The simple rule of why copyright is now broken


Harrison Ainsworth

Internet benefit is inversely related to copyright strength

Everyone senses that something has gone wrong with copyright. Is it possible to explain this in a simple expression? Yes: the key is to understand the matter in terms of change, in the improvement the internet gives over previous circumstance.

The benefit of the internet is wider distribution of all data products, more fluid use and reuse of them, and lowering of costs, and prices, of these to almost zero. But the essential mechanism of copyright is to restrict distribution, block reuse, and raise prices. The benefit of the internet and the mechanism of copyright are severely, fundamentally, inescapably conflicted. What copyright restrains is exactly the good the internet offers.

It may be argued that copyright seeks a trade-off – it restricts distribution, but this is compensated by encouraging production – and that applies just as well to the internet. Yes, the principle applies, but the actual valuation of the balance has greatly changed: the harm side is now immensely larger. Copyright stifles the progress of the internet.

There is, rationally and economically, an inevitable conclusion. If we want to gain the full benefit of the internet, copyright must be dismantled.

Copyright is not an end in itself, it is only one possible system, and it no longer works. It is time to develop other, appropriate ways to support cultural creation.