Third and fourth copyright myths

(this page is just one part of my “Dangerous Copyright Myths” piece. Please also read the introduction and index for more context)

Myth 3: All creative activities give equal opportunities to make a comfortable living even without copyright

This belief that any kind of author has so many alternatives to make a living from his or her creative talent alone is very strong, because it’s a very convenient one: “it’s not my fault if he’s lazy”. Apart from traditional publishing, many other profit models would surely exist, especially now that “the information age will allow artists to offer many more personalised services than before”. We should return to those happy times when musicians where payed to actually do something every day, that is live music versus recording sessions.

Now, this could work and could be fair, for those musicians who actually compose anything, lyrics included, that they play in public, but only for them.

What about writers? Should they write a different version of the same book every week, or for every reader? One who can play well in a studio can probably play well even in a theather or pub, but being a great writer doesn’t imply at all that one is, for example, a decent teacher.

Live performances? What should writers do, read a whole 400 pages book in a pub or theater every night, to an audience which would enjoy it much more reading it where they feel like it, probably alone, one chapter at a time? Even staying with music, what about lyricists?

Myth 4: All creativity is unstoppable: all good and useful creative works would surely exist anyway, even without copyright

A lot of the “copyright must be abolished” babbling is only about “fiction” (in any art, including music, etc…). What about good “non fiction”, where it is much harder to believe that would be created without a material incentive coming from copyright? What about technical manuals, for example, which take thousands of hours of boring work and special equipment? What about the music textbooks, theatre listings or grammar books without which many songs and novels may not have been composed or be widely known?

Going back for a moment to Free/Open Source software, note that in many successful cases (Linux, Apache, Mozilla, OpenOffice, KDE, Gnome) a lot of the quality comes from the direct backing of a foundation or some commercial company! This kind of sponsorship works and doesn’t harm society because, again, software is just a tool.