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Why Copyright Is Evil

Copyright is dying – that is obvious to everyone. What isn’t obvious to everyone, especially in the music industry, is what a glorious and just outcome this is.

International copyright only came into being in 1891 – very recent considering the long history of music and the arts. And it was publishers – not artists – who convinced governments to foist the system on us. Prior to that, during monarchical times “copyright” was permission granted to writers by the king to print what was politically correct. It was government that introduced the entire concept of “idea ownership” – the basis of copyrights and patents – precisely so it could crush the ideas it didn’t like. Copyright has rotten origins.

So Why is it Evil?

We must first understand what property is, since copyright is based on the notion that ideas are property.

Property begins with one’s ownership of one’s body, and extends to all the resources one acquires through

  1. Trade (i.e. buying and selling)
  2. Manual labor (i.e. creation)
  3. Homesteading (aka “squatting” on a resource no one had yet claimed)

This can mean simply the clothes on your back, or a small ranch house in the suburbs on a quarter acre or, like Bill Gates, a 40% share in a $70 billion company. They’re all property.

The one thing all physical property has in common is scarcity. Dirt, houses, livestock animals, software companies – they’re all made up of physical matter that is in limited supply. How limited is relative – obviously a pound of dirt is much less scarce than a huge software company. That’s why their market prices are so different. But there’s a reason that, for example, air and light are free: they are not scarce at all and require no human labor to produce.

Scarcity is not some esoteric concept – it’s at the core of most economic theories. Economists and law philosophers write about it and its role in prices, competition, entrepreneurship and a host of other areas. Scarcity is a basic reality of existence in human society.

Ideas as “Property”

Now consider ideas and artistic works. A CD recording of a performance is obviously a scarce physical commodity – it takes resource and labor to record and manufacture. But that’s not why CDs used to cost $20+ back in the 1990s. They cost that much because of the copyrighted sounds – that is, ideas – imprinted on the discs. This is also why most CDs these days cost around $10 – because copyright is in the latter stages of decay, due to competition from other media. The cost of a CD is falling back toward the actual cost (plus markup) of the scarce, plastic piece of physical property that it is.

But the law still says that the CD contents – the ideas imprinted on it – are copyrighted. This essentially means that the CD is not wholly your property, like a pound of dirt, or a painting, or a company is if you own these things. Copyright puts the CD owner in a bizarre circumstance where the original publisher retains some ownership of your CD even after you’ve paid your $10-20 for it.

But the musical ideas on the CD are not scarce. If I share the ideas with my friends by playing them the CD, the original owner hasn’t lost his own copy of them. I haven’t “stolen” anything from him. Like air and water molecules, the sound waves that make up a musical performance are in such great supply that no one is made poorer if they are replicated ad infinitum.

Therefore, musical ideas in their raw form of pure sound – fail the test of true property. They therefore cannot be “owned”, and sharing them or even re-selling copies of them in different media cannot be considered theft or fraud. It may still be illegal to do so, but that only makes copyright one of the thousands of illegitimate sausage laws that clog the statutes and unjustly limit our liberty. And as we’ve seen in the last 15 years, the only way to sustain copyright enforcement in an era of disruptive technology is to erect a large and oppressive government apparatus.

This is why the institution of copyright is evil – it thwarts true law (property and ownership), and requires jackboot tactics to enforce.

So What’s a Musician To Do?

So if modern copyright is only 121 years old, how on earth did Bach, Beethoven & Brahms survive and thrive without it?

It’s easy to understand – just look around you now.

The music industry today is going back to the future – like Beethoven, artists are now surviving by hustling the old fashioned way: boot-strapping public performances and touring. Or, like Bach, they’re subsidizing their song-writing passion by taking side-jobs at the local church or school. Of course, they’re also getting creative and using today’s amazing technology to implement the business models like Connect-With-Fans+Reason-To-Buy.

Can musicians sit back and collect royalties and a share of the huge monopoly profits of yesteryear? Nope. But, those were the days of the golden handcuffs and the chosen few. The only artists who whine and complain now about those “good old” days are either

  1. Old artists who came up in the old days and are wistful of the time when they only had to record an album every three years to earn 5 times what they earn now, or
  2. Young artists who are too lazy to boot-strap things themselves and wish success was handed to them

But as Seth Godin has proved, these days you have to choose yourself to make your own success.

I encourage musicians to read up more on this topic – all you need to do is google “against copyright” and similar terms to begin the journey to a more common-sense philosophy on this subject that is so close to musicians’ hearts and wallets.

Ben Sommer is a composer and performer making edgy, political prog-rock. His music has been described as an original blend of Frank Zappa, Iron Maiden, XTC & Public Image Limited - with the bitter lyrical worldview of Warren Zevon and Donald Fagen.

Hear his music here, and read his other writings on his blog.

Reader Comments (77)

Wow, no. Ben, no.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Staver

So your point here is that because lots of people are ignoring copyright laws, making it harder for musicians to earn a living, the solution is to get rid of the copyright laws and allow people to sell copies of a CD without compensating the artist???

Plus, I think you'll find it's not the IDEA that is subject to copyright, it's the way the idea is executed. because otherwise we'd all owe lots of money to whoever decided I - III - V would make a good progression.

selling copies doesn't deprive the author of anything??? It deprives them of the money they would have made on that sale, which you made instead.

I completely agree that copyright needs to be adjusted, but I think abolishing it altogether is a stupid thing to do. In fact the original "evil" copyright would be much better. Protect a work for a reasonable amount of time that you can expect the original author to have made their money, but why do I need my copyright to exist after I die? In fact, if I can't turn a profit on a product, or song, or anything, after 10 years, it's probably someone elses turn to give it a go... So yes, I would agree with shortening the time work is protected for, so people can further the work before it's gone completely, but work does need protecting.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterChris

Copyrights are not dying and never will. Yes the music industry is changing drastically but copyrights are inevitable and necessary. Legally, once a piece of intellectual property is created in a tangible form (ie written down, drawn, recorded, etc.) it is copyrighted. If you register your copyright you are afforded more rights but without registration the work is still copyrighted.

Also without copyrights everyone is free to steal someone's work and claim it as their own. Bach and Bethoveen didn't live in the Internet age that's why they were able to survive musically without copyright protection. If an artist's intellectual property cannot be attributed to them how can they exist as an artist? Everyone will be reduced to cover bands because once someone creates a great song everyone can claim it as their own original work, sell it, and perform it live unde false pretense. The writer of the article acknowledges that artists would have to take second jobs which points out the fact that they would suffer without copyrights. The public would suffer as well; if artists and writers are distracted by their side job they will have less time and energy to write songs resulting in lower quantity of songs and also lower quality.

This article poses an interesting idea but is greatly misinformed. This sounds like an argument formulated by someone who rationalizes stealing music (downloading illegally). By saying they're not hurting the artist, just sticking it to the "big bad" record companies. I am an audio engineer and producer who works with independent artists, major label artists, labels and publishers and I see on a daily basis how the existence of copyrights are vital to millions.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterKyle

Every investor wants to invest in ventures where the incremental costs of scaling to infinity and beyond are minimal to zero. In other words, $100 buys you the first 100 widgets, but the cost of producing the next 100 widgets is de minimis. In fact, the competition for investment capital is often won or lost on a cost-to-scale analysis basis.

The problem with the "to hell with copyrights, you can make money from live performances" argument is that this thinking limits an artist's ability to scale to: his or her capacity to perform (live) on a consistent basis. If music (for example) is consistently (stolen) borrowed or free, where does the capacity to scale through minimal additional investment come from? T-shirts?

One might argue that if you reach the top tier of the profession that the capacity to generate easy, incremental income scales far beyond the income generated via performances. However nobody wants to invest in a business or an industry where the only way to obtain a financial exit is to hit a home run. There are far too many investment alternatives where you can pile up rewards by hitting singles and doubles…while preserving the opportunity to hit a home run also.

Art requires investment, as somebody always has to pay the bills. Investing in artists has to appear attractive on a cost-to-scale analysis basis. Every attempt: legal, cultural or otherwise, to weaken copyrights is an assault on every artist's capacity to scale via minimal incremental investments, and thus the capacity to compete for investment dollars.

Who wins the race for investment money, the artist with the epic song or the software developer with the snazzy iPhone app? Which took more time and skill to create? It's all software to me.

For those of you that detest dumping art into an investor equation, simply substitute the concept of investment dollars with a personal time-cost / benefit analysis and ask yourself why so many artists become hobbyists prior to obtaining traction; the key reason is: the lack of copyright respect results in the sinking perception that scaling one's digital entertainment business by shoveling time (or investor money) at it, often results in a negative return. For many, there simply ends up being…better ways to make a living.

July 24 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I think it's incredibly smug to dismiss the songwriting and recording arts as you have with this line of logic. The reason that Beethoven didn't "need" copyright is because sheet music was hand-written (mostly) and there was no recording technology--if you wanted to hear a Beethoven piece you had to pay for a concert. The world was a completely completely different in the ages before copyright.

So an artist who painstaking creates soundscapes using recording technologies should not expect to get paid? How about the writer who spends 3 years writing a novel? Both of those artists should only expect to get paid if they take their art out on the road and sell tshirts because "copyright is evil"? I guess we can say goodbye to "Sgt Pepper" and "The Great Gadsby". Why bother to create non-performance art if it is evil to expect to be paid for it?

This makes me sick.

You do realize that "software companies" are operating under copyright as well, don't you? Or do you believe that Apple's ideas for how an operating system should work should be free? Those ideas, after all, are not "scarce." Copyright was never intended as a means for an artist to make a living, it was designed to allow for it.

Deep down, I'm willing to bet that you don't really believe all this about nonsense about an artist's music not being his property. If a painter creates a famous painting and sells copies of it for $100 each, he is not selling pieces of canvas. He's selling the intangible way that his elements come together visually. If I buy a painting from him and then make my own copies of it, and then sell them for $50 each, am I not stealing from him?

This is not a difficult concept and it is not beyond the grasp of your understanding. Bloggers like you are just trying to justify their cognitive dissonance by blaming it on the artist: "Well, they should be working harder to make a living."

It would behoove you to pay attention to the comment by Mr. Warila above, a man without whom this platform for your little article would not exist. I'm borrowing this from an article he has written (found at

"Recorded music is an instantiation of your musical works; it's an instantiation of your software and your source code. As the rightsholder of your source code you should expect respect of your copyright wishes.

To all the Y-Combinator startups: release all of your source code tomorrow so anyone can freely profit from it. Or enable anyone to freely embed (stream) your engineering - unencumbered by your terms of service - into any app or site that can freely profit from it. After all, you can scale by selling t-shirts or by performing live on stage to pirated organ music; with small monkeys, on large tricycles, and whilst wearing little blue hats."

This is ridiculous.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Dulin

Good music is scarce and it is more than an idea. It is a creation of a legitimately authored work, such as a novel. Copyright isn't evil. However, the notion that those who spend their talents in the artworld create art of no monetary value is highly questionable. It's origins may need a closer examination. I urge the world and its ethics to not change while people and their attitudes do.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterSara Osborne

"But that’s not why CDs used to cost $20+ back in the 1990s. They cost that much because of the copyrighted sounds – that is, ideas – imprinted on the discs. This is also why most CDs these days cost around $10 – because copyright is in the latter stages of decay, due to competition from other media. The cost of a CD is falling back toward the actual cost (plus markup) of the scarce, plastic piece of physical property that it is."

Actually, the high cost of a CD has little to do with musicians or copyright, and everything to do with the greed of the big music companies. A musician/songwriter is lucky to receive pennies out of the $10-20 CD cost, while the record company takes the lions share. The big question is, why do digital downloads, which are not even a physical product, thus need no manufacturing, warehousing, or shipping; continue to cost as much as a physical CD???

One only needs to Google English musicians Bill Nelson, or Robert Fripp, to read about their ongoing battles with their former record companies over non-payment of royalties for music & recordings they created. Fripp is currently in battle with a major record company that continues to sell the music of King Crimson, even while it has no legal right to do so. So for every Sting, or Clapton, that makes millions from their works, there are thousand (perhaps millions) of musicians being ripped off by their record companies. The same can be said for publishing and other artistic endeavors. So please, don't blame the artists who create the works we all love and enjoy for being greedy or holding onto copyrights, just because you don't want to pay $10 for a CD.

"The music industry today is going back to the future – like Beethoven, artists are now surviving by hustling the old fashioned way: boot-strapping public performances and touring. Or, like Bach, they’re subsidizing their song-writing passion by taking side-jobs at the local church or school."

To be fair, Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, and many other composers/writers/playwrights of the past had wealthy patrons, or the Catholic Church, who took care of their needs. Even poet Ranier Maria Rilke survived only due to the sympathy of wealthy female patrons. Most musicians I know, like myself, supplement their income by teaching and/or working a day job. Trust me, not all of us are getting rich off of CD sales of our copyrighted works.

"But the musical ideas on the CD are not scarce. If I share the ideas with my friends by playing them the CD, the original owner hasn’t lost his own copy of them. I haven’t “stolen” anything from him. Like air and water molecules, the sound waves that make up a musical performance are in such great supply that no one is made poorer if they are replicated ad infinitum."

While the physical reproduction of musical ideas on various media are not scarce, the actual original ideas are. Why was Stravinsky the only person to compose "The Rites of Spring," or Page/Plant the only ones to compose "Stairway To Heaven"? If the "music" isn't scarce, then others should have composed the same music, and we should have a lot of the same thing to choose from.

"Can musicians sit back and collect royalties and a share of the huge monopoly profits of yesteryear? Nope. But, those were the days of the golden handcuffs and the chosen few. The only artists who whine and complain now about those “good old” days are either

1. Old artists who came up in the old days and are wistful of the time when they only had to record an album every three years to earn 5 times what they earn now, or

2. Young artists who are too lazy to boot-strap things themselves and wish success was handed to them"

To be fair, most musicians have never had "a share of the huge monopoly profits of yesteryear." Rather, old artists are waiting to be paid any sort of royalty from years of being ripped off by record labels and publishers (see my 3rd paragraph above). Signing a record deal was never "having success handed to them." A record contract was/is more like indentured servitude. Young artists today are taking steps, like Kickstarter, to create a modern sort of "patronage." But other avenues of income, like the club scene in many cities, has evaporated, and even the clubs left don’t pay musicians a living wage. In fact, they often have a “pay to play” scheme in place, where the artists must sell X amount of tickets in order to even see any money. I used to be able to gig every night of the week, and be paid a reasonable income. Even such a multi-million dollar money maker as the London Olympics wanted bands/musicians to play for FREE, because it would be “good exposure.”

I encourage musicians to read up on "copyright" and what they can do to protect the original ideas they have worked so hard to create. Don't let everyone else make money off of your works, and receive nothing for yourself.

July 24 | Unregistered Commenterictus75

Ben Sommer: You've been drinking to Kool Aid too long... You actually believe the diarrhea spewed by the Lessigs and Googles of the world who are making fortunes promoting the illegal use of the output of creative minds.

They've turned you into a creative whore ... Screw me. Screw me. Screw me. That's your motto.

You should be finding ways to let the consumers know that what you do has value rather than telling other creators to give up and accept that what they do for the world and our culture is worthless which gives consumers cover for pillaging the creators means of earning a living.

If you are not going to fight for your rights ... get the hell out of the way ... Stop being The EFF's ventriloquist's dummy ...

Stop letting the creeps use you!

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterTonsoTunez

"We must first understand what property is, since copyright is based on the notion that ideas are property."

This is a major misunderstanding. Ideas are the property of the author, only the actual method to make it accessible. For example, patents protect processes and solutions, not ideas! Music copyright does the same, it protects a certain product form (a recording), not the ideas behind!

In other words, the work is protected, not the thought.

Another misunderstanding is this rhetoric (?) question (which btw, you didn't answer):

"So if modern copyright is only 121 years old, how on earth did Bach, Beethoven & Brahms survive and thrive without it?"

Well, the reason is called patronage ( And we can be happy that the idea of copyright reduced patronage to irrelevant numbers. You don't mention the 99.999% non-aristocratical composers and musicians of that time who suffered under the distored "market" of that time.

I recommend you to read the biographies of these people!

It's the emancipation of this patronage that triggered the first political revolutions, the later industrialization and the freedom of speech we have today.

The problem is that art will not improve if invests exclusively depend on the will of political institutions, businesses and a few other rich people. The music market deserves the same market freedom as all other businesses: "I give you something, you give me something".

Both facts don't really improve your article's value to say the least.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterFabien

This is really really dumb.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterLior


Years from now you will look back on this post and sheepishly say, "Uh, I was just young. What can I say?"

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

Copyright did not leap into sudden existence in 1891 (you misunderstand what the International Copyright Act of 1891 was, by the way) and does not merely have "rotten origins." The U.S. Constitution-- written in 1787-- has a Copyright Clause. It's Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, and it grants Congress the power "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."

I don't think "publishers" had anything to do with this.

The concept of intellectual property was established precisely because it is not the same thing as physical property. You prove nothing by saying that musical ideas "fail the first test of property." That's like saying air fails the first test of being water.

To argue, further, that we can simply go back to musical patronage, as practiced in the 17th and 18th centuries, is to engage in naive fantasy. Everything was different back then: socially, economically, culturally, even psychologically. Are you arguing for a return to all the conditions that gave birth to this way of supporting musicians? Which by the way includes far fewer individual rights across the board? You can't cherry-pick one aspect of life from 200 or 300 years ago and assert it as a workable solution within our 21st-century socio-economic reality.

Hi all - you've raised some valid objections here (and some predictably rude barbs, too - which I expected).

I will write a more lengthy rebuttal to these in a follow-up piece rather than try to comment here, since the space wouldn't do you justice.

Thanks for reading.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterBen Sommer

I am so glad to see that the comments of this post are negative.

Ben, you're either an idiot or just having a good laugh.

Here's a test for you: go help yourself to Google's algorithms and share them with your friends. When Google hauls you into court, explain to the judge why you did nothing wrong. Good luck.

Last, just because I can't resist, you think copyright is "evil"? What the hell does that even mean? Maybe you don't know because you don't even answer your own question.

One more thing: copyright law protects the rights of the holder. When you buy a CD of music you are buying, primarily, a set of rights, none of which is to share the contents of the CD with as many people as you want. Really, look it up.

July 24 | Registered CommenterJeff Shattuck

I concur with the majority of the above comments rebutting the irrational thought and lack of education that went into this article. Seriously people...if you buy into this logic, you're not thinking for yourselves.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterErich

In my opinion, a person should get credit for all that they create and produce which to me includes my most favorite singer, James Otto, someone who is 77 inches of raw hard steel and a precious beautiful sweet hearted teddy bear when you respect him, but may crack you with his bare hands (no pun intended) should you give him reason enough to, I love him SO much!!! (big smile)

God bless you and him always!!!

Holly in East Tennessee

boy is ben taking some (absolutely warranted) heat on THIS article. canceled my music think tank sub, and felt very good about it, by the way. less misinformed bullshit to try and sort.

July 24 | Unregistered Commenterhank whitsett

Hah. Read the first paragraph, cringed, then skipped to the comments and was reassured that at least a few of us have functioning minds.

Bruce Warila's comment wins the prize for best response. That's my vote.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Very little 'think' in this Music Think Tank post. Following your tissue thin argument and ignorant and chidishly misleading viewpoints - so slavery wasn't abolished (in some places) till 1833 and before that it was all hunky dory - so that makes a good excuse for slavery to be revived..........
at this point im stopping subscribing to MTT posts, if you're prepared to publish rubbish like this - you are simply wasting my time and dont deserve my attention or consideration

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterJIm

You are wrong. "Ideas" are not protected by laws, "Works" are.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterVosto

Jesus, Ben.

Are you sure you didn't mean to post this bullshit on

July 25 | Unregistered Commenterfelix

Ben, I think your just a kid living of your parents or maybe some other job and in the spare time write music for your friends (I'm sure it's great music and you are very talented), the point I'm trying to make is that I don't think you work in the music industry, I don't think you make your living out of music, that is the only way I can believe you have such faulty ideas.

I agree that copyright has it's own percs and can be heavily re-adjusted to fit better the times we live in but it does have a purpose and the examples you tried to show here are very childish and are those of someone who doesn't really understand how things work in this business.

Best of luck Ben, please don't write a follow-up, you'll only digg yourself a bigger hole.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterSergiu

I can't believe you think that copyright should be abolished. Why would anyone create a piece of music and let someone else rip them off on it?

I can't see that anyone would not want to protect their hard work in this way. What would be the point in creating it in the first place if you let someone else say it was theirs?

I'm glad so many people have come back to you to correct what you have said in your post!

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Sergiu (and all) - any group who has enjoyed the benefits of a government-granted monopoly has a vested interest in its continuing. Farmers protest loudly when their payments to not harvest are threatened. Oil companies protest loudly when the import tariffs that protect them from foreign competition are threatened. But this is all irrelevant to the question: is a monopoly grant right and legitimate?

I've given you a straight-forward, logical progression of facts and assertions that support my view that copyright is just like those other monopoly grants: illegitimate and unjust. And if a system is unjust or illegitimate, there is no "tinkering" or "refinement" - you must either accept my argument and agree the law should be abolished, or you attack specific points in my argument. Most of you have only vented hate and disrespect, with absolutely zero reasoned, factual rebuttal. But then, everyone is tough behind a keyboard...

Thanks again to Sara, Thomas, John, Bruce et al for providing constructive critique. I will publish a followup with a response to these.

And the fact that I've received only negative comments here only speaks to the particular stripe of reader who frequents MTT - that is: creators with a vested interest in a continuation of the monopoly. Rest assured, I'm receiving private support for this article.

July 25 | Registered CommenterBen Sommer

Your are correct, Vosto, but, to be a little more precise ... "Ideas" are not protected by (copyright) laws ... the EXPRESSIONS of ideas are.

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterTonsoTunez

Ben - you might find this newspaper article interesting before posting further (and receiving further negative comments) - it discusses the problems with copyright laws in the face of new technologies. It just came to mind when reading through your post and the comments.

A quote from the article: "copyright laws must be technology neutral and based on twenty-first-century markets: those markets include a distinct and growing trend toward consumption of copyrighted works without copying them: copyright laws without copying makes no sense. A new structure must provide twenty-first-century solutions"

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterSaul

@ben.. yeah, this would be like telling pro-gun crowd that you are banning bullets. when you write your rebuttal to my comment, please alert me on twitter @brucewarila. peace.

July 25 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Sal - thanks for the link will def. read it

Bruce - will alert you when its posted to Open

July 25 | Registered CommenterBen Sommer

Saul: William

Patry, who wrote the article you suggest Ben read, is employed by Google. He is well know in the world of intellectual property and is considered a wackjob.

Of course, his is going to write things Ben - and apparently you - want to hear.

Just keep this in mind, anything anyone from Google has to say in public - including, sadly, Vinton Cerf, is said to protect Google's income stream. They are making billions off of the illegal distribution of copyrighted works and are not interested in letting anything, anyone or any law get in their way.

Their actions seem to indicate that they believe that anyone who uses heart and soul as part of the creative process is an obstacle to their march to world dominance and must be cleared out of their way with any legal, political, or brute force technology they can muster. Misinformed drones, like Ben, also fit nicely into their strategy.

Now, talk about Evil --- Google stands head and shoulders above all others in that department.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterTonsoTunez

Ben, How do you conclude that you have provided a "straight-forward, logical progression of facts and assertions that support my view?" Your facts are wrong or only partially true, thus assertions and premises based upon them cannot, by your argument, be valid. YOU ARE JUST SO WRONG ABOUT THIS THAT A LITTLE EDUCATION MIGHT GO A LONG, LONG WAY!!

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterRuserious?

What we're really talking about here is artificial scarcity. We have imposed artificial scarcity on music (and all other forms of ideas) in an attempt to encourage innovation, yet material progress is made precisely because ideas are not scarce. They can be infinitely multiplied, learned, taught, and built on. The more ideas that are known, the greater the wealth multiplier as individuals engage in ever more efficient and productive actions. It is good that ideas are infinitely reproducible. There is no need to try to impose artificial scarcity on ideas to make them more like physical resources, which — unfortunately — are scarce. You can imagine the day comes when someone invents a matter-copying machine - will we impose legislation to punish people who make a copy of someone's food, clothing, or medicine?

Anti copying laws are becoming more and more outdated and unenforceable. It will never become more difficult to copy something than it is now. Computers will continue to be able to store more data and share it with other computers at ever increasing speeds. Reformation is necessary and it is inevitable. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can realize the benefits of an open and free internet, and the free exchange of ideas.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterTheEducator


The anti artificial scarcity argument is shallow at best. In the free sharing, free copying world the only people that make money (at scale - see my comment above) are the people that make the copying machines. I will take friction and incentive over the happy sharing of everything...any day of the week. The day the business world starts sharing everything (and this is a business), and the day Google shares everything...for the benefit of the day the world grinds to a halt.

July 26 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

As much as committed file-sharers are in denial about this, copyright is a human right. This is beyond arguing. Reasonable and knowledgable people, with the general welfare clearly in mind, have settled this, and there is nothing magic about technology that gives it the power to undo human rights. Copyright is a right stated plainly in the U.S. Constitution, as previously mentioned. It is also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 27, look it up).

At issue right now is how our flawed copyright system can be aligned with 21st-century technology. To argue that copyright is "evil" is really just silly at this point, and contributes nothing but confusion to the task at hand. Rather than equating artists merely seeking to have their basic human rights protected with profit-hungry oil companies (I mean: really?), we should be looking carefully at those businesses that are working very hard, in their own self interest, at undermining the general public's understanding of and support of copyright.

Seriously, the author of this article should have not been approved for this post and well if he or she is the website owner, they should not approve them self in regard to this post/blog whatever the f#ck this is you marketing whore with html link to some fan b#llsh#t website; your evil you cunt. People like you that make the simple complex and get guilty people out of jams in the context of court and help the music industry continue to be a gas, where everyone and everything is non-sustainable.

If I were you 'author' please consider being a lawyer and disregard this article as it's pure non-sense.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterSeriously

"obviously a pound of dirt is much less scarce than a huge software company."

The image this conjures is wildly ironic and completely contradictory to the intended meaning. And it tickles me :D

Should I mention the HUGE need for a proof-reader?

Great comments on here and not a lot I more can add.

CDs used to cost so much because the new technology to make them was expensive and in the hands of a few people. Today, almost everyone has a CD burner on their PC. CD burners used to cost thousands of dollars and were found in commercial production facilities. Now you can get a used one free off craigslist, pop it into your home computer, and burn away. t's dishonest not to mention that fact.

One common observation I've noticed about all the anti copyright pundits is that most of them are either not songwriters themselves or "failed" songwriters (if they can't profit from their songs, then no one else should either!). Most of us have encountered that distinctive group of musicians who once tried to crack the music industry and then converted into Eyores as soon as they gave up that pursuit. They don't want to see anyone else succeed and that sentiment comes through loud and clear. Likewise, we've all seen ads in the musicians wanted pages: "Been there, done it, no originals, covers only." It's the ultimate surrender to laziness and failure, as if creating music isn't enough reward in and of itself...As if everyone who claims to write songs must be an over inflated, talentless, egotist.

There has always been a lot more hate in the music business than love. The songs themselves may be chock full of loving, good vibrations. But the industry itself (starting in the music shops often run by the vilest slime on the planet) has always been a "F You Buddy" world. We should not be surprised to find opinion pieces like this rampant on the internet now; especially when times are so tough for so many people and our ability to move upwards has been so greatly diminished.

This is how you know if you're the kind of songwriter who should even bother with copyrights. So you find yourself constantly hearing someone else "copy" your song on the radio? That means your ideas are so middle of the road that you should probably not bother copyrighting your music. If, on the other hand, you have written hundreds of great songs that people say sound like radio hits AND you have never heard anyone "copy" your songs on the radio, you might want to consider having your own publishing company as well.

We live in a very ugly time in human history where a sense of entitlement is dominating the landscape. We are not all meant to do the same things in this life. We can't all be captains. Cooks are equally important, don't you know?

July 26 | Unregistered Commenteramplefire

The idea that "you can make money from performance" completley misses the mark for the SONGWRITER! Not all songwriters perform or should perform, anyone ever heard Burt Bacharach sing? Pretty sure if his success was dependent on his singing, things would've turned out differently. What about a screenplay or movie... hey mister movie maker guy what do you think of my movie.. hey this is great! Thanks for the story I'm gonna make millions at the box office - too bad you won't get a dime but hey if you have any more great ideas let me know!!

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterDenny

This post makes me angrier at the sheer ignorance of a supposed musican artist I've ever read. There will enough quality rants over your socialistic tripe, so I will just cut short and make the point you might want to do a freshman 101 study of U.S. Intellectual Patent "rights" of persons or creators you probably haven't heard of, like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, from whom society has benefited immeasureably from simple "ideas" that were developed and protected. There is no difference, legally or otherwise, between patentable ideas and for the publishing world, copywritten ideas. They record and protect the creator, and until the music industry made the colossal blunder of making music available in an intangible, easily pirated and distributed form, rather than your CD, they protected our rights and our deserved income.
To all who read this, please take this as an education in the fact we will never educate and convict those who want and need our music to enrich their lives to stop piracy. They will steal anyway possible as long as they can do it without serious retribution.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterRick Mann

Really? *Really*? Do you even understand that _copyright_ is not about _ideas_ (those are patents) it's about the expression of an idea. Which creates something tangible, which is, effecitvely, a product.

Typical, thoughtless rambling from yet another person that's put no effort into researching and thinking about the real, fundamental issues. There are plenty of other writings that shoot holes in all of these suggestions. Using the government-granted monopoly example you cite, that is (as is so very typical of folks such as yourself attempting to rationalize their position) an apples-to-oranges comparison. Subsidizing farmers and imposing tariffs isn't the same as allowing folks to control their work. Suggesting otherwise is just irrational.

Past that, please refrain from telling me what I can or can not do with my own work. That's not your place.

July 26 | Unregistered Commentergrh

In a world where copyright is not enforced, and free file-sharing runs rampant, artists will have no choice but to stop creating and work regular jobs in order to survive. Imagine a world where no one creates music, and no one makes movies; no new television shows, no new video games, no new computer software. It doesn't matter what other business model you try to compare intellectual property rights to; the fact remains that if there's no money in it, no one will do it. Then where will we be?

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterDan

This article is so full of bull shit that it doesn't even deserve to have an argumentative response.
However, I think Mr. Sommer should work for free. That would sort him out in no time flat.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterLF


You took a thesis that made sense and took it too far. Copyright is sick, but it certainly isn't dying. The decline in value of CDs is the result of a lot of things, but not the death of copyright. Digital music sales are surging. This is a more cost-effective form of delivery that isn't hampered by the confines of selling a physical product. As an increasing number of consumers grow accustomed to digital downloads, it becomes difficult for CDs to maintain a cost of $19.99 when they are in competition with a $9.99 album download.

Though I disagree with the utopian copyright-less world that you have forecast, I will agree that copyright laws must change as copyright violation becomes more difficult to police. However, a world in which artists only make their living off of live performances will never exist.

If you really think you own your house or property, try not paying your taxes.

Hint: The government will take your property and auction it off.

So much for the argument that if you buy physical property you completely own it.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterMT

Hey buddy, if music is not property than how will you get my music? It's MY music just like my car is MY car, just because I wrote the music that is mine doesn't mean that you can have it for free,

Are we to expect that the future of recorded music is just live performances recorded by you on your iphone? Go blow your boyfriend nObama

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterMusic Man

Mr Sommer, I have to assume that you posted this as a joke. I had to check the date on this article to make sure you didn't post it on April 1st.

The reason being that nearly EVERYTHING in the article is false. The first copyright statue, was the Statute of Anne in 1710, so the legal basis is over 300 years old. The concept of composers receiving payment for copies of the work dates back to Henry VIII making it nearly 500 years old. This is nearly as old as the printing press itself.

You next big error is your claim that copyright protects ideas. This is false. It protects the expression of an idea. If you don't know the difference, try writing about something you know.

Even when you start out on the right foot "Property begins with one’s ownership of one’s body", you leave out the ownership of one's mind and the things that are created by the mind. Those are every bit property as the things we make with our hands. We own the product of our minds. If this weren't true roughly 70% of the people in this country would not be able to make a living.

Copyrights are human rights. They are acknowledged by both the US Constitution and International Declaration of Human Rights. Copyright is not evil. Ignorance is evil, which is what you seem to possess in abundance.

Musicians, artists, writers and the other creative people around the world are going to aggressively work to protect our property rights from both the pirates who steal our work and from people like you who would surrender our rights without a fight.

The problem is copyright. The problem is you.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterJJ Biener


I agree - that article (and its author) are far from the best source - I just found it a more informed and less pre-decided consideration of the issue than Ben Sommer's (not difficult!). I proffered it to Ben to inform, not to support nor dismiss his views.

That article does not directly reflect my views, although it does give some more-reasonable-than-Ben's consideration to some of the arguments - ie. it asks for restructuring of copyright to deal better with the situation as it stands in terms of problematic remuneration and use of artists' works.

Having worked in the record industry, both for tiny and major labels, I appreciate many of the arguments, and personally I support the premise of copyright and totally support artists' rights, but i see some of the problem as being how labels and other companies have warped copyright's purpose to suit themselves.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterSaul

Let’s have all options available for prosperity, not limit them because people want more “loot”. Because we live in a free society we are blessed with the freedom to create intellectual property. Creative jobs involving the computer are now possible because of the copyright. Entrepreneurial individuals can create digital art, software, books & music, and if they choose there is the option of hiring employees, which may provide meaningful work. Don’t kill the golden goose. The freebies will only last as long as there is money to fund this digital creation.

>You can imagine the day comes when someone invents a matter-copying machine - will we
>impose legislation to punish people who make a copy of someone's food, clothing, or medicine?

Yes, and we should. Otherwise the people who create food, clothing and medicine will be out of jobs.

>Anti copying laws are becoming more and more outdated and unenforceable. It will never
>become more difficult to copy something than it is now. Computers will continue to be able to
>store more data and share it with other computers at ever increasing speeds.

Just because it is getting easier doesn't make it right. It just makes a case for implementing harsher penalties and limiting technology growth so the owners get their fair share.

All ideas above are copyrighted to me. Any dissemination, copying or use of the above ideas is strictly forbidden and punishable to the fullest extent of the law.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterTheReEducator

TheReEducator: "All ideas above are copyrighted to me. Any dissemination, copying or use of the above ideas is strictly forbidden and punishable to the fullest extent of the law."

Again, TheReEducator, - not to be too picky - because I agree what you are saying - 'ideas' are not copyrightable --- the "expressions" of ideas are.

What you have said can be restated by others but not copied verbatim... unless, as I have done above, "fair use" comes into play.

I'm really impressed by the response to Ben's post. It means that a lot of creators understand their human rights and are willing to stand up for them. We need to be vocal. We need to fight back. Google and friends with their power and the money are trying to stomp out our rights world wide strictly for financial gain.

Governments need to hear from us. The judiciary needs to hear from us. Consumers need to hear from us .. and they need to listen because we bring heart, soul and culture to the world ... Dumb pipes and clever technology only deliver it.

We all need each other. We must work together.

And, as creators, we must never give up.

Ben, please join us.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterTonsoTunez

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