Monday, December 1, 2014

The Creation of Copyright

 "As for the myth that people wouldn’t create if they didn’t have control over their copyright,  I’ll just point out thousands of years of culture before copyright was invented. Not that anyone can be bothered to remember about… oh I don’t know… Shakespeare when it comes to the ‘necessity’ of copyright. Too inconvenient an example I guess."  A comment from someone on the copyright debate.

You were obviously listening to pirated music when you should have  been paying attention in class.

Shakespeare made his living as an actor, an administrator for a number of acting companies, and as the playwright for his company.  The writing fueled the income for the company, and Shakespeare got a larger chunk of the income because of his writing.  His acting companies also had very rich and influential sponsors.   

Despite the fact that ideas were stolen right and left by Shakespeare and every other playwright from each other and famous works from the past, the language of the plays was strictly those of the individual writers.  Ideas can't be copyrighted, but the expression/language of the idea can so, surprisingly, our concept of copyright was followed.  Without copyright and print production, a vast majority of other playwrights' works have disappeared.  Shakespeare's still exists because of the folios.

Before the invention of the Gutenberg press, creators of plays depended on rich sponsors and performance to make their living.  The rich sponsors controlled the content and the political and social aspects of the works.

Novels came into being in the perfect storm of cheap printing, a growing, educated middle class with the income and time to read, and writers who were willing to produce those novels for the income.  The writers depended upon the income, but some had sponsors or a publishing house willing to fork over enough money (advances) to keep the writer eating while he created.

Copyright came into being, not because writers were greedy parasites, but because that period's version of large-scale content pirates who were greedy parasites began to devastate the publishing industry and its writers so the publishers, writers, and various governments had no choice but to create copyright.

If someone could wave a magic wand and make copyright disappear, many writers who need income so they can write would again be forced to go back to rich sponsors.  Would you really want Donald Trump, the Kardashians, and various political and social groups to control what you could read?

If the Kickstart model were followed, only the most popular ideas and types of books would be created so you'd be forced to read what the vast majority of people want to read.  Again, would you like to spend your life reading what now passes as bestsellers?

Copyright protects readers as much as it protects authors, and it is the greed of the pirates and their readers that makes such things as DRM and copyright necessary, NOT the greed of authors.

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