Of Copyright and Corporations

My initial arguments in address of Lolwut’s article, Why I Prefer Permissive Licenses to Copyleft:

The following is my response to his:

Regarding your first comment, again, I don’t believe that this is a sensible definition of liberty/freedom. Any definition of liberty/freedom that argues for more rules and restrictions should be highly suspect, because liberty/freedom is defined as the absence of restrictions.

No: freedom is an absence of restriction, in whatever context; political liberty is freedom from undue, despotic or oppressive constraint. Actual liberty can’t be established or sustained without rules and a measure (if only a soupcon) of order. The only alternative is anarchy, from which liberty never eventuates.

There are several arguments against copyright, libertarian and non-libertarian. The particular libertarian argument against copyright to which I subscribe can be summarized as follows:

1. The only legitimate function of government (and its laws) is the protection of individual rights.

I haven’t believed that since I was a Libertarian myself. For one looming counterexample, all of the greatest public works such as the Autobahn, the United States’ Interstate Highway System, and innumerable others throughout the developed world couldn’t be developed and executed by private enterprise — not because companies were technically unable to do so, but because the outlay necessitated in relation to potential profit (whenever any) simply made such propositions wholly impracticable. Obviously, private enterprise should and has been contracted in numerous and limited capacities to realize such projects, but only a national government can ably administer and fund them. For that matter, would we be communicating as we are if telecommunications had been left to the likes of AT&T and Bell, the Defense Department had never developed ARPANET, and the National Science Foundation Network and numerous conjoint governmental agencies hadn’t expanded its ambit globally? Dream on.

2. Copyright is not actually an individual right, but rather simply a legal invention/tool intended and designed to promote the production of creative works.

That’s incorrect. Copyright is a legal instrument intended to protect intellectual property for a specified span. To quote the Copyright Act of 1790, it’s intended to secure one’s “sole right and liberty of printing, reprinting, publishing and vending” so “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” Surely you understand that profit is, though not the soul of craft or art itself, among the the principle inducements to human advancement?

3. Therefore, all copyright laws are illegitimate.

I can’t find any more legitimacy in your syllogism’s premises than in this deduction. Outside of China, copyright is a foundational requisite of civil law in every civilized country.

(1) is accepted by libertarians, or at least minarchists;

Since when? Prior to a lustrum ago, I never met a Libertarian who espoused this codswallop, itself thitherto a delusion exclusive to Marxists.

(2) is far more obvious, and is mostly contested by the large media companies who have a serious financial interest in justifying copyright as some sort of “natural right”.

No, the Founding Fathers and their British antecedents justified copyright as a means to defend certain natural rights. If you were familiar with the history of copyright over the past semicentury, you’d observe that corporations meditate only to expand and distort legislation pertaining to copyright for wrongful gain.

This is assuming, of course, that copyright even works as it was intended to — there are arguments even denying its effectiveness,

Which? In my experience, most rulings in civil courts regarding copyright claims tend to be just.

and asserting that more innovation and creative works would arise if copyright were either greatly weakened or altogether abolished.

I’ve read this incredibly jejune theory before, and can adduce sprawling instances to explode it. In the second half of the twentieth century, when industrial, erudite and popular arts flourished as never before or since in modernity throughout the developed world, copyright was sedulously and aggressively defended in thousands of high-profile civil cases from Topeka to Tokyo. Nota bene: in every robust and genuinely sophisticated entertainment industry (notably those of Austria, Korea, Italy, Japan, etc.), creative firms and figures alike judiciously exercise copyright to protect their fruits of afflatus and labor. Note that this hasn’t stopped anyone from quoting or otherwise incoporating the work of others into their own by reasonable means.

If you don’t participate, you wouldn’t know. That hypothetical kiddieshit applies primarily to software or liberal arts within limited partnerships. Moreover, how the shit is anybody advancing innovation by effectively legalizing plagiarism?

However, I don’t even rely on those here, and instead contend simply that protecting copyright is not a legitimate function of government, regardless of its actual benefits.

Would you propose an alternative?

This doesn’t mean that I don’t value creative works; it simply means that I oppose using the law and the government to promote their production, however good this may be, because I believe that using the government in such a fashion oversteps its proper function. We can certainly establish private organizations and institutions to promote innovation and creativity, and thereby assist artists in making a living, but I don’t believe we can legitimately use the government to accomplish this.

I agree that government shouldn’t ordinarily promote the production of art or entertainment, but that’s hardly the intent or function of copyright. I hold nearly 40 such registrations, but recieve no endorsement or subvention from government whatsoever.

Also, I don’t know why you mention plagiarism, because it is a distinct thing from copyright infringement, and could occur with or without the presence of copyright law.

Plagiarism of a copyrighted work constitutes copyright infingement; ergo, copyright is the only reliable means by which plagiarism may be prosecuted under civil law. This isn’t difficult.

I don’t think copyright infringement should be illegal, but I never stated that I condoned or was indifferent to plagiarism; I disapprove of it probably as much as you do.

How, then, would you contend with it?

My point in regard to the GPL was not that it is long by absolute standards, but that it is far, far longer than many permissive licenses. It’s true that greater detail/more words are required to cover the “circumstantial eventualities and niceties” you mention, but such things are only more likely to materialize with copyleft licenses precisely because those licenses included more conditions than permissive licenses in the first place — in other words, the copyleft licenses created their own problems, and consequently needed to add more detail/words to cover up the holes they had dug themselves. Perhaps some of the permissive licenses are too short and vague, but even if they were clarified and thus lengthened, I doubt that they would be longer than a typical copyleft license, simply because they have fewer conditions.

So? Length doesn’t necessarily constitute verbiage, which is defined conditionally. I haven’t read the GPL in toto for years, but I don’t recall in it any superfluity.

I like Microsoft’s products for nostalgia reasons, and I greatly admire Bill Gates for his technical skill and knowledge, but this doesn’t mean that I agree with everything they do — in particular, I strongly disagree with the latter’s views concerning copyright. I may use Microsoft products, but this doesn’t mean I condone their licensing decisions — I put it on a scale with other things, and it simply turns out that other unrelated considerations (e.g. nostalgia) outweigh my objections to their licensing.

Withal, your use of their products is still tacit consent to their policies at a time when Microsoft and Apple rightly represent the worst that proprietary software vendors have to offer. By contrast, my use of FreeBSD and a majority of FOSS along with some proprietary software (icons of OS/2, DOOM2.WAD, numerous programs of DOS and Win32 via DOSBox and WINE) isn’t merely predicated on my partiality for the OS and all that subordinate software, which is undeniable. I also believe very strongly in FOSS as the only means by which freedom of use and dissemination can be sustained. However you may choose to present yourself, nobody can really believe the talk if you don’t walk the walk.

Besides, WINE exists.

I also never stated that the copylefters were hypocrites merely for using/consuming proprietary works made by other people; I called them hypocrites because they claim to defend freedom, yet don’t apply the freest licenses to their own works, with some of them also opposing copyright but still participating in that system by using copyleft. I may use Microsoft products, but when it comes to my own works, I always release under an extremely permissive license.

This may seem paradoxical to you, but they are defending freedom by preventing others from fettering it. As the authors of their respective or collective works, they have every moral right to do so. Legality proceeds from this premise.

I strongly despise the current abuse of copyright law by corporations;

So do I; their efforts to curtail fair use and application or personal, noncommercial dissemination of purchased copies are especially egregious. No sensible advocate of copyright supports that.

however, I don’t hate corporations themselves simply because they are corporations — this is nothing but a tired, whining attitude of teenage progressives.

Agreed, but progressives are their target demographics nowadays, they conduct themselves accordingly, and that’s why a majority of multinationals are so loathed by people of every political stripe, save perennially clueless Libertarians and Boomercons, and complicit politicians. Haven’t you noticed that most wealthy corporations — indeed, the vast majority of those listed in the Fortune 500 — support legislation and politicos who push every far-left agenda from transmania to Critical Race Theory? Has their expensive and systematic support for the gradual erosion of individual rights to free expression, self-defense, enterprise and association produced even a blip on your radar? Have you observed even the slightest symptoms of social disintegration due to open borders so that corporations can exploit more cheap labor and both wings of the uniparty can gull potential voters who aren’t yet acculturated? People hate corporations because they they’re as much a vehicle for progressivism as any post-Marxist NGO or neo-Bolshevik academic crank. Last year, hundreds of prominent corporations supported a black identity terrorist organization, for christ’s sake. Get with it.

Abolition of copyright at once solves the issue of abuse, which I think you will agree will be a good thing;

Not at all, when sensible reform can do likewise without depriving people of their legal protections. Can you understand that millions of individuals partially rely on copyright for their livelihood and artistic recognition?

I assume here that it will also make it more difficult for individuals to make a living from creative works and thus reduce the quantity of such works (though some opponents of copyright, like I said earlier, will dispute this), which is a bad thing,

Yeah, that would minimize, if not eliminate an entire sector of the economy and culture to satisfy the consummation of an extreme and otiose principle. Why, exactly?

but my libertarian principles preclude me from supporting the use of the government and the law even to promote something good, because this is outside the scope of its legitimate role.

Only a minority of Libertarians share this opinion, and not one Libertarian party worldwide espouses it. If you can’t avow the legitimacy of intellectual property and agree to its legal defense, your propositions pertaining to any proprietorship are in effect and essence, if not intent, those of Marx and his apologists, and they commend the same consequences: disenfranchisement and depredation by governmental neglect. That’s a retrograde aim in the worst way. Now, is this actually Libertarianism, or is it millennialism/zoomerism?

Author: rbuchanan

I'm an author, lexicographer, cacophonist, ailurophile, bibliophile, cinephile, logophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow, incontestable babe, borderline narcissist, weirdly semi-Mediterranean Native American, and alliterative anastrophe addict. My personality type is superlative INTJ.

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