July 1, 2015 – 12:44 pm

The copyright monopoly is based on the idea of an exchange. In exchange for exclusive rights, the copyright industry supplies culture and knowledge to the public. It turns out that the entire premise is a lie, as untethered creators are racing to provide culture and knowledge anyway. By Rick Falkvinge.

The copyright monopoly was reinstated in Great Britain in 1710, after having lapsed in England in 1695. It was enacted because printers (not writers) insisted, that if they didn’t have exclusive rights to boost profitability, nothing would get printed.

(Do note the difference between books getting written on one hand, and getting printed and distributed on the other. It was printers, not writers and authors, that drove the reinstatement of the copyright monopoly through the so-called Statute of Anne.)

The Parliament of Great Britain accepted this premise, and thus, the social contract of the copyright monopoly was formed: “In return for providing the only service that can make culture come into being for the benefit of the public, the publishers and distributors are awarded with time-limited exclusive rights.”

Note the very important assumption here: if the exclusive rights - the copyright monopoly - don’t exist, there will not be any culture. This is the contract which governments have been acting on ever since: in exchange for providing a magic service that calls culture into being in the first place, the publishers have enjoyed exclusive rights that allow them to punish and withhold.

The social contract between the public and the copyright industry is, that in exchange for exclusive rights, the publishers will make culture available, being the only ones who can supply such availability of culture.

It turns out the entire premise is bullshit.

With the advent of the Internet, we see that people are creating despite these exclusive rights, this monopoly, instead of because of it. Millions of creators - millions! - have publicly renounced their already-awarded exclusive rights by publishing under a Creative Commons license.

YouTube alone receives 300 hours of new video every minute. This means YouTube alone provides 18,000 24/7 TV channels, most of which are not worth watching - in other words, just like the legacy TV channels.

The notion that the copyright industry alone is capable of providing culture has been exposed as an enormous, audacious, bold-faced utter lie.

So if you were the government, the buyer in this scenario, what would you do? The buyer who gives very valuable exclusive rights to the copyright industry who claimed that the existence of such a contract was the only way to have any culture available at all - what would you do now that it’s clear that you’ve been paying much much much too high a price?

You would terminate the contract with this lying seller of public culture who demanded harmful exclusive rights in exchange for culture to be created. You would find another supplier who provided better terms to the public. And most importantly, you would not care about what the old seller - the copyright industry - had to say about your new negotiations.

That’s how any other procurement works, after all: if you’re unhappy with a supplier, you find a new supplier, and obviously, the old supplier doesn’t get to have a say about the next deal with another supplier. There is no reason at all why culture and knowledge should work differently.

In other words, there is no reason at all why the copyright industry should enjoy any exclusive rights at all and, in particular, there is no reason why they should have any say about having them revoked. They haven’t delivered on the social contract, so the contract gets revoked. End of story.

Note: Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at focuses on information policy. The above article was posted at TorrentFreak.


  2. Bullshit. So you want it all for free and the artist doesn’t have to get paid.

    By Bernard Zalon on Jul 2, 2015

  3. Bernard Zalon: Did you, in fact, read the essay? If so, you seem to have missed the point. The copyright industry is not about a relation between the artist and his or her audience, but between the copyright holder and the consumer (not quite the same thing.) The author critiques the current copyright system because it is based on the notion of exclusive copyright control - a supposedly necessary form of monopoly - and points out that such a system is not, in fact, necessary. He offers as evidence the fact that artists (the true creators of culture) will create work outside of the exclusive system of copyright control (on Youtube, for example), inside a system he calls “creative commons licens[ing].” While the essay does not specify an exact mechanism for payment to the artist, there are multiple ways for this to be accomplished within the framework articulated by the writer. Try again.

    By je n'regret rien on Jul 2, 2015

  4. Really, Mr. Zalon doesn’t need to try again does he? This site is forever banging on about stealing people’s work - usually musicians, but writers too now it seems. Copyright is the only way anyone gets paid for their hard work, and I’d sure as hell like to reward others for the pleasure they’ve given me because of that work. The real giveaway in the article is that Rick Falkvinge writes on Torrenfreak, so he’s hardly likely to enjoy paying others for their efforts…although I’m pretty sure someone is paying him for his. As for these artists working outside the copyrighting system. sure they do - but you can be 100% sure once they start to become successful they’ll want the sensible protection of their work and rewards that copyright law provides. Bernard Zalon, kudos for really understanding.

    By Shep on Jul 2, 2015

  5. “Copyright is the only way anyone gets paid for their hard work, and I’d sure as hell like to reward others for the pleasure they’ve given me because of that work.”

    I agree. So, the question remains: why do you support the current system of exclusive copyright control by (in most cases) large multinational record labels like Sony, Universal, or Time-Warner? It’s not as if the money you pay goes primarily to the artists you claim to care so passionately about. Or Apple’s new streaming service - they’re already omitting the first three months of royalties to the artist, forcing (for example) Taylor Swift to cry foul.

    Do yourself a favor and get a clue before arguing in favor of the status quo.

    By je n'regret rien on Jul 3, 2015

  6. Sorry, forgot I’m a dumb f*ck because I disagree with you. You may want to ask yourself though if Apple (or any big company) would still be keeping every musician’s money (forever, as opposed to only three months) if music WASN’T copyrighted. Copyright enabled Ms. Swift to demand payment for her work - and for less fortunate artists too who’ll benefit from Apple’s u-turn and Taylor Swift’s stance. Copyright gave her, the artist, the upper hand. Sure, some musicians don’t hold their own copyrights, usually through bad decisions or bad management, and some faceless corporation gets the cash generated instead, but LOTS do, and I can see no better way to ensure a musician can be legally entitled to earn a living from their efforts. It works…except for people who want to steal other’s work and due rewards whilst getting paid themselves for their work. Like the writer of the above article I suppose.

    By Shep on Jul 4, 2015

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