Tucows on copyright

Tucows Inc., the Toronto-based company best known for its online library of free and modestly priced software, has produced a trenchant submission to the federal government’s copyright consultation. The company commissioned David Weinberger, renowned US Internet marketing pundit, to examine the contention that strong copyright protection and robust creativity march hand in hand toward the New Jerusalem. His witty, insightful rejection of that canard stands out from the pack in this debate. Moneyquote:

DavidWeinberger - scThe argument seems simple: (a) If every time you put apples out on your fruit stand, they’re immediately stolen, pretty quickly you’ll stop putting out apples. (b) What’s true of your physical property is also true of your “intellectual property.” (c) Therefore, without a system of strong copyright, creators will have no incentive to create.

The nice thing about that argument is that it makes a factual claim: Weaken copyright and you decrease innovation. That the facts so resoundingly, enthusiastically, thumpingly dispute that conclusion tells us that the syllogism is wrong. Indeed, the facts say the syllogism has it backwards. Current copyright laws are holding back the innovation they were intended to spur….

The facts are in front of us, in overwhelming abundance. The signature works of our new age are direct slaps in the face of our old assumptions about incentives. Wikipedia was created by unpaid volunteers, some of whom put in so much time that their marriages suffer. Flickr has more beautiful photos than you could look at it in a lifetime. Every sixty seconds, people upload twenty hours (72,000 seconds) of video to YouTube — the equivalent of 86,000 full-length Hollywood movies being released every week. For free. The entire Bible has been translated into LOLcat (”Oh hai. In teh beginnin Ceiling Cat maded teh skiez An da Urfs, but he did not eated dem.”) by anonymous, unpaid contributors, and while that might not be your cup of tea — it is mine — it is without dispute a remarkably creative undertaking.

This is just a taste. Read the rest here. What the Internet has done to markets is so ground-shifting, and so counter-intuitive, it’s hard for everyone to wrap their heads around, politicians included. Weinberger deflates the conventional wisdom with charm and grace. Let’s hope the Tories are listening.


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