A Fair, Free Market Or The Copyright Monopoly?

Increasingly, the copyright industry has tried to assert that “the free market will sort it out” in the field of culture sharing. The problem is that the copyright industry’s monopolized view is anything but a fair and free market.

The copyright industry likes to pretend that making copies is somehow “stealing” and that on a fair and free market, everybody would be forced to buy from them. As is obvious to everybody else, this is the complete opposite of a fair and free market.

When somebody buys something, no matter what, they own it. They have the right to do pretty much anything with it, they have the right to perform work on the object they have bought. Such work includes duplicating the object that you own; on a fair and free market, such duplication work is an offering like any other that competes with other people performing a duplication of the object in question.

In culture sharing, people perform this work for free for one another – duplicate files for one another – as a good social deed, just like helping anybody else out with your own time is a good deed. (The copyright industry tries to vilify this activity as somehow being immoral and unfair, which completely misses the positive social mechanisms of good people helping friends and strangers alike, and only makes the copyright industry appear absurd, anachronistic, and downright evil.)

Thus, the copyright industry deliberately confuses the goods that they offer for sale with the service of duplication, which is a completely different kind of offering. The service of duplication is what’s on an immoral, anachronistic monopoly, not the goods themselves.

On a fair, free market, anybody is able to perform this work, as well as offer it for sale if they think their particular duplicative work is cost-effective.

However, the copyright industry has the audacity and the entitlement to call out people who compete with them for this service as “thieves”, “immoral”, and “unjust”. That can only come from living in a complete world of denial and entitlement.

In a fair and free market, competitiveness rules, and nobody has a monopoly – such as the copyright monopoly – on doing a particular kind of work, like duplication of a specific object. If somebody else can duplicate your original at a lower cost than yourself, then you weren’t able to compete and you’ll find yourself out of business. That’s called marginal cost – that competition takes place on the additional cost of every product once the investments are made, on the cost of duplicating an original – and that’s how the market works for all products in fair and free markets. It’s actually Economics 101.

In my world, and in a fair and free market, any entrepreneur or executive that claims a moral right to prohibit others by law from competing with them can fuck off and die.

Further, our economy works by people specializing, and paying each other for work that somebody else does more efficiently. If an electrician is better at wiring my home than I am, then I have the option of paying such a craftsman for his/her time, rather than spending my own time. That’s why we evolve as an economy and a civilization.

The competition in the copyright monopoly and culture-sharing field is about who executes the “copy file” command the most cost-efficiently. That is largely a pointless debate, as the cost of executing a “copy file” command is trillionths of a cent – nobody would buy it from anybody, as everybody can do it themselves. Claiming a legal right to charge a premium of a gazillion percent over and above the real cost of this service is absurd and macroeconomically counterproductive.

The copyright monopoly only serves to protect the past from the future, and it is the antithesis of a fair and free market, as are all monopolies.

UPDATE: Techdirt just quoted and brought up this article – you may also want to follow the comment thread there.

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. Hid

    Not sure if it’s an intentional joke/point but wiring your own home is actually illegal, an authorized electrician has to do it. http://www.elsakerhetsverket.se/sv/Din-elsakerhet/Vad_du_for_gora_sjalv_med_el_hemma/

    1. Wendy Cockcroft

      Actually, if he qualifies as an electrician, he’s fine. That law is sensible and reasonable but it’s only about “not getting amateurs and the people around them hurt or killed,” not stopping people from wiring their own homes if they are qualified electricians.

    2. Rick Falkvinge

      While this varies between different countries, my point was one of economies of scale. Also, there’s a lot of wiring you _are_ allowed to do yourself, and as a third point, pretty much everybody I know do the rest themselves too 🙂

      1. Hid

        Yes of course, I agree with all your points, I just found it a bit funny that you chose this as an example. Actually _wiring_ your home like you said, as in the wires inside walls, is illegal in Sweden. A lot of people still do it ofc, and that’s why I found this example kind of funny and was wondering if it was intentional or not. 🙂

        1. D

          I’m allowed to do all the wiring I want in my home, it just needs to be inspected and signed off by an electrician before it can be covered over or used.

      2. harveyed

        I like to make the comparison to cooking food and eating it alone or together with friends. Clearly in a world where cooking in your spare time was illegal, professional restaurants would get more money ( assuming people actually obeyed such a sick law ). You would probably need police officers peeping into peoples kitchen to see that they did not do any unauthorized cooking. A breach of privacy which actually is quite comparable to that of spying on peoples communication on the internet. The only difference being that the current generation of politicians don’t realize / understand it.

        The more such protectionist laws for various branches of the market would result in an increasingly worse society to live in for anyone. In the end you couldn’t do almost anything in your spare time without breaking some business’s “right” to earn money in their favourite way.

      3. Snille

        As a side note, if you add the “Spotify” dimension to this argument. You should actually pay the electrician a monthly fee for “using” the wires as well… If you stop paying the fee, he can come and remove the wires again… 🙂

    3. ktorch

      The3 few homes I have built I have wired myself. All were inspected and passed. There has never been any electrical problems with any of them. The rule here where I live in the USA, is that you are not allowed to wire more than one house per hear. That is due to union control.

      1. Titania Bonham-Smythe

        Most metaphors don’t bear up to close examination.

  2. Hid

    Forgot to say; Great post as usual, looking forward to more articles. Keep up the good work!

  3. Ties

    I agree with your views on the copyright monopoly and the need for change in the industries involved. Record labels and the large corporations behind them have made their industry obselete because of their lack of change and adaptability.

    I have some trouble with your overall argument because you seem to imply that a musician for example should not expect to receive something when someone for example plays a song they’ve recorded. In my mind the musician sold something to the person who wants to play it; the basic understanding being, you can play it if you buy it, and others can buy it as well if they want to play it. This is a fairly straightforward transaction for me. If you then distribute your one copy to ten-thousands of others, the musician might not be happy, because he set the terms that you weren’t allowed to do that. And you agreed on those terms, but went along and did it anyway. If I had made a deal with a person who did that, I wouldn’t try that again.

    I do not think this is the right business model for music. I think that the music industry’s practices are retarded and its sue-my-customer-attitude moronic. But I do think the musician should have the choice to negotiate his own terms of the sale, even if it’s ridiculous. Everyone is free not to buy it right? The musicians that do allow, and encourage, sharing will perform better anyway, so everyone will come around eventually.

    Basically, I think it’s not fair to first agree on certain terms, based on which a transaction is done, and after it’s done decide you just didn’t agree after all. How is that fair?

    1. John

      This makes sense if copyright is never transferable to a third party (others can act as agents, but have no legal right to enforcement above artist’s decisions).

      Also, to make what you say practical, copyright would require some kind of registration before being enforceable with a publicly available terms and conditions (in a way that could be automated by anyone wanting to promote material i.e. internet radio stations etc). Paying for radio play always struck me as weird, it is like being forced to pay for advertising someone else’s material. That kind of model is only useful for rigging a music market, not one based on artistic critique.

      The whole thing about recordings being public performances is totally screwed up (unless maybe a recording of a live event). If I play a song in my garden at a barbecue and people overhear is that a public performance?

      There is no way at the moment to even know what the terms and conditions are for any easily reproducible work.

      There is also no way to ensure settlements are reasonable and can never demand unrealistic amounts.

      One of the things that struck me about most of the court cases, is they are never interested in a cut of any revenue in a sustainable manner, it is usually wanting control and shut down of operations. Copyright holders never said to Richard O’Dwyer, “ok we want a cut of the advertising revenue based on the click throughs for each item” or something that was actually doable in practice.

      Even the issue of who is the artist is sticky as many types of reproducible work involve many artists. Film is a great example. Those artists rarely end up with any control.

    2. Rick Falkvinge

      Your objection about a contract being a contract, a handshake being a handshake, and an agreement being an agreement is relevant and well argued. However, I must counter with three important points:

      One – There are many laws limiting contracts. When I sign an employment contract, there are often quarantine clauses in there, despite them being completely illegal. I sign the employment contract knowing that this clause cannot and will not be enforced, that it would be illegal to do so. Therefore, even though we’re signing the same agreement, we may differ on what we have actually agreed on. Laws that limit contract law are common, legion, and plentiful.

      Two – No contract is being signed. A good (say, a DVD or a CD) is being bought from a retailer like any over-the-counter good. There is no license, no contract, no limitation. You buy an item and assume full overship over it.

      Three – Even if a contract were being signed, it is between the original purchaser and the original seller. The people sharing music and movies are not parties to that contract but typically share things originally created by somebody they’ve never been a contract party to.

      1. Ties

        You present three interesting points, and I appreciate what you say. Since all three are very distinct I feel I should respond to each individually.

        1 – While I consider this argument valid (as far is I can tell with my limited legal knowledge) I don’t agree with what this means in real-life. Whenever I am doing business (thus writing contracts etc.) I try to do this honestly, and with a partner who’s intentions I trust. I prefer doing ‘good’ business, as do most people. In writing up the contract we are covering our asses, but when doing business, the spirit of the deal ultimately determines my and most people’s behaviour. It is my opinion that when you sign a contract you agree on a deal. If you are predetermined to break the deal before even signing it, I think that’s ‘bad business’.

        2 – Great argument. no contest.

        3 – This is too much of a legal argument for me. *if* a contract was signed, the people sharing should and would be aware of it, since they obviously get it from the purchaser, but they are sharing it anyway. It might not be wrong in a legal sense but if I would judge this on a basic level I wouldn’t feel right with it.

        But your arguments talk about contracts, and thereby about the law. And I agree that things in that department are seriously messed up and should be corrected. I am just arguing that you’re basically going back on your word when you first agree, and later just disregard this agreement. While there is certainly a gigantic gray area and many examples where its best to disregard an agreement, I feel that, fundamentally, going back on you word is not a good thing.

        I do admit that all ‘copyright’ cases originating from the music and movie are fundamentally flawed and are a sign that the current laws on this are outdated. Also, the few cases that I know of in it technology actually prevent innovation and competition. So while I disagree on a basic level, I also realize that the only ones that are actually sueing over copyright or patents deserve to be challenged and later punished by the market.

    3. Aelius Blythe

      “……imply that a musician for example should not expect to receive something when someone for example plays a song they’ve recorded.”

      People SHOULD pay for things they enjoy – and the great thing is that they DO!

      At Kickstarter over 40% of projects are fully funded by individuals – a huge success rate in comparison to the percentage of projects accepted and funded through, say record companies or publishers. –> http://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats At Flattr, users were first required to give money if they wanted to get any money, but not anymore. It wasn’t necessary – over half the users only GAVE money!
      –> http://blog.flattr.net/2011/04/opening-the-floodgates/

      These are only two examples of the countless and growing avenues for fans to get money to creators. The legal/political issue of copyright does not need to debate payment – fans, creators, and innovators are already doing that! Rather the problem more what you mention here…..

      “And you agreed on those terms. . . it’s not fair to first agree on certain terms, based on which a transaction is done, and after it’s done decide you just didn’t agree after all. ”

      Which is a valid concern. However, the terms themselves are deceptive (as Bruce WIllis has recently figured out) “Buying” music is really “borrowing” it, and pretending otherwise, while putting the truth in the fine print, while not strictly illegal is hardly an ethical business practice.

      Ultimately, is legislation (copyright) allowing one person (creator/producer) control over property/use of property by every single person in a country (and even –with international agreements – in the world!) even ethical? And if, as many people are starting to realize, there is something very wrong with this scenario, then why is this legislation on the books?

      1. Ties

        The fact that there are other (and better) ways to facilitate payment or appreciation does in my mind not make it okay to take the ultimate decision away from the creator.

        I agree that by willingly deceiving your customers you lose all ethical and moral grounds to sue or any other action.

    4. paulzag

      Before the “recording industry” became the dominant business model in music, musicians and composers regularly borrowed or varied songs and ideas they heard. Musicians earned a living by performing on the road, engaged by a patron or a venue.

      Furthermore the contempories of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, and other famous AND less famous composers, arrangers, conductors and libretto did not have to wait 75 years from the death of the artist to make a variation on a work.

      Music publishers existed as an ancillary revenue for the artist. This continued essentially unchanged until technology allowed the recording and publication of performing arts.

      Suddenly in the 20th century it became possible for musicians (and other performance artists) to win the lottery of popularity and amass a fortune with studio produced work.

      Relatively cheap access to recorded entertainment killed the market for vaudeville, town playhouses and even musical instruments in the home.

      Interestingly enough Hollywood was created because early film producers fled to California to avoid Thomas Edison’s patents on moving picture camera equipment. They did not want to pay royalties on the equipment they needed. So the current greatest abusers of Intellectual Property Rights grew from people seeking freedom from the extremes of those rights.

    5. huffmd

      It’s important that businesses adopt and take advantage of the internet rather than cling to tired business models. There are other factors to consider these days such as convenience and customer service that can’t readily be given for free. Most people value their time and business relationships. There is evidence in industries such as gaming where Steam and Blizzard games can be had for free, yet the companies are making lots of money.

      If a business wants to be successful they must find out what makes others succeed and others fail, what is driving their customer in or away, and do it better. This will take time and work but if you want a successful business, you’re going to have to learn and work at it. If you want to focus on “creating content” without learning out how to run a successful business to support it, then hire someone else to handle business strategy for you.

      The same goes for customer service, or any other aspect of business that’s outside of their core expertise. If a business cares about their customers (the people who would willingly spend their hard earned money on your product/service), it will reflect in their sales and adoption of their service. Making good content, or even great content, isn’t a reason anymore. There are plenty of competitors that can provide a similar service so it is important to consider the factors that consumers are really concerned about.

  4. jimbo

    and it has now become known that the arrest of Gottfrid Svartholm was done whilst Ron Kirk, the USA leader of the TPP ‘negotiations’ (and i use that term very lightly!) just happened to be in Cambodia at the time. to me, this shows the lengths the USA will go to to keep the monopoly for Hollywood and other entertainment industries. i really want to know what was threatened so this guy was arrested, considering he had been in Cambodia for over a year without issue. if Cambodia think that they will now be the USA best buddy, they need to quickly think again!

  5. Aaeru

    The confusion between sharing being vilified as stealing is always… ALWAYS a confusion between physical objects in a physical world VS information in an information world. And the copyright industries KNOW how to exploit this PERFECTLY (see <a href="http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120417/04502518523/revolving-door-between-mpaa-federal-government.shtml"Revolving Door Between The MPAA And The Federal Government).

    When you’ve sold me an Apple, it becomes MY property.

    I don’t care how much effort you spent growing that apple, once you’ve sold the apple to me it is mine. You give up your right to control this apple because it is no longer yours. You exchanged it for money. Now this apple of mine I will share it if I want to. I will even COPY my apple (i.e. throw it in the replicator from Star Trek) then share the copies to starving children. It becomes none of your business what I do with my own apple. And this is no different with pieces of information. Once you’ve sold me a piece of information, that COPY, (just that one copy) becomes MINE. You give up your right to control THIS copy because you exchanged it for money.

    Now as a society we can agree to give up certain rights to our own property in order to promote the progress of learning, hence why copyright was invented [see Statute of Anne]. Copyright is the limited time, limited suspension of the PEOPLE’s Right to Copy (to promote the progress of ‘learning’ — see US constitution) for the commercial exploitation thereof by copyright HOLDERS (they hold YOUR right to copy, hence holders. Not owners).

    If you want to try and make money by producing in the world of information, realize that one copy can divide into a million copies. Therefore, don’t try to make money like you’re selling bottles of milk. Okay? Use this strategy: http://sharingisliberty.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/formula-to-making-money-as-an-artist-on-the-net/ This is the formula to making money on the net

    1. Ties

      The part where you say; once you’ve sold the apple to me it is mine, is where my confusion sets in. Because if you first agree on not putting it in the replicator and you do it anyway you’ve lied right?

      But again: I think the current copying and sharing is VERY beneficial for all involved and certainly forces the backwards industries involved to reconsider their obsolete business models. But the problem is that you agree on something, and after the transaction you suddenly don’t agree anymore. It’s that part which I find strange.

      1. John

        You’ve hit the nail on the head and where sides seem to depart.

        It boils down to whether you think it is even reasonable to allow force of law to be applied to what someone does with something you sell to someone based on arbitrary terms.

        I don’t believe that is justifiable except if you are only ‘renting’ something to someone. If I rent my house to someone, I can dictate some terms such as don’t decorate in black paint as I don’t like black paint and I will have to redo it when I move back in. If I sell them my house, that doesn’t seem reasonable to apply any terms on what they do with it.

        I think all this would become very clear to the public if we distinguished clearly between owning (no terms) and renting (which can have terms). People could then actually decide whether they want to rent something with it’s terms and conditions or buy it outright.

        Of course, none of this affects actual criminal behavior with something purchased, such as if I use a sharpened DVD case to stab someone. That is still illegal. It doesn’t need to be in any terms and conditions though.

        1. Aaeru

          property rights, real property rights, are an absolute because they emerged through evolution. They were given to us by nature, not by human law. They exist because they were the only way to co-exist peacefully without people killing each other every day over pieces of bread.

          I found a comment that was helpful sometime ago so I copied it. It’s here: http://sharingisliberty.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/intellectual-property-law-is-not-an-inherent-natural-law/

        2. John

          Aaeru, Yes. That is kind of what I mean. Copyright is not a right at all because a right cannot be transferred. It is closer to a rental agreement if anything. Same as if I rent you my house, I can make some terms on how to decorate, but if I sell you it I can’t. Everyone should stop calling it a right. That is misleading and in a way a trade descriptions violation too. John

  6. iyahdub

    What about music ?!? Isnt the subject a bit more delicated then ?!? And keep in mind there are not only BIG SHARKS in the music industry, please , as a lot of people tend to do !!
    Thanks for your articles !

    1. John

      I’ll give you an example of where the big sharks and fraudsters are ruining it for everyone. I produce video. If I license music legitimately, it gets trolled by big companies and content fraudsters muscling in. So it just boils down to whoever has the biggest legal budget wins. This means there is little point in me licensing music legitimately because it is going to get attacked anyway.

      Without a system that requires preregistration and can prevent trolling, there is no way to stop the system working mostly for the benefit of the shysters.

      An example is music bed who match up indie musicians with indie video producers. Great model for small musicians and video producers. Trouble is, if I cannot guarantee the video won’t get trolled, then it makes it too risky to use for a commercial client project. All my licensed library music now gets trolled. What is the point in a licensing system that is broken for the small guys?

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  8. Daan Claes

    When somebody buys something, no matter what, they own it.

    In my world, and in a fair and free market, any entrepreneur or executive that claims a moral right to prohibit others by law from competing with them can fuck off and die.

    This is a fascinating position, and I agree with it. Now lets extend this idea to all property.

    I am willing to bet money that you believe that the State has the ‘right’ to tax people, and that the money they earn and posses is liable to taxation by the State, and that you support this 100%.

    If I am correct, then you are a in a state of doublethink. You cannot be for the power of the State to enforce bogus copyright, and then at the same time, be in favour of the State stealing money for other purposes. The ends that stolen money are put to are irrelevant; stealing is always wrong, and the only ethical way to fund the State is by voluntary contributions.

    This is a very important problem that the anti-copyright lobby refuses to accept. The MPAA/RIAA claim that they have a right to control other people, and in fact, and so to you; the only difference is where you believe you have the right to steal money from. In this regard you are no different to them; you hold that people, simply because they get together in a gang called a ‘nation’, can control and steal money from other people. It doesn’t add up.

    The things you say about copyright ring slightly hollow, because you will not address this. The stolen money of the State is what allows them to prosecute hunt down and jail ‘pirates’, confiscate their servers and harass ISPs, and you are explicitly for the State being able to steal this money. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

    1. paulzag

      Daan Claes are you trollingy?

      The key debate here is that copy “right” and other intellectual property laws are selectively argued and defended in the way that suits the copyright lobby. When it suits them IP is treated as physical goods-e.g. when describing the “theft” of IP being worth $X billion USD. But when it doesn’t suit them they abandon that argument e.g. that you cannot resell or give your copy of software away without breaching the “license” terms.

      If I designed and manufactured a dining chair with a EULA that insisted on a royalty every time the chair was photographed or used as a stool. Furthermore imagine if my EULA forbade you from changing or repairing it, copying its design or color. Now my chair design IS covered by copyright, we hope that but no court on the planet would enforce such a claim. But have a look at the madness of software patents.

      Now you try to extend this argument to include Government supply.

      We are discussing rights and responsibilities of citizens in a free society and where a lobby is using FUD to confuse lawmakers into extending a monopoly that is no longer justified as the reproduction technology is no longer capital intensive.

  9. John

    The problem with this whole debate is that both sides have a point but both would damage the interests of the other if they got their way. Its a mess this whole copyright thing.

    I have a solution, but is a drastic reform of the current situation. It would however, allow for both options without each destroying the other. It also allows for a transition period in which the economy could change and public make their choices in a free market.

    Here are some proposals of mine:

    * Copyright works by reducing property rights of another (and cannot practically work in any other way I see), SO SHOULD ONLY APPLY to a ‘rental’ situation. Electronic copies can be rented under terms and conditions specified by the author. Anything ‘sold’ under the impression that they are ‘ownable’ and now your property cannot have copyright applied. You cannot advertise copyright goods as a ‘sale’. This must be very clear at point of sale/rental. Trade descriptions law should cover that. You cannot sell something unless it is yours.

    * Copyright should require registration in a publicly accessible database, with terms clearly visible and in an automatable manner. One of the current problems is there is no easy way to assess terms or contact holders or their agents. Without registration there is no protection of terms. The term length should be short and require refreshing i.e 5 years and requiring refresh up to a maximum of 1 generation i.e. 25 years (so as not to rob future generations of their culture and they can repurpose it). There was a time copyright required registration and most were never renewed.

    * Copyright holder should be called ‘terms holders’ not rights holders, but only when the terms are easily accessible and can be easily contacted. A right is not something that can be transferred, it is inalienable. Stop using the word right.

    * The same applies to DRM. In a clear and voluntary rental situation it makes some sense. Some people like renting. With a pretense of ‘buying’ it doesn’t at all, it is just a kind of fraud.

    * The main issue I have with copyright is it misrepresents property ownership and is totally impractical to enforce or consider due to lack of any required records. Its just a time bomb waiting to go off preventing people from speculating on new technologies etc.

    * This will allow ‘rent seeking’ copyright addicts to continue if they can (in a more reasonable way for rentals only) but also for the public to revolt when they realise they do not own. Maybe people like renting, especially if it is say cheaper than buying. Maybe they actually want to own stuff.

    * This will allow multiple models to proceed without attacking each other.

    * Innovators have a simple automatic way to deal with terms holders when they want to deal with ‘rentable items’.

    * The public can decide if they want to abandon copyright and have the option to boycott it if they want (currently they cannot) by only dealing with people who actually sell stuff. They might like the appeal of property and that might win fairly on its own terms.

    * A credit database would help sort out fair use. Most reproducible work has many people work on it. For instance my showreel was attacked for using a clip from a film I worked on in a showreel, even though my name is on the imdb credits. How is that in the interests of artists? Everyone who contributes to a work is the artist, not just one or two.

    * Digital signatures can be used to sign database entries and tag permissions etc to reduce fraud and dodgy attacks of licensed material. i.e. I have stopped licensing library music for video because it just gets trolled by copyright fraudsters. That is not good for indie musicians.

    1. AeliusBlythe

      “Copyright… SHOULD ONLY APPLY to a ‘rental’ situation…You cannot advertise copyright goods as a ‘sale’.

      While I don’t like any non-commercial copyright regulations period, I think this would actually be a very important step in the right direction. If only we could stop with all this false advertising! How many customers do you think would continue to support these ossified industries if the (severely lacking) products and services were represented as they really are? I think that would go a long way in turning public opinion towards a demand for copyright reform, ripping the rug out from under the current monopolies, and forcing them once and for all to adapt or perish.

      1. John

        Yes. To me it seems the best way to fight copyright, is to allow people to opt in/out create their own terms for rental, then see who wins a fair game.

        Copyright is amazingly damaging to many people trying to do the right thing and adjust their criteria to a different world. For instance, I had a conversation with music bed, who are a small outfit that hook up indie musicians with video producers to license music tracks.

        This seems like a good thing for indie musicians and video producers but the problem is even if you pay for a legitimate agreement with them, the video will still get trolled by other companies claiming the music is theirs. That destroys small companies trying to produce more flexible models.

        I think rental agreements (even if long term) are valid ways to do business but should be allowed to coexist with outright sales and neither be able to attack the other.

        Without any preemptive registration system, there is no way to stop trolling. It is always the biggest legal budget wins, so always ends up favoring the big monopolies and fraudsters.

        There is no good technical reason why this can’t be done. Its just digital signatures for identifiers, a terms database, a rental database, a fair use claim database (important for stopping trolling). I could build such a thing even.

  10. Jacob Hansson

    It feels increasingly wrong to talk about markets, however, when we’re talking about intellectual resources. A market is a very elegant solution (in theory) to maximize productivity for its participants, but only if we are trading commodities that are consumed when we use them (like food).

    Given two conditions, a market can be shown to not be the best solution (I think at least, unless I’m totally misunderstanding something): One, that we are dealing with additive resources, like software, that can be used without consuming them, and two, that barriers of entry are minimal (eg. it is very easy for someone who wants to contribute to a resource to do so).

    A market will give you back the labor you put into it times a multiplier, but the alternative given by the Open Source community, collaboration, will give you back all the work put into a resource by all participants since it’s inception, regardless of your contribution.

    I realize this is slightly OT, but I blogged about this a few days ago, so it’s fresh in my head.

  11. markklb

    So I spend 3 years doing hard core research, digging up obscure, unknown evidence to support my cause and craft together a very viable and marketable novel/album/gadget/program etc. And your point is that the after i sell the 1st copy of that novel/album/gadget/ program for money permits that buyer to either duplicate/replicate/copy that which they originally purchased for their own use now “share”/ re-sell that file/PDF/knock-off/program with 3 million others without me receiving monetary or any other benefit for the 3 years of hard work required to create the novel/album/gadget/program and bring it to market is just and fair in your world? Absolutely a copy can be instantly made for a fraction of a fraction of the cost of the original because those “sharing” their copies with the millions incur none of the cost associated with bringing that creation to the marketplace is a free and open marketplace? Without some sort of protection or rights granted to the creator or owner of that intellectual property or patent why would anyone want to even create?

    1. John

      So do you ever go to the library? Lend books to friends? Let friends watch your DVDs? Let them touch your software?

      People need to recognize that sharing digital works is pretty much mostly non profit motive. The law was made for a time when you needed a commercial motive to bother infringing copyright on any scale. That is no longer true and few have any good ideas that are not just knee jerk reactions based an old world model. We need to find new models, but fighting reality is going to hurt.

      Neil Gaiman (Best selling author on how piracy helps him)

      Paulo Coelho (Best selling author on the new renaissance, social media, piracy)

    2. Rick Falkvinge

      The notion that nobody would create anything without monopolies has been shown to be completely false over and over again.

      For the two most obvious examples, look at GNU/Linux and Wikipedia (the former of which now powers the majority of mobile phones, so it has a huge economic impact).

      For an even more powerful counterproof, observe that 72 hours of video are being uploaded just to YouTube every minute. This is mostly despite the copyright monopoly, rather than because of it.


      1. Thomas Tydal

        Operating Systems are a good example of a free and fair market. There are the ones you have to pay for and the ones you can get for free. Some come with source code and some don’t. And then we have those with an open license that lets you do whatever you want. You can modify them, copy them, rebrand them and give them away for free or charge as much as you like, to anyone anywhere. Isn’t this fantastic?

        Yet, you say: ” As is obvious to everybody else, this is the complete opposite of a fair and free market.”

        Because the situation with the music industry is exactly the same. There are songs you have to pay for and songs you can get for free. Some come with complete scores and some don’t. And then we have those with an open license that lets you do whatever you want. You can modify them, copy them, rebrand them and give them away for free or charge as much as you like, to anyone anywhere. Isn’t this fantastic?

        Just like a majority of people run a proprietary operating system the y like to listen to commercially recorded music.

        What am I missing? Is there a difference between copyrighted software and copyrighted music? Or are you actually saying that there is no fair and free market for software until everyone legally can share all software with everyone else?

        1. harveyed

          The monopoly of distribution lies in the copyright holders being allowed to lock up the information behind a gate and charge for distribution of it over and over – and to stop others for doing the service of distribution cheaper – as a hobby for instance. Clearly no new work whatsoever is required for each new copy, so we need to find new ways to finance what is created. Selling it as a “product” has just.. stopped working.

          The more “rights” certain businesses have to earn money in their favourite way, the more it hurts personal freedom and peoples ability to do what they like in their spare time – as a hobby. You don’t punish people for cooking their own food because it (may lead) to smaller income for restaurants. They don’t have to pay royalties to a master cook for the recipe they are using while cooking. Grandmas are not being sued for baking cakes for their grandchildren – when clearly what they are doing as a hobby may well be hurting the bakeries and café business.

          To the younger generation who understand the internet – distribution businesses hunting people online by mass-surveillance measures is just as repulsive as if bakeries started peeping into peoples kitchens to bust grandmas for damaging their potential income when baking cakes for their grandkids.

        2. Evgeny Kapun

          Operating systems are a bad example of a free and fair market. Many people pay for Microsoft Windows and use it just because it comes pre-installed on computers they buy. Also, most smartphones and tablets can only run just one OS, so people don’t have any choice.

      2. jimbo

        the problem is that those that make the decisions over monopolies refuse to take any notice of any evidence, mostly, perhaps, because they are financially ‘encouraged’

  12. printersMate

    Prior to the statute of Anne, printer publisher had a monopoly on printing, as a means of the government controlling information to the public. A printer/publisher gained a license for the works that they published, which also protected them from other publishers. When parliament was about to remove this licensing, the publisher/printers came up with the idea of copyright as a means to preserve their monopolies on books etc.
    It is the publishers, rather than authors and performers that are fighting ‘piracy’, and trying to extend copyright both in terms of how long it lasts, and what it covers. As i see it, either copyright is cat back drastically, or the publishers will destroy the Internet by imposing conditions that make it impossible to to run a web-site and allow public comments; as quotes from or links to copyrighted materials would be considered infringing.
    The other major issue with the publisher view of copyright is that they think original work is completely original, whereas all authors and other creators will admit to being influenced by, and copying from others. This is particularly problematical in copyright covering derived works, and when quotes from other works are used. Strengthening copyright coverage makes it easier for publishers to gain control of all published works; as they can (claim) to deal with licensing for quotes, and permissions for derivative works, and use take-down notices etc. to ensure that sited that they do not like are forced off the Internet.
    The big publishers can gradually force the major Internet players to implement software tool to detect ‘infringement’, such as contentid on you tube, and now lowering a sites ranking on Google by take-down notice count. The latter seems to indicate that take-down notices are ‘copied’ to Google, and like contentid can could be abused or gamed. Note that these system only allow the affected party to challenge notices, which make it difficult to deal with mistaken take-downs and notices.
    These systems are extra-legal, and are extending the reach of the publishers without any laws being enacted. Strengthened copyright laws will make such systems more common, and extend the publishers control over the Internet. The cost of such systems is pushed onto the Internet companies, which make it more difficult to offer Internet services, such a blogging platforms.
    A major conflict exists between the big publishers and the free and open Internet. Either copyright law is changed significantly, or the big publishers will destroy the Internet by imposing monitoring on all traffic. In fact their desire to control all copies of published works could lead to all computer systems becoming closed, with all software strictly controlled, and all copy operation validated before being carried out. this become even easier if all user data is held in the cloud.
    The desire of the publishers is the same as all governments, total monitoring of every bodies activities and ‘speech’. Is it any wonder that governments will enact treaties like ACTA, as it establishes the basic tool for the to gain control over the people that they rule. Fighting piracy is a nice backdoor to the type of Internet that allows governments to control Information and People.

  13. Nicholas Miles

    Rick, after the EUP-elections you wrote a blogpost saying that the time had come for the Pirate Party to stop shouting. I agreed with you at the time, but have since started to think that we maybe should have kept our cocky attitude. It is good to see you’re back to your old outspoken ways. Keep it up!

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Thanks. Yes, I’ve got the same gut feeling.

      1. Adam3us

        Go Rick, go! You’re on a roll!

        IMNSHO With no exaggeration the future of humanity depends on you guys.

        3d printing will bypass much of manufacturing markups, the only purchases will be toner/raw materials to feed the printer and power, plus designs. Designs must be free.

        Star-trek replicators are not far future, they are surprisingly close. functional microscopic scale printers have been built. Single atom placement accuracy has been demonstrated, once those come together we’re there. It really is tantalizingly close.

        Now is the time to remove the copyright subsidy. Copyright was something recent added to human culture. It is now a negative to human progress and the effects will get worse as more of our lives become “designs” “software” etc.

        Finally something practical (pirate party) to stop the orwell slide in to totalitarianism. I have pretty much given up on the USA and hope for some light from other countries and geopolitical shifts from asia to make the USA lobby pressure diminish. But maybe pirate party can steer away from the abyss.

  14. printersMate

    An example of why the publioshing industries approach to copyright is a disater, this time they shot themselves in the foot.

    Hugo awards strem shot down

  15. Alex

    If it is a free market, than how come Kim Dot Com has made millions off of culture sharing?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      In what way does a free market preclude successful entrepreneurs?

      1. printersMate

        The point I was trying to make is that the problems with copyright enforcement, and the desires of the big publishers has gone beyond matters of commerce and free enterprise. Free speech on the Internet is threatened by copyright enforcement. The discusion should not be about artist and publisher rights, but rather about freedom of speech.

  16. Anon

    “The copyright monopoly only serves to protect the past from the future”.
    Spot on.
    Nobody has the right to redefine ethics just to protect a business.
    Copying is not stealing. Full spot. This simple concept is like the key square that will extricate a complex chess game. Reaffirm this concept and we’ll have a chance of developing a fair digital society ; surrendering such square is not an option.

  17. Pedro

    I don’t know if you already know this Rick, you probably do, but still…

    EU Wants to Sneak in a Mini-ACTA by the Backdoor

    Their scheme has been found… again…

    1. jimbo

      there will be no let-up by the copyright maximilists until they have everything they want. the trouble is, once they have it they wont be able to handle it or know what to do with it. plus, the world cannot and will not revolve or evolve around copyright. the only way to stop the damage that is inevitable is to ban copyright completely in it’s current form and ban bodies like the EU Commission. they want to do nothing except change existing laws to how they think they should be, not how they are and to introduce more of their own self-serving laws, whilst removing all freedoms possible from the people.

  18. Elzbieta

    “When somebody buys something, no matter what, they own it.”

    It does matter what you buy. Not all can be owned. There are places where you can buy a slave woman. Do you own her? When you buy a book you own this very copy but not the contents of the book, because you cannot own ideas. This is exactly why the “stealing” metaphor of copyright lobby is so wrong: property is a wrong word here. You have your own language to express your ideas, but it is not your private language. Ideas are collective from the beginning, even if produced by one individual. If our arguments follow the ambiguous language in which “book” means both the paper and the content, then we are no better than copyright lobby.

  19. Peter

    So, let’s see if we can figure out how this works.

    Suppose copyright laws did not exist, then everybody copies and distributes works of “intellectual property” freely – sometimes for a profit. It may no longer be feasible for, say, publishing companies to invest in an author by making advances, publicity, etc.
    – Obviously, the role of, for example, record companies will be much diminished, although I am sure they won’t disappear entirely as distributors.
    – Creators will lose a source of financing, emotional and technical support. This may be replaced by operations like Kickstarter and craft collaborative organizations.
    – Incidentally, the support people: directors, PR staff, mixing engineers, editors, critics, etc. may find themselves in a more tenuous position than today. Maybe not – many of them are self-employed already.
    – Perhaps creators main source of income will come from performances, personal appearances, autographs, souvenirs, etc. Authenticity will be currency, distributed media will serve as advertisements.
    – What will happen to those who are not performance artists, e.g. writers, graphic artists, all types of craftspeople?
    – How will this affect those whose income comes from the experience they create, (I hate to say this, but e.g. Disneyworld)? Where does identity (which I think we can agree must not be copied freely) leave off and works which can legitimately be copied begin. In some cases this is obvious, in other, borderline cases, not so much.

    These, and a host of other questions, must be answered or at least considered before we can continue very far down this road. Otherwise we risk being hijacked by all the “status quo” individuals and organizations who will try to turn any revolution to their own ends as they have so often and so effectively in the past.

    1. Anonymous

      Sorry but this is just buggy whip manufacturers arguing for automobiles to be outlawed. Human society does not owe anyone a government subsidized monopoly, nor the right to halt human progress to protect their current trade.

      They have enjoyed the monopoly for approximately 300 years. Think outside of the status quo – as a fresh question, if the status quo was no copyrights, would you want to introduce them? Are copyrights a net positive. 300 years is a very short time in terms of 2 million years humans of some form have been developing culture. And now we are removing the subsidy because we are finding it a net destructive force in what will soon become a predominantly information age where everything is information. (3d print everything, including your heart for transplanting; think about monsanto claming copyrights on strains of wheat but writ very very large – millions will starve or die to protect the wealth of an increasingly few, vs an age of plenty what will 100 years look like? fusion power, 3d printable everything, biological immortality).

    2. Adam3us

      Sorry but this is just buggy whip manufacturers arguing for automobiles to be outlawed. Human society does not owe anyone a government subsidized monopoly, nor the right to halt human progress to protect their current trade.

      They have enjoyed the monopoly for approximately 300 years. Think outside of the status quo – as a fresh question, if the status quo was no copyrights, would you want to introduce them? Are copyrights a net positive. 300 years is a very short time in terms of 2 million years humans of some form have been developing culture. And now we are removing the subsidy because we are finding it a net destructive force in what will soon become a predominantly information age where everything is information. (3d print everything, including your heart for transplanting; think about monsanto claming copyrights on strains of wheat but writ very very large – millions will starve or die to protect the wealth of an increasingly few, vs an age of plenty what will 100 years look like? fusion power, 3d printable everything, biological immortality).

  20. theseeker

    This may be offtopic, but some spin doctors at the European Commission are trying to push their twisted version of “A clean and open Internet”.



  21. […] 5, 2012 Tech No comments Rick Falkvinge has a post up on his website highlighting how copyright is antithetical to the free market. We’ve pointed this out many times in the past, though for reasons I don’t fully […]

  22. EllVee55

    With all due respect (as a UK Civil Servant this means “with no respect at all”, but one must do these things politely) if you buy stuff, you do so on a number of terms and conditions. It may be that you make your crafty software available to me on one license for one purpose (eg reserch) and on another (eg BSD) for another. So what I can do with wht I’ve bought depends on the terms and conditions, WHICH I AGREED TO AT THE TIME.

    1. adam3us

      I dont think you get it. The very fact that it is legal to place restrictions on copying information, is due to the government subsidy and granting of monopoly powers. Falkvinge and the pirate party are rightly saying in the interests of human progress this government subsidized monopoly should be ended. At that point any “contract” that prevents copying would become illegal, unenforcable and void.

      Morally this is the correct balance for human progress at this point. And do bear in mind that it is technologically IMPOSSIBLE to stop copying. It is an exercise in attempting to legislate against gravity in the internet age.

      And the fall out from attempting to legislate the impossible is to strip everyone of their rights to privacy in the digital age. If we allow this to continue, we are allowing copyright proponents to sow the seeds of the destruction of human culture and civil safety. Society is building extreme risks for itself by allowing copyright lobby plus safety at all costs mentality from government to build a surveillance state. They are building Orwell’s fictional reality, if they havent already surpassed it.

  23. paulzag

    To show the absurdity of intellectual property law… Every time you see an image of the Sydney Opera House in a major Hollywood movie, a license fee has been paid for the use of the copyrighted design that is the Opera House. Technically all “exploitation” of the image of the Opera House (including non-commercial photography other than for personal use and study) requires a license.

    It’s a building-a beautiful, wonderful building-but still part of the cityscape of Sydney. Who made sharing a photo of it illegal? Plus it was built with public funds!

  24. frank87

    You write about a “fair and free market” without monopolies.
    What do you think of other kinds of market regulations? A lot of people talk about a “free market”, and the most often don’t mean fair (and with many anti-thrust-laws I don’t see its very free).

    I think musicians and composers should have comparable labor-laws as electricians, with minimum wages.

  25. […] with full power over its own works and not under large corporations’ power in an almost non-libre market. Pirates find that current copyright system is unfair for creators and consumers, so they propose […]

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