Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Copyright, content industries and "that's not fair"

In the sense of "and I'm going to tell my mummy government". Robert Heinlein penned the following quotation, as part of his first ever published story:

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."
Robert A Heinlein, Life-Line, 1939

The copyright reform battle is enshrined in this thinking. On the one side we have people reasonably pointing out that the move to digital from analogue completely changes how content can and is being reproduced, reducing some formerly expensive processes to zero cost; on the other we have the rights holders shouting "no fair" and demanding the law is made tighter, rights extended longer, and that everyone else must be made to expend their resources and all unreasonable efforts to protect their lucrative business model.

But their business model, historically lucrative and rather young, is now outdated. Setting a book for a PDF can be carried out using cost-free software in hours and reproduction is free; people are creating popular music in their bedrooms and distributing it at no cost, and with the rise of Aframe (and presumably soon a Samwers clone ;) ) film production costs are following the huge drop in distribution and reproduction that digital and the Internet had already brought.

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