I want to remove copyright from our legal system, and I have a plan. It’s a kinda crappy plan, and nigh impossible to pass, but bear with me. Under our current copyright system, an artist may own the rights to the song, and sell limited rights to many people. In traditional limited-resource systems, I can sell you a cow for one dollar. I now have one fewer cow to sell, but one more dollar. You now have a cow, but one fewer dollar. This cow is now yours, and you can do anything you wish to it, within the bounds of the law (for example, no animal cruelty allowed). You may sell it, if you wish, for any price. You may give it away. Now let’s say I’m a band, and I sell you a song over the band website for one dollar. I now have one more dollar. You now have one less dollar, but one more song. But wait – do you? Well, you have the song stored on your computer. You can easily copy it, for almost no cost. So you decide to sell some copies. I can now sue you. See, when I sell you the song, I’m not actually selling the song itself. I’m selling you the right to listen to it, and possibly the right to transfer that right to someone else. See, when I actually sell you some rights to a song, I don’t lose any of those rights. I can sell as many or as few copies of my song as I wish. Selling a song to one person costs me nothing, and I can turn around and sell that same song again.
Now, you may say, “But doesn’t it cost money for them to send you the song?” Well, yes, yes it does. But very, very little. Hundredths of a cent. And if that was the only challenge, I should, in a free market, be able to sell my own copies, so the songs get sold by whoever can sell and transfer the songs in the cheapest way possible. So now you’re probably saying, “Of course not, you dolt, the band has to have money to live on. They deserve to be compensated for their work.” Firstly, Mr. Strawman, I don’t like being insulted. It hurts my feelings. Please apologize. And now you’re likely saying, “Fine, I’m sorry. Now can we get on with it?” My response to that would be: yes we can. Or maybe you’re asking, “Is this guy crazy? Is he talking to himself? Why is there a pineapple in my room?” The answer to that is: most likely, more or less, and I don’t know, I was drunk and wanted to make an obscure “How I Met Your Mother” reference.
Anyways, yes, the band does deserve to be paid for their work. But under the current system, I’m limited in how I may enjoy the band’s work, and current technology is making it hard to track down pirates. I suggest a radical alternative: the government buys any intellectual property that would otherwise be sold under the scheme outlined above, and gives it for free to all its citizens. There are several possible compensation methods, and some or all may be allowed:
- Every time the media is played or viewed or watched or used or whatever, the artist is payed some amount. This would mean that every time it was used, the player would have to communicate with some central office. This would make some systems, such as currently existing radios and CD and DVD players, obsolete.
- For each person who wants to use the media, the artist is payed some amount. This requires some central registration of who is using what media.
- When the artist produces a work, the people vote on whether or not to buy it, and at what price. This method, dangerously lacks competition.
- Artists are commissioned for works, and are payed before/while/after they produce it.
In all of these models, consumers do not have to pay to use media, (except for the slight tax bump) removing the incentive to pirate stuff to get around the copyright. One issue I don’t know how to tackle is artists using the work of other artists. Does the original artist get payed for the popularity of the second artist’s work?