Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Copyrights And Wrongs

Copyrights are very trendy these days, so I'll hop on the bandwagon. The idea is that as soon as you create something ... a drawing, a novel, a comic, a blog post, whatever ... as soon as you do that, you own all the rights to it. Shocking, huh? You don't even have to register it or put a "©" on it, 'cause it's yours. Of course, you might want to register it and do the "©" thing to get some protections.

A lot of people think everything on the internet should be free. Music, movies, e-books, images, etc.  They figure if it can be downloaded, why pay for it? Some people even say "Information wants to be free." What a crock, right? Information doesn't want anything. (Actually, that's only part of a quote from Stewart Brand, who in the same breath also said "Information wants to be expensive." He was talking about the dilemma posed by technology, not trying to liberate everyone's copyright-protected stuff.)

But here's the weird part. Even if writers and artists and musicians could somehow protect their creations from being illegally copied, after some period of time, they just flat out lose ownership of those things anyway. Of course, it's a hundred years after they die, but still, why shouldn't their great great grandchildren have the benefit?

If I, by dint of hard work, plant an orchard, my descendants can keep selling the apples forever.  (By the way, Wikipedia's blacked out today to protest some stupid anti-piracy law or something, so I can get away with saying a dint is a unit of measuring hard work. I worked 2 dints today.) But anyway, my children and their children and theirs and so on can keep selling those apples.

On the other hand, if I put that same dint or two of work into writing a novel or painting a picture, then after I've been dead for a hundred years (or however long Disney has managed to jack it up by then), the government says "Too bad.  You don't own this anymore, so anyone can print and sell your book or sell posters of your painting and not owe you or your great great grandchildren a nickel for it."  What's up with that?

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