Some Dangerous Copyright Myths
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” - A. Einstein
BACKGROUND: I originally published this piece at digifreedom.net in September 2006. Later on, for several reasons stopped using that website, so this piece went offline. I put it back online in January 2014, split in several parts for easier reading (the introduction is right below the index):
Copyright has an enormous influence on the advancement of culture and the way authors produce creative works and are rewarded for them. Unfortunately, these days, copyright is both abused by some and vehemently criticized by (many more) others, who require nothing less than its abolition.
In my opinion, the second category can be divided in two classes. The first one, which I am convinced constitutes the greater majority of the no-copyright crowd, comprises freeloaders. These are the people who say things like “information wants to be free” when what they really mean, consciously or not, is “I want something for free”. One of the better proofs I know is a 2005 poll which asked 4500 Italian high school students which profession they considered best.
The majority of these teenagers, who surely “share” copyrighted music as often as they can while boasting that musicians should only make money in person, through live performances, didn’t give actor or movie director as their answer: the most popular choice was music producer.
In their own way, freeloaders are just as wrong, motivated (often inconsciously) only by self interests and oversimplifying the situation as the executives of music multinationals.
The second category of abolitionists is made by onderful people of any age, very honest and consistent, but who frankly seem to me either superficial or too much in love of their craft to see the big picture or, even more frequently, have simply never stopped to think the whole thing through. My strictly personal impression, not supported by any numerical data, is that most Free Software supporters fall in this second group.
It is right and necessary to oppose the excesses of the current system. It is foolish and counterproductive, however, to ask for a complete abolition of copyright because one believes one or more very popular myths. The rest of this essay analyzes the weaknesses of these myths. A separate essay proposes instead some fundamental parts of the solution.