Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Made me laugh (copyright debate)

In one of the embarrasing and frankly depressing ‘debates’ on copyright over at piracy-friendly slashdot, I spotted this gem (when discussing copyright on books):

Books: Anyone can write anything anywhere that everyone everywhere can read all instantly, why should anyone be paid for doing what anyone can do from the smallest child to the oldest altzheimers victim.

Which is just laughably insulting and stupid, but someone has already replied with this pithy remark:

The smallest child to the oldest Alzheimer’s victim could design a bridge, too. That doesn’t mean I’d want to drive over it. Are you really suggesting that author’s shouldn’t be paid?

I think gradually over the years more and more people are losing patience with the hardcore anti-copyright zealots. I’m all for campaigns against invasive DRM or sticking up for fair use rights, but its when people insist that the fact that the first mickey mouse cartoon is under copyright still, that we must live in a fascist state that it frustrates me.

I’m reading churchills war diaries (about a billion pages long), and am currently on the rise of Hitler. It puts into perspective all the modern rich western kids cries about freedom of speech and fascism that is apparently just preventing you downloading torrents of the latest Hollywood movies. Free speech is very vital, precious, and worth dying for. To use it in connection with torrenting movies and games is frankly insulting to everyone who fought and died to defend free speech.


8 thoughts on Made me laugh (copyright debate)

  1. In the past, “Freedom of speech” and “Property rights” were much easier to keep separate. Nowadays attempts to violate the one are made in the name of the other (both ways, looks different). While there are theoretical and principled grounds for wanting to do away with copyright, I have to assume that the majority of the support for that position comes from people who don’t want to pay for access to certain bits of property. Furthermore, those principled objections that do exist are largely based upon a flawed understanding of current human nature; at least if they think that the amount of quality effort put into books/games/music/etc would not drop by a couple orders of magnitude.

    Out of curiosity, on a basic level, why do you believe in free speech and property rights? Particularly, to the extent that you support the use of force (police, etc) to prevent the violation of those. Say some software pirate or speech-suppressor is being hauled off to jail and they yell “hey, who says this was wrong?”. Who says? Who has the right to make that decision?

    Not wanting to derail your train of thought, I just think it’s much more interesting to get to the basic level of this whole copyright/freedom thing. As you say, the actual surface-layer debates on copyright can get embarrassing and depressing (or at least futile).


  2. I have debates on this all the time with people who should know better but choose not to. If you own yourself (and you do, you alone are responsible for your well-being and the consequences of your actions), then you also own your labor (mental and physical) and the fruits of your labor. No one else has a right (a just, moral claim) to take these things from you. To take your life is murder. To control your labor without consent is slavery. To take the fruits of your labor without consent is theft.

    And many of the people I argue copyright with know these things to be true and yet still defend theft (pirating) simply because intellectual property can be copied ad infinitum and redistributed with relative ease. They completely ignore the immorality of taking what isn’t theirs as if it’s okay to walk into someone’s house and take their television is fine so long as the door wasn’t locked.

  3. Slashdot’s gone strange in the last year or two. It used to have a strong free software/open source slant, but it usually had a wide range of interesting opinions on any topic. I’ve been lurking around there for years as I used to find the debates often quite interesting.

    Lately though it’s gone extremely anti-copyright – way beyond (IMO quite cogent) arguments for copyright reform to demanding the abolishment of copyright altogether. There seems to be a story against copyright every couple of days, where all the top rated comments are about how copyright should be scrapped completely, and anything strongly dissenting from that is modded down to oblivion. I’m not entirely sure what’s happened to the site, but the extreme attitude there is driving me away.

  4. Indeed, it almost drives me away too, but I stick around mainly so there is at least one dissenting voice. They mod me down a lot, and even post abuse on my blog and forums, but I think if you just let this anti-copyright meme go unchallenged, people who don’t sit and think it through just go along with what they perceive as the general consensus.

    Slashdot has definitely got worse. its practically an offshoot of torrentfreak now. Between them, torrentfreak,digg and slashdot are basically the hub of anti-copyright, pro-piracy silliness.

    What amuses me is that if there is any site out there that is riddled with formatting bugs and display errors and timeouts and other problems, its slashdot. I would have thought the l33t haxx0rs would have coded something really stable? :D

  5. While I agree that the original argument is flawed, the response doesn’t hold water either.

    Children & Alzheimer’s Victims couldn’t design a Bridge. They would fail at the technical hurdles to do so.

    On the other hand, it is true that there are a lot of Book out which follow pretty low standards, attainable even by unexperienced writes. The tragedy is that many of those books are successful, too.

    But neither of the two arguments contains reasons for or against copyright.

  6. Stupid arguments don’t discredit the point that copyright laws grounded in old technologies don’t fit the new ones. Whether one is an anti-copyright zealot or not, the old law doesn’t work anymore. And Mickey Mouse is as far more a part of OUR culture than he is the “creation” of ABC/Disney. We’ve got a long, long way to go before there’s any consensus that will silence zealots of all stripes. It’s a very interesting time.

  7. If I lend my friend one of my DVDs, is that copywright? What if my friend then lends the same DVD to one of his friends?

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