Every Medium Needs Copyright…and Piracy

Thanks to our group for addressing some of the major issues of Free Culture, including piracy and the concept of property.

In order for new technlogies to take hold in a culture, there must be a number of factors. First, there must be a functional innovation, meaning that whatever innovation is created, it must actually work. Second, there must be a receptive audience. Third, there must be sensible legislation for that technology to blossom. As we’ve learned, the Internet would not be the cultural force that it is if it were not for releasing ARPANet from military control into civilian hands.

Copyright is one of those factors that has thus far failed to accomodate the Internet, but it has nonetheless succeeded because of the overwhelming functionality of the Internet and its acceptance among its users. Without copyright, there would be little incentive for people to become cultural producers. Although writing, for example, can be very satisfying and rewarding, copyright allows writers to exclusively profit from their works for a period of time. But when copyright is applied in a manner so limited that it stifles innovation, copyright will fail to achieve its primary purpose of promoting “the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Is then piracy the necessary regulatory reform from below? Although piracy can have devastating effects on media industries, as it has had on the recorded music business, the failure to reform copyright and to adapt the recorded music business has not protected the rights of authors and intellectual property holders. Instead, it has given rise to the piracy. When regulation fails to achieve its goal, the forces driving new technology—its functionality and its receptive audience—will give rise to this form of piracy. Until copyright laws are properly reformed, they will actually do more harm to intellectual property than to protect it.

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