The Copyright Debate -

Do copyright laws stifle creativity and innovation?

  • Yes

    Votes: 13 50.0%
  • No

    Votes: 3 11.5%
  • Maybe

    Votes: 10 38.5%

  • Total voters


voilà la guimbarde
True & Honest Fan
I have a somewhat unusual perspective on this as one with a dual career (musician and scholar). Composers, arrangers, performers, and other musical creators do need the protection afforded by copyright in order to make a living for themselves (for a horror story on how poorly enforced copyright can ruin a person, read a biography of Stephen Foster). On the other hand, copyright restrictions tend to make a lot of source material needed for academic work (musical scores, literary works, etc.) difficult to access legally if one has limited funds.

I'm trying to balance my belief in respect for composers' intellectual property with my belief in the freedom of information. Whenever I come across a new primary source that is in the public domain, I do what I can to make it available to other musicians and scholars through databases like IMSLP or Internet Archive. This becomes complicated when institutions like the Library of Congress hold public domain items hostage by refusing to digitize them (or, in LOC's case, charging exorbitant amounts for digitization). It's difficult to distinguish archivists from racketeers a lot of the time.


Christorical Figure
True & Honest Fan
It was actually quite enforceable. Very few people had printing presses, and stopping them from infringing was as simple as smashing it. Or not selling them to anyone who couldn't be trusted in the first place. States generally issued a very few licenses to such operations and often prohibited importing printed material at all. The business of printing was effectively a monopoly, and in England, that was even what it was called before the term "copyright" was made statutory in around 1710.

Copyright was for most of this time almost self-enforcing, as nobody had the means to infringe. Those who did had wealth to lose. The same applies to patents. The only people who could effectively violate patents were manufacturers, i.e. people with manufacturing facilities to seize should they use them illegally.

It is only very recently that copyright has become basically unenforceable, as almost every person has what amounts to an unlimited copying machine that costs nothing to use.
Remember those notices in old paperback books that say "if you bought this book without a cover, know that it was stolen and the author did not receive compensation blah blah blah"? That's what I think about when I think of pre-internet copyright. And when you're dealing with commercial operations selling bootlegged books, it's pretty easy to enforce.

Or as easy to enforce as any illegal products, anyway.

It's only recently that your casual copyright infringer became a huge problem that's difficult to enforce.
From that point, I'd say that copyright itself isn't really the main problem (issues surrounding copyright lengths and all that notwithstanding). The problem is that so many works are now accessed through architectures that allow for near-ubiquitous monitoring of the user and by default see the user as an adversary.

The worst part of that whole trend, imo, are anti-DRM circumvention laws, which are risible nonsense that turn the whole concept of fair use on its head.
Oh, I don't think anti-DRM circumvention laws are at all a problem. At least in the US.

I mean they're annoying, but ultimately there are huge free speech issues. The first amendment is such a pain in the ass for anyone trying to restrict encryption in the US. Descriptions of algorithms are protected speech.

The only way you're going to get a perfect DRM system is if you have end-to-end encryption, from the movie studio to your eyeballs. Any gaps are exploitable, any algorithms for these exploits are publishable, and there's nothing stopping millions of bored hackers from polishing them, updating them and spreading them.

I'm sure politicians and entertainment companies (the dumber ones, anyway) and their lawyers will scramble around, trying to find loopholes to restrict these sorts of things. They'll probably find a few, and make things difficult for people. But I can't imagine there's anything they can do about the core of the problem.

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