Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


Nina Paley's "All Creative Work is Derivative"

This is an amazing animation by Nina Paley, "America's Best-Loved Unknown Cartoonist" (and creator of the amazing animated (and free online) film Sita Sings the Blues, given rave reviews including 4 stars by Roger Ebert). Entitled "All Creative Work Is Derivative" (and blogged here on her blog), and concluding "All creative work builds on what came before," the video is built from images of of statues and paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As she explains on All Creative Work Is Derivative (Minute Meme #2),
Copyright control extends not just to verbatim copies, but to "derivative works." This has led to censorship on a grand scale. For example, the seminal German silent film "Nosferatu" was deemed a derivative work of "Dracula" and courts ordered all copies destroyed. Shortly before his death, author J.D. Salinger convinced U.S. courts to censor another author who transformed his characters. And so on.

The whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations (sometimes called "errors") with each replication. Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not "stealing." It is, in fact, quite beautiful, and leads to a cultural diversity that inspires awe.

I learned of Nina's work when she sent me a nice email, an edited version of which follows:

Hello Stephan,

I recently read "Against Intellectual Property" and liked it very much. It reminded me of some things I've written: Intellectual Property is Slavery and Redefining Property: Lessons from American History; also My Official Position on Copyright.

I especially enjoyed your unique twist on Trademark, that trademark suits should be brought by consumers against frauds, rather than by trademark "owners." I haven't thought it all through to form my own solid opinion yet, but I like the novel approach.

Last year I released my feature film, Sita Sings the Blues, under a copyleft license (CC-BY-SA).

I'm now artist-in-residence at QuestionCopyright.org, and do what I can to promote alternatives to copyright. (Actually I'm a copyright abolitionist, but many find that identification unpalatable.)

Anyway, thanks for the good book, I'm recommending it to my Free Culture buddies.

Update: See also this amazing, fascinating short documentary with Nina Paley, The Revolution Will Be Animated:

The Revolution Will Be Animated from Marine Lormant Sebag on Vimeo.

See also her Copying Is Not Theft "Minute Meme":

[Mises; SK]


Perhaps it's time 'Copyright abolitionist' became as respectable and palatable as 'Slavery abolitionist'?

Unfortunately, things seem to be turning the other way, what with proposals for the issue of 'torture warrants' (just to make it clearer that all unwarranted torture should be illegal - duh?), and the suggestion that human rights are dubious concepts invented by politically correct loony liberals, where protective legislation is less often socially beneficial than a nuisance impeding and interfering with the pursuit of justice (aka 'a mob out for blood').

It's bad enough that 'right' no longer means 'natural right', but through conflation with 'privilege' now makes people think that all rights are revocable and transferable blessings from kind legislators.

Hence those abolitionists who propose taking the people's copyright away from them must be utter bastards...

"Torture warrants?"


Well, were I a judge I'd never, ever sign one of those. Not even if there was reason to believe there was a nuke ticking down in a city and we had a suspect in custody that might know where it was. Information obtained with torture is unreliable. Whoever might be doing it would be more useful added to a swarm of people sweeping the city with Geiger counters.

(On the other hand I might sign a transfer order moving the prisoner to a jail within the predicted blast radius. If he's not willing to martyr himself THAT might motivate him to talk, and to talk truthfully. On the other hand, if the bomb is real and goes off, he'll be hoist on his own petard. All this assuming that the case for the prisoner's involvement is ironclad -- if it's not, he stays put or if already in the likely blast zone even gets evacuated with everyone else.)

Open licensing is a wonderful thing, but public domain is awesome. Let's push for reducing copyright terms and more respect for our shared cultural works!
>> Hence those abolitionists who propose taking the people's copyright away from them must be utter bastards...

The general answer to the removal of many monopolies is that you regain many things that were monopolized by others. "Others" will always collectively have many more monopolies than "you", so, in giving up a few things, you gain a great many more, allowing you to be a part of many greater things.

There will also be FUD about "you" being misrepresented by "others" if copyrights are removed. This itself is a misrepresentation of what is covered (or could be) by other laws.

Also brought up will be artists not making money and great works not being created.

I think most people will benefit much more than they lose and those that love their craft will always end up on the positive side. Using open source sofware and developers as an example, I really think many developers (and certainly those that love the art/science) prefer things open and accessible (you can in fact make money) and most end users clearly benefit.

Let us not forget that all producers of works are foremost consumers of works.

It might be true that the some things will take longer to create because of costs, but more things will be created and of high quality as well. Also, creators/producers will continue to be creative in stretching the dollar rather than taking the dollar for granted.

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