Happy Thought Series: We Have a Copyright Law

08 February 2009

Although the news is filled with plenty of people upset with copyright law and how it is being used, the existence of copyright law is itself a good thing.

Copyright law gives us a basis from which to work.  It provides a framework in which different licensing schemes like open source and Creative Commons can function; it allows them to choose how the parameters of their licenses function within the larger picture.  (For more, see Dtrizzle's post on Open Source supporting strong copyright.)

Copyright law also encourages creators to share their works.  (There's plenty of debate as to whether or not copyright encourages people to create, so we'll leave that alone for now.)  Most people create because they want others to see, hear and use their work.  They want an audience to relate to their work; they want to speak through their creations.  But, one thing people generally do not want is for someone to take their creation and make millions selling it, even if the creator is attributed as such.  (I'm not talking about including a work as part of a newspaper or other type of compilation that may be commercial in nature; I'm talking about making money solely from someone else's work.)  It goes against our very notions of fairness.  Copyright law allows us to prevent this from happening.  Knowing that they can share their work without the risk of someone running off with it for his own profit gives creators the security they need to feel free to share their works.

Without copyright law, their would be creative anarchy.  The winner would not be the one that created, but rather, the one that got the work to the market first.  And, (as seen in Dtrizzle's post) even some creators who want to encourage sharing will be out of luck.  There may be other ways to afford the same end result without copyright protection, but for now, the existence of copyright law is our first happy thought about copyright.

(If you have ideas about how other laws or social norms could create the same benefits as copyright law, we'd love to hear them.  Please leave a comment.)


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