Whenever there is a conflict between human rights and property rights, human rights must prevail

...Jefferson party were formed upon its ... superior devotion to the personal rights of men, holding the rights of property to be secondary only, and greatly inferior [...] for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar...
Abraham Lincoln
Springfield, Ills, April 6, 1859

To make laws that man cannot, and will not obey, serves to bring all law into contempt.
E.C. Stanton

"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 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 Heinlein

Down with the obsolete laws!

What is `Copyright'?

There is nothing more important than Freedom, so whenever we introduce a law which limits it, we should think long and hard and make sure that the benefits are truly significant.

The idea behind the copyright laws is that if everyone can freely copy the original work, the author would be deprived from the just remuneration for his or her work. This was relevant to writings since the invention of the printing press (before that, book copying was far too expensive), and became relevant to music since the invention of the vinyl disks and later the magnetic tape recorders.

Let us look at how it was and is done.

Before

When copyright laws were first introduced, they were similar to patent laws in intent and purpose: the former protected the writer, like the latter protected the inventor. The authors were being protected from the piracy of the publishers. Note that the law was restricting the rights of the few owners of the printing presses while protecting the creative cream of the population by preventing publishers from eating each other's guts.

Now

Now the situation has changed dramatically. With the invention of the cheap photocopying technology (aka "xeroxing") and electronic information storage, the laws are restricting everyone who has access to such equipment, i.e., virtually everyone in a modern industrial society.

Who are we protecting with the copyright laws now? Authors? Not anymore! The authors can sell their music and writings over the Internet, they do not need the publishing or recording industry.

The copyright laws are protecting the industry from the general population!

Well, maybe this is a good idea -- after all, there are people employed there, jobs are at stake? No way! Did we decide to kill the nascent railway and car industries to protect the horse-driven communications? No! So why should we stifle the Internet by keeping the recording and publishing industries on CPR? Printing press killed the scribe, Internet is killing the printing press - so be it!

We are being robbed to feed the fat cats -- how do you like it?

Alternative

We should go back to the idea of protecting the authors (from the public, if necessary). The duration of the copyright should be limited by a fixed term, say, 10 (5? 15?) years (adding the author's lifetime, as is done by the current laws, seems to be wrong: it would encourage killing the authors; it doesn't seem to be happening now though, possibly because the constant extensions of the copyright term make that futile).

Consider an author selling his or her music (in mp3) or book (in PostScript, PDF, LaTeX or whatever) over the Internet. Is piracy a problem? Not really: if the item is really popular and the price is reasonable, would you search the Internet for the pirated copy instead of paying a couple of bucks? Of course not! And the popular item will elicit many downloads, thus bringing much revenue. If the item is less popular (should we say "elitist"? :-) it would be harder to find a pirated copy on the Internet, thus the author would be able to set a higher price, getting a similar revenue.

Act NOW!

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