Most of you are probably wondering why I have joined with the Libertarian Cause to get rid of Copyright or to reduce it's power. Why I think the OGL was a good idea, and why I find Wizards of the Coast's handling of 4e so perplexing that I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. So I just laugh, since crying can invite sadness and depression.
To understand where I am coming from I have to address two issues: Free Content vs. Copyright, and the Cult of Originality, Crappy Products, and Good Products.
The simple answer is: We live in an era of near instantaneous communication which works by way of the Internet. The Internet is a copy machine. It's THE perfect copy machine. You either have to take our Free Speech and Free Press Rights away -- which was granted by the Divine, or you have to learn to live with the fact that this machine exists and use it purely for your benefit without infringing on the Rights to Free Speech and Free Press on others.
The simple answer to the second issue is this: You can't curb Crappy derivative and transformative products. It's impossible. Some fan who excercises his creativity in exactly the wrong field will always produce CRAPPY derivatives.
I will deal with part of the Second and the First in this blog post. And I'll largely deal with the second in a future Blog Post.
To first understand why Libertarians want to abolish copyrights is to understand the History of Copyright in the first place and the Internet's purpose in the second. Lets start with the internet.
The Internet is the result of Man's advances in the art of Printing for the last 500 to 600 years. It is the source we go to get our news, to communicate with people over vast distances, and rely on for commerce. The internet is a communication device because it can copy and transmit vast amounts of data to many different people. It's a printing device because it can copy and transmit vast amounts of data perfectly to many different people.
The Internet is the culmination of the moveable type printing press technology. Invented by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg in and around 1439 A.D.; he first printed the Bible. It was a best seller.
The Printing Press moved to England, and soon William Tyndale printed the bible in English. The Catholic Church got in an uproar over his printing of the Bible in English, and burned him to the stake. That was the first time a Copyright was applied. Despite this, Tyndale's Bible was copied and progulmated across England. The Bible was read in the Southern English Dialect and standardized English pronounciation.
Later, the Government of England got nervous about the Printing Press. Not as nervous as the Catholic Church, but nervous enough. If someone can print a bible, a human anatomy pop-up book, and a scientific treatise of the Solar System; they can print Seditious and Libelous Tracts against the State.
Because of the Law, the Stationers were granted a monopoly over all printing in England. Yes, the Stationers were granted a monopoly over printing in England. Every work, old and new, could be theirs to print as long as they kept a strict eye on what was printed. As a result, their Charter not only gave them the exclusive right to print but also the right to search out and destroy unauthorized presses and books, and even had the right to burn illegal books. As a result, the Company of Stationers had effectively become the English Government's private, for profit thought police force.
It gets better. This system was openly designed to serve the book seller and the English Government, not the author or the reader. New books were entered in by a company member's name, not the author's. By convention, the member who registered the entry held the "copyright", the exclusive right to publish that book, over other members of the Company, and the Company's Court of Assistants resolved infringement disputes.
This was not simply the latest manifestation of some pre-existing form of copyright. It's not as though authors had formerly had copyrights, which were now to be taken away and given to the Stationers. The Stationers' right was a new right, though one based on a long tradition of granting monopolies to guilds as a means of control. Before this moment, copyright — that is, a privately held, generic right to prevent others from copying — did not exist. People routinely printed works they admired when they had the chance, an activity which is responsible for the survival of many of those works to the present day. One could, of course, be enjoined from distributing a specific document because of its potentially libelous effect, or because it was a private communication, or because the government considered it dangerous and seditious. But these reasons are about public safety or damage to reputation, not about property ownership. There had also been, in some cases, special privileges (then called "patents") allowing exclusive printing of certain types of books. But until the Company of Stationers, there had not been a blanket injunction against printing in general, nor a conception of copyright as a legal property that could be owned by a private party.
This won't Change until the Statute of Anne, and the U.S. Constitution. The copyright clause: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." -- was greatly debated by Madison and Jefferson and this was the result.
Notice it says Authors and Inventors not companies. However, a Copyright Law was enacted with Hamilton suggesting that the Copyright Term lasts to 14 years. However, Copyright always serves the middle man. The Printing Company -- the Walt Disney Company, Wizards of the Coast, Harper and Collins, Houston Mifflin, etc -- is benefited the most when it comes to Printing.
This is was the status quo, with Copyright terms being increased in the 20th Century by authors and artists who were brainwashed that Copyright served them. Then came the invention of the Computer. The first computers were impossibly huge electronic calculators. Although Babbage was working on a cipher machine back in the late 19th Century, the first real computer was a monstrosity of vaccuum tubes and wired circuits.
micro-computers were invented, thanks to the Transistor and the integrated circuit. Then an experiment was conducted by the U.S. Military and a few U.S. Universities taking advantage of XEROX PARC's invention of the ethernet. This experiment, called ArcNet, was the next stage of evolution in printing and communications technology. Something that won't take off until Compuserve, America On-line, and eventually ---- the World Wide Web.
Years ago, the Company of Stationers made the argument that if Printing was left in the hands of everyone, printing would be impossible. Now, Printing is left in the hands of everyone thanks to the Internet. Now the Company of Stationers argument can be testable. So, would authors still create without a centralized distribution system to publish their works? The answer is an emphatic YES! They already are. It's as simple as that. :)
Copyright has been borked by the Internet. Copyright has been destroyed by the Internet. Copyright allows for a centralized distribution system to publish works. The Internet has made competition with the middle men possible and profitable. It also made copying of works possible and profitable. Therefore, with this reality, it's become a different world. The Author must work hard to get his thoughts down on paper and to advertise his work.
Now that the internet has been invented, do you think God thinks highly of a centralized distribution system of print? Of course not. One time, he commanded Joseph Smith to sell the copyright of his precious Book of Mormon (God owns the copyright on the Book of Mormon). If God was willing to give it up, don't you think that an author or musician should rethink their position on Copyright?
Shouldn't we all?