Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

C-11 ~ Copyright: Fallacy #2

with 7 comments

“Wasn’t the whole purpose of copyright to allow artists, musicians, and authors to make a living?”

@coyo

Well…. No.

Although the privilege of copyright was granted to writers (and later extended to other creators), they had a very limited ability to make copies.  A writer could copy the manuscript by hand and sell copies to anyone they met.  The printers had the expertise and the control of the expensive equipment, so right from the start the creators were disadvantaged, writers had no choice but to assign this “right” to the distributors.

Although the supposed justification for copyright is to allow creators to make a living, in practice the monopoly allowed the Stationers (or Booksellers, Printers, Publishers &tc.) to generate revenue and control publishing.  Copyright succeeded so well for so long by giving the appearance of existing to benefit the creators.   Creator support ensures that the market – the audience – honours copyright.

As time went on, creators wound up with ever decreasing power over this supposed privilege, while the distributors — now called publishers — accrued more and greater power, which they used to dictate terms to creators.  The problem was that printing was only part of it; the distribution network was the other side of the equation.

More and more of our cultural pursuits have come under the “protection” of copyright.   The music recording industry is the worst for creators, as many (most?) musicians were forced to give up their copyright in order to secure a recording contract.  For all but the biggest stars, the effect is to  thrust most recording artists into indentured servitude.   Because of this, more and more musicians choose the independence now possible with affordable recordings and Internet distribution.  Before the Internet, CRIA controlled the recording industry in Canada; but 30% of the Canadian Industry was independent by 2010. It isn’t piracy that threatens the legacy distributors, it’s competition.

In today’s Canada we also have a proliferation of copyright collectives which have devolved onto yet another “middleman” with a hand in the copyright till.

The only way for creators to access the funds owing them as a result of the copyright monopoly is by way of copyright collectives, which is why copyright collectives lobby for stronger, longer copyright.

Perhaps initially these collectives actually represented the interests of creators, but judging from the lobbying they engage in today, it seems pretty clear these collectives are primarily interested in their own needs.

Making it appear that copyright benefits the creators is a great way to have creators support

Both the technological revolution ushered in by plummeting copying costs and the Internet threaten the corporations and copyright collectives.   Corporate interests want to regain absolute control of their industries while copyright collectives want to regain absolute control of their respective workforce.  Both are threatened with obsolescence due to  rapid growth of independent creators that threaten the old fashioned business models.

In response to this threat both special interest groups have been lobbying governments around the world to use legislative means to turn back the hands of time.   Canada’s draft copyright legislation new copyright legislation will vest absolute power in Technological Protection Measures (TPMs) and give in to these demands with Bill C-11, which is ironically called “The Copyright Modernization Act.”

There is Still Time to Say “No”



[This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series. Canada’s majority government is poised to pass Bill C-11, the co-called “Copyright Modernization Act” in spite of unprecedented Canadian opposition. The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.

This is the second in my C-11 Copyright Series:

7 Responses

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  1. […] Law trumping author rights, one of the things that led me to question the oft stated claim that copyright benefits creators. Yet here we have a name brand author who has chosen to release most of his work under Creative […]

  2. […] The most common justification given for copyright law is that it helps creators make a living. […]

  3. sounds reasonable. guess i got schooled.

    Alex Maurin

    October 16, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    • They’ve had centuries to propagate misinformation… which has come to be accepted as “common knowledge” … which is what makes this is such a difficult issue.

      Laurel L. Russwurm

      October 16, 2012 at 10:03 pm

  4. […] Copyright: Fallacy #2 […]

  5. […] Copyright: Fallacy #2 […]

  6. “The tragedy is most Canadians are unaware of copyright issues and don’t yet realize the growing impact it exerts over our daily lives.”

    That is the big problem and why it’s going to pass very easily, lack of better words, this is going to suck big time for us!

    John Doe

    June 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm


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