Infringement of copyright can only be a civil matter, never criminal.

      No doubt I’ve missed out some important points. Perhaps others would like to fill in the blanks.

    2. harveyed

      I agree with you that a good society for as many people as possible is in some sense the goal of politics.

      Copying has become free so it will be difficult for any business striving to make money on the copying of files after copyright monopoly has fallen. Yes… Some people will be unemployed for a while, but today we have social security (in most western countries anyway) so there is a very different position than in the old days before social democracy came along.

      The main argument however – is the kind of control that is required to enforce copyright today. Obviously these interests find it necessary to push for more and more insane mass-surveillance laws to try and preserve the income of their own business. But then it actually becomes necessary to ensure these dinosaurs of the market are not able to keep doing their business, because they have proved that they won’t respect privacy and democratic rights of the people. Stalin and Hitler would have LOVED the kind of undemocratic surveillance and censorship bills that are being passed in our western democracies today.

      “To this end, I think that it would be more useful to hear how you believe society would function without the copyright industry than to read an impassioned plea pitting old technology against productivity.”

      Well it would probably be really difficult for the people in the age just before industrialisation to imagine anything what society has become, right? Maybe we don’t have to know exactly how everything will turn out in details. If we demanded full knowledge of how things would turn out back in the days before factories, industrialisation would never have happened, and that would have been far worse.

      A more interesting question would be, what kind of society would we have if we don’t abolish copyright? Then internet will be censored, everyone’s private communication monitored 24/7. At least everything digital. Because you just can’t stop piracy without those extreme measures!

      For the sake of a viable society then,… I would vote for abolishing copyright and a little uncertainty over job situation rather than to be ensured to have the worst surveillance society on Earth ever to protect copyright. I would HATE if future generations had to live in a society worse than DDR and Soviet. 🙁

        1. harveyed

          Thanks for the document. It’s scary how accurately it describes some of the things that (might) happen…

          I’ve been thinking specifically about 3.4 lately.. maybe last year or so. It makes me depressed. In the end, if to use anything digital with privacy. You must trust some hardware manufacturer. And hardware does require some resources to make.

  11. Thomas

    This entire issue is to important to build a rhetoric from over simplified and ignorant comparisons.
    The major part of the Swedish industry is depending on different types of copyright laws. The concept “copyright industry” is equal to Swedish industry, perhaps with the exceptions of mining, forestry and agriculture. Traditional industry companies like Ericsson, Scania, SKF, ABB, SAAB, Volvo, Atlas Copco, and Sandvik are all transforming into software companies. Software being their key competitive differentiator.
    The jobs in the “copyright industry” is no longer about some “overpaid Hollywood actors” but about some hundreds of thousands of jobs here in Sweden. Entire cities like Gothenburg, Ludvika and Södertälje are at stake.
    That is why oversimplified and ignorant comparisons with Spinning Jenny is no more than empty and stupid rhetoric, without any substance.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Oh, it is much more than that. According to the copyright industry, they contribute a good part more than the entire world’s gross production to the world’s production.

      Meanwhile, in reality, these monopolies are detested, hated, and infuriates every engineer trying to build the future.

      Tim O’Reilly recently nailed it, when he said that this fight is about whether we protect the past from the future, or protect the future from the past.

      1. Thomas

        Words are important. You are mixing the concepts, mixing the words. In the link you referred to the story was about the “music industry”. Although music is a very important part of our lives, the music industry is not in any way equal to the industries that are dependent on different copyright protections.
        What is your definition of the concept “copyright industry”?

        1. harveyed

          My definition of copyright monopoly would be: people relying on getting money for “selling” copies of old work or the “rights” to use old work without having to contribute anything new – at the same time as striving to stop the newer, more modern and cost-efficient ways of distributing the old work.

          For instance. Musicians or song-writers getting paid for their 40 years old work. It is not at all incentivising to create new work. Almost no other business can rely on getting paid today for the work in the years in the start of the 70s! If I were to get paid for my work that I do today in 35-40 years when I retire… what good would that do? It would not contribute anything new, just lock up and force the old work to be unnecessarily expensive.

        2. Thomas

          So you are referring to companies like Ericsson, they sell lots of SW that they developed many years back. The same thing with Scania, Volvo and all the other industrial companies that I mentiond. If I am not all mistaken, the basis of Volvo’s 5 cylinder engine was developen in the 80’s. That is lots of old work that they are still selling……

        3. Thomas

          Since there is no new suggestion on how to define the concept of “copyright industry” lets agree on that it is irrelevant.
          And it really is no more relevant, than talking about health care as “FDA industry” or aerospace companies as “DO 178B industry” simply because that is part of their legal governance model.

          Lets call things with their right and correct names. It is the music industry that brings us joy and passion to listen to music. And film industry that brings entertainment and emotions into our living rooms. That is their business!

    2. harveyed

      Lots of jobs were made obsolete by the transformation of agricultural society into industrial society. It was not a bad thing. Neither was transformation of industrial society into what we have today (“post-industrial”?). Neither will transition into the next stage of society be. We will for sure find new areas where the people can work and contribute. Probably not instantly today, all of this takes some time… But one thing is clear: making money solely on the “administering” of old work… in the long run, it won’t last.

      “Ericsson, Scania, SKF, ABB, SAAB, Volvo, Atlas Copco, and Sandvik”

      Well the value these companies pay for is then the work of the software developers for the software to put into their products. They still usually pay these developers for their continous work – their new labor and very seldom by royalties or licenses for their old labor. So very little will change – if at all when comes to their competitiveness in the technical aspects of their products. They don’t earn anything by “selling” software. They put their software into physical products and/or services and the price becomes part of that industrial product/service.

      “Entire cities like Gothenburg, Ludvika and Södertälje are at stake.”

      That’s an outrageous lie and you know it. These cities are not at all “at stake”. No more than the lives of the farmers in the 1800s were at stake in the face of industrialization and urbanization. They lived to see some of the most impressive gains in living standard EVER. As we will as the focus of work shifts from getting and administering old works in creative and knowledge businesses into paying for new work. Before the internet there was no more efficient way than to pay afterwards for the work done with huge costs related to creating and distributing the information on various media. The internet changes all that. Sure, it may be painful for some people to have to switch work/carreer and to learn new things, but such is life, especially in our time of such fast technical progress. You just can’t rely on having the same work from your 20s to your 60s. Ask anyone in their 60s if they do not know of any jobs that have been made obsolete during their carreer. I bet they could write you a comprehensive list. But has society as a whole become a worse place since then? No, not at all!

      We do have quite some good means of free education and social protections today compared to earlier in history so it will be economically and socially easier than ever for people to adapt and create the new jobs and services of the future.

      1. Anonymous

        It is beside the point how they pay for the SW development, totally irrelevant.
        The point is that their competitivness is depending on SW. And if the SW is copied by their competitors… all their investments and competiveness will be lost.
        And if they lose their competitiveness, things go fast. Nokia lost 90% of their value in 4 years.
        And if Scania have problems, Södertälje will suffer! If ABB are moving their R&D teams to other countries, Ludvika will be in deep shit! And if Volvo cars, Volvo Trucks and SKF leaves Gothenburg, well you can imagine the consequences.

        Sure, we can grow new businesses in Sweden, tourism, mining and forestry for example. But perhaps it would be a good idea to grow those businesses before killing the jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. Or do you want to bet their jobs?

        1. Rick Falkvinge

          If their competitiveness depends on software (which it completely doesn’t), then they’re already outdated, as anybody in India or Eastern Europe would be able to outcompete them using college students and shoestring resources.

          But that hasn’t happened, which illustrates the absurdity of your argument.

        2. harveyed

          Well, as Rick pointed out. SW is clearly not everything to these companies from the start. And even if were, it still is not at all a matter of copy right:

          Their software is hardly “published” at all, nor is it needed to be. So it is not a matter of copyright protections or infringement at all but rather about industrial espionage if any SW is copied. As far as I know, there is an entirely different set of laws regarding industrial espionage than which govern copy rights.

        3. Sten


          The most absurd thing is the comparison with spinning Jenny in the first place.
          Spinning Jenny has nothing to do with immaterial rights and composers and lyricists in their turn have no monopoly in regards of creating music.
          Anyone, anywhere is free to create and distribute music, films and books any way they want.

          So all this comparison is a dead end of absurdity in the first place.

        4. Thomas

          Mr Falkvinge, you might be aware of the all these companies are doing major investments in SW development sites in India and China?

          And yes, they need a different set of legal governance to protect their SW assets and IP. This is what makes the term “copyright industry” totally irrelevant and meaningless. Nothing more than empy and rather sleezy rethoric. Or perhaps to use the phrase “Orwellian New Language” – if that translates….

        5. Adam3us

          Nokia deserved to lose 90% of their market share because they teamed up with microsoft to replace their primary differentiator (a consistent simple UI) with a blue screening poor quality OS called windows. I do not want to buy a phone that blue screens. I will never buy another nokia phone (and I have bought 3 or 4 dozen before that announcement over the years).

          Now if nokia had embraced android and open source and rejected microsoft’s advances, and the new ex-microsoft CEO things would have turned out rather better for them.

  12. Angel Moir

    I’ll not speak about your competence, the post merely disgusting

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