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.


Economies of the Commons

A conference in Amsterdam two weeks ago discussed the "strategies for sustainable access and creative reuse of images and sounds online." There is a lot too read, but for an executive summary, see this blog. From what I gather, open access models are thriving in Europe, as archive maintainers have been able to convince authorities that it was money well spent, if government money is needed at all. There seems to be a general agreement that copyright is counterproductive. And this argument is not coming from theoreticians, but practitioners.

PS: A few minutes after posting this, I stumble on another account of this conference that more specifically looks at examples of some business models. Offering free downloads appears to be perfectly viable...


I'm always mystified as to why when people create lists of revenue mechanisms that operate in the absence of copyright they invariably fail to include the blindingly obvious one of sale, i.e. art for money, money for art.

I think there must be some kind of blind spot that prevents people seeing this one. When you've been brainwashed by copyright into believing that the value of art is in the copy, I guess it's not too surprising that if copies become free people start thinking there's no value in the art.

However, the value is in the art, not the copy - as it always was. Only copyright created the illusion that copies had value.

So, if there's no market for copies sell the art.

I really don't know how to put this more simply or clearly, but that doesn't stop me trying...

Copies are more valuable when they are scarce, that is, in the beginning, so a big share of the revenue from sale of copies will go to the original innovator. Simple sale might be perfectly viable.

I don't understand, however, what value is in the art as disconnected from the copy. Boldrin & Levine expended considerable effort in trying to argue that the relevant economic entity is the copy instead of the idea.

I don't understand what value anyone can see in the copy as disconnected from the art.

The art takes the effort. The art is the labour of the artist. The art is where the value is. A dumb machine can make a copy - I ain't paying a fricking machine for its forging skills even if they are perfect. I'll pay the artist to produce great art.

When people hand over money, they hand over money for art. Publishers and the lawyers brainwash people into believing they are paying for a copy. This is one of the reasons some people sense something is fundamentally fishy when they are expected to pay for each copy in each format. The monopoly of copyright supposedly enables copyright holders to charge for copies, but that price doesn't put art in the copy, nor value in the copy (except that paltry value in avoiding copyright infringement).

It is possible to explore the economics of the market for copies (especially in the presence of zero cost, perfect reproduction machinery in each home) and the effectiveness of state instituted monopolies on manufacture of copies in maintaining this market, but I think you'll find that the economic entities are ideas, discoveries, works of art, etc. They are not copies (except to those who remain brainwashed in the belief that markets for copies thereof remain viable).

NB I'm talking about digital art, digital copies, the digital domain, etc.

You are paying, not for the art, but for the ability to experience the art. The art without the ability to experience it is useless (library of babel). What enables you to experience the art? Possessing a copy of it.

Nothing changes in the digital domain. The original innovator creates the first copy. It is then scarce and valuable. After some time has passed and copies spread, a copy will be more easily available, and the price it can command will drop.

Even if copying is instantaneous, costless, and effortless, there is still the information costs on part of the consumer to find the best bargain. If you offer your copy at a reasonable price, many will probably be too lazy to search around for a better bargain. That implies that, even in the digital domain, a large share of the revenue from the sale of copies will go to the original innovator.

Of course, some people might feel inclined to tip the original innovator in return for the service of innovating, but self-interest does not require this.

The artist creates the art.

I can tell you've got a heck of a lot of deprogramming to go through if you persist in thinking of the creative process as the artist creating 'the first copy'.

The 'copy' as a first class concept in our digital domain is disintegrating before your eyes and yet you persist in choosing to think of art in terms of copies.

We are rapidly moving toward art in three phases: 0) Non-existent 1) Created (private/unpublished) 2) Published

There is no 'copy'. There are no 'copies' to exchange or purchase. There is no market for 'copies'. Even the term 'copy' will soon lose its original meanings and be an archaic term for 'private sharing', e.g. "Do you have a copy of the artwork?" will become an old fogey's way of saying "Are you privy to the artwork?", and "Then would you please give me a copy?" will become an old fogey's way of saying "Then would you please make me privy?". For published art the notion of 'copy' disappears entirely, e.g. we'll just hear "What was the name of that piece? Who's the artist?".

So, if you want to understand the future in terms of a market for art then you have to stop trying to understand it in terms of a market for copies. There will be no market for copies. The market for copies has ended.

The future market for art will involve exchanges between the artist and those who value their art (nothing to do with copies). Exchanges will occur between the three key phases, i.e. payment to create art where it did not exist before, payment to become privy to art to which one is as yet not privy, and payment to publish private/unpublished art.

There is no copy.

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