That Copyright Thing

Is copyright bad

Article by Garrett Will
ver since the demise of Aaron Schwartz, faux moral guardians everywhere went on tirades around the internet about how copyright is so bad. It's such a bogeyman that impedes artistic talent and freedom of creative works. Those dang companies who hold copyright over creative works in tangible mediums keep dicking around with peoples' lives when they commit copyright infringement. Waah! I need a shoulder to cry on 'cause copyright, man!

Do these people forget just what copyright, at least as it is presently (and generally) defined, stands for? I know that the original intent of copyright law was to actually restrict the flow of information with the ascension of the printing press, but that was a long-ass time ago, people! This is about the only argument that anti-copyright loons appear to fall back on, but this is easily rendered bunk when you tell them about the since revised laws. Plus, no country shares the exact same provisions in their copyright laws in the first place, so the broad-stroke arguments of anti-copyright loons tend to come off as disingenuous.

  Here's the thing, people: without copyright laws, chaos would ensue. Since copyright only affects legal attribution of creative works, you kind of need it to substantiate your interests when you feel that a party is violating your ability to make gains from it by, in your mind, wrongfully gaining from it on their end. In other words, if you write a book and you, of course, want to benefit from its flow to an audience, but another party tries to do just that at your behest, then you'll need copyright laws to bolster your interests with the help of the law. A world without copyright would mean that the aforementioned scenario would run amok, and amok it would be indeed should copyright be rendered moot in the eyes of the law.

Sure, members of the RIAA and MPAA abuse copyright laws when people simply share files (a la The Pirate Bay, torrents, P2P file sharing, etc.) online when the party has made no benefit from that activity, but this is not a good argument to rest on in the crusade against the copyright bogeyman.

Copyright infringement does not occur until the file sharers make tangible gains from their activity, such as selling those files and pocketing all of the proceeds for themselves. Not only did they get a file copy of copyright-protected works without benefiting the copyright holder, but they spit in the face of said party by soliciting money from it. To share files simply to share is not a grievous act, but to profit off said shared files when the copyright holder makes no benefit from the transaction, no matter if they're a corporation or not, then that's an asshole move! Of course, it's also an asshole move to go after people simply because they're sharing files with one another simply to experience the copyright-protected works in a purely personal matter.

And then there's attribution that's the real issue here, at least to me.

Copyright, to varying degrees (depending on the nation and its laws therein), lends credence to attribution. Sure, the U.S. Government defines in its copyright laws that copyright applies automatically, but because this notion is open to interpretation, I'm going to provide my own. Upon reading the FAQ for general copyright information as it applies in the U.S., when you put your creative works into a tangible medium like books, for instance, you automatically have copyright (attribution) on it. That seems noble and all, but then the FAQ later seems to contradict this seemingly faith-based assertion when it declares that, where copyright actually matters anyway, you have to register copyright for your works if you wish to bolster the fact of attribution to the public at large. This scenario will only come into play if someone infringes upon your copyright because if they benefit illegally from your (automatically, at least in the U.S.) copyrighted works, then you must prove it in the court of law. The court of law will essentially laugh off your case if you don't register your copyright legally. So to rest on the laurels that copyright is automatic upon the fixing of your creative works to a tangible medium is moot simply by what I described. Hell, see the FAQ for yourself here. In summary, the FAQ contradicts itself once it regards the law, where copyright matters in the first place!

Honestly, though, copyright laws are abused whole-sale for the purpose of making profits. This is a sad thing to realize given that the free flow of information and creative works is being jeopardized because of such abuses.
I fucking hate plagiarism, and anyone who deliberately commits this act to reap the rewards.
Sure, I personally draw the line when people gain from free-flowing works without gain for the party who should benefit from the act, but that's the only time I can sympathize with those who enforce copyright laws for their own use. But as a content creator who views his created works as extensions of himself, I'd feel gravely insulted should someone try to make gains from my works at my behest. The most grievous act of all, in my opinion, is outright theft of attribution: plagiarism.

It might not need to be said, but fuck it, I'll say it anyway: I fucking hate plagiarism, and anyone who deliberately commits this act to reap the rewards. If I were to find out that someone brazenly stole my creative works so that they can rake in the benefits from it, I'd go the fuck after said someone. My creative works are like children to me, and if you take my children away so that you can enjoy all that they'd bring to you, you'd better expect a berserk papa wolf-like response from me. That's my property you're stealing, bub.

Couldn't one have but empathy for my position as a content creator? I don't think the issue is of simply gaining from fixed applications of creative works, but of recognizing that those works are the creations of certain individuals. File-sharing in itself is not a real crime in my eyes until a perpetrator wrongfully benefits from it, but I'm simply regurgitating myself here. The real issue at hand is that of knowing what is of my creation is not of yours'. Sadly, in many ways, copyright laws still don't fully protect attribution and the many forms of violation of such. In the meantime, anti-copyright loons need to pull their heads out of the sand, get with the present (and recognize the nuanced nature of copyright laws), and appreciate the good in them.

What a steal!

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