< HOME  Saturday, February 18, 2006

The HEAVY hand of FREE markets

Speaking at an international forum devoted to Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization, German Gref said 223 factories involved in piracy had been shut down in Russia recently. He said a total of 35,000 enterprises had undergone checks as part of the campaign against intellectual property rights violations in Russia, which hopes to join the global trade body at the end of 2006.
223 factories! Closed, so that a few copyright holders can exploit to the max the natural desire for humans to share their culture. The local economy is sacrificed so that corporate profits can swell beyond their current abominable size.
Violations of intellectual property rights in Russia have been one of the chief concerns of the country's negotiators in WTO talks, particularly of the United States. [surprise, surprise]

According to U.S. experts, losses from copyright piracy in Russia amounted to $1.7 billion in 2005 and have exceeded $6.5 billion in the past five years. [all icing]

Experts have said virtually all films, music, software and books are counterfeited in Russia and that pirated products account for 67-85% of all copyright material . . . ordinary people [continue] to buy widely available less expensive counterfeit audio, video cassettes, and CDs.
Sure, why should they pay more? So that corporate copyright holders can add to their already overflowing coffers?
[A]lmost a million counterfeit items, worth $4.3 million, had been confiscated in Russia in 2005.
What will they do with $4.3 million worth of assets? This is other people's property. Copyright holders didn't pay for supplies or labor. They own nothing but a legal fiction. Yet, the government confiscates tangible property in the name of these so-called "rights."
[A]pproximately 3,000 criminal cases, involving about 1,500 people, had been opened in Russia on charges of copyright violations and 78 people had been convicted.
How much does it cost to enforce these draconian laws and prosecute these so-called criminals? Who pays the price? The unwilling people, of course - the same people who must pay a premium to buy copyright products, and royalties for the privilege of producing them.

So much for spreading freedom and democracy. The west replaced the iron fist of communism with the heavy hand of "free" markets.


At Saturday, February 18, 2006, Blogger Red Tulips said...

EXCELLANT post! (I am a fast reader)

This just underlines exactly how I feel about intellectual property. Brilliant.

Is it possible to cross post this and the Libya one? Both of those posts were truly brilliant.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I normally agree with just about everything on this blog, but I can't agree with your take on IP.

How would you feel if you worked for a year or two to record an album, write a novel, or produce a movie, but then some cherry-picker copies your work and makes money off your labor? You're the one that has worked hard to create something original and then somebody steals it and profits from the theft. How is that fair?

I've got news for you...if there is no legal or economic protection for intellectual property you would see a dramatic decrease in your choices for music, film, art, novels, etc. Why should somebody pursue art if they can't make a living from it?

I don't understand at all how you can advocate the theft of somebody's sweat and labor...i.e. no copyright protection.

Maybe the pirate factory owners should put as much energy into creating something original of their own rather than stealing a legitimate work from somebody else.

Would you like somebody to copy all your blog posts that you have worked hard to create, publish a book from them and earn a million dollars from your labor? C'mon no way in hell is that OK.

Your position is very inconsistent. You want working people's labor to be valued and respected but you don't mind people's IP to be stolen and exploited by criminals.


Keep talking about the Fed, interest and our debased currency but this IP meme you are on is ridiculous.

At Saturday, February 18, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment, and thanks for visiting the blog regularly and sharing my views on the Fed and especially interest (not a lot of people agree with me on that).

I’m not sure what your background is. But, I’ll assume you’re an artist and that you’re not familiar with IP law (though you may be a lawyer for all I know).

I understand you're confusion regarding my position (though I’m sure you’re convinced that you’re right). I was similarly confused about IP, not long ago. In fact, as late as last summer I was applying for jobs at IP law firms. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. But, there is.

When you describe the copying of an artist's idea as "theft" you begin from the premise that copying it is a crime. While the idea is appealing, it is not the open shut case that you imagine.

Granted a “creator” initially comes up with a creative idea. But, that doesn't mean that they're entitled to “exclusive” ownership of it. Exclusive rights to copyrights and patents are an instrumental legal fiction intended (by the Constitution) to 'promote the progress of science and the arts.'

But an artist’s "creativity" is not spawned in a vacuum. They build on the images and stimuli that are available all around them. In fact, most people are creative, if they bother to try.

Contrary to popular belief, extraordinary creativity is not what gives popular artists of today the commercial edge that they have. It’s largely the industrial and capital power behind them that enables them to saturate the market with "their creative product," such that it becomes part of the cultural landscape, and an attractive idea to “steal.”

Once market penetration reaches critical mass, the creative product picks up exponential momentum, propelled by the natural desire of all humans to share their culture.

It is not only obscene, but indefensible that a handful of individuals should benefit both from the labor and assets of hundreds of millions of others AND the momentum of humanity’s need to share culture, facilitated exponentially by industry and technology.

It does not promote the progress of science and arts. It promotes a culture of monopoly and greed, the PRINCIPAL BENEFACTORS being industrial capitalists (a.k.a., bankers and moneylenders), the ones that we know and love – the same ones who monopolize the money supply.

In fact, the way IP laws are set up, artists would be BETTER off if copyright laws were abolished because that would place more value on the artist and their original works (i.e, their LABOR). Now, artists are a dime a dozen and their copyrights automatically vest in their employers by law.

Finally, to answer your question, I do not care if anyone and everyone copies my posts verbatim as long as they do NOT copyright it and then attempt to limit its circulation to monopolize its benefit.

Right now I don’t look for monetary gain. I concede that it's nice to get credited, though, and at some point I will have to take donations in order to survive and keep up my work.

Thanks a lot for visiting the site and expressing yourself, especially now that you disagree. It’s nice when readers agree with my perspective but new ideas are not worth much if they can't withstand resistance.

At Sunday, February 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post.
Were'nt the Founding Fathers originally against patents? IIRC they believed that to patent technological innovation went against the betterment of mankind.
Copyright laws I think they were for, but only for the lifetime of the creator, and solely for the creator if they wish to pursue it, not like nowadays where the copyright lasts decades and decades and can be transferred.

At Sunday, February 19, 2006, Anonymous MTA said...

This is the 2nd poster again. I am in fact both a former lawyer and a current artist, so I know these issues pretty well. I am also an entrepreneur, which I consider another form of art.

As a brief aside, ironically after you say that everybody has the potential to be creative and after realizing I had such creativity inside of me, I began following the path I am on. You make an excellent point with that.

I hear what you are saying but I still strongly disagree. With all due respect, I don't think you have enough real world experience in creating original and valuable works to realize the impact of what you propose.

But I think you might get there soon. You have an original and powerful voice with your blog. Why should you rely on donations to continue making these valuable contributions to the world? By copyright, you give yourself some form of ability to earn money from your work and to allow yourself to spend enough time on it to keep creating and producing it (in lieu of having to make money from another activity) and educating the world. What is wrong with that? It would be a real shame if you had to stop writing because you could not make any money from it (or, saying it another way, if you had to stop writing because you had to allocate all/most of your limited amount of time to a "day job" to pay your bills and couldn't find much time to write anymore).

Do you think many artists would continue doing what they do for an entire career relying on donations? For example, I love Bob Dylan, but I don't think we would be privileged to hear his music for 40+ years if this entire time he was scraping by on donations. No, he created brilliant works of art that made him money at an early stage and permitted him to have a long and worthwhile career in this field. You could say the same thing about thousands of other artists throughout history. Why shouldn't they make money from their labor? It IS labor, after all. What you are advocating I see as a form of slavery...i.e. let's put this musician (or another artist or an entreprenuer) in a room over here, get him to make a great song, and then we'll give a free copy to everybody who wants one. What's in it for the artist? That just doesn't work in the real world. And while I think everyone has some form of creativity inside them, not everybody has world-class creativity and talent. If, in your system, Bob Dylan can't make money from his work and gives up in 1965, I am not so sure there would be another person to come along to fill the void. And we'd all be the worse for it.

I, like you, am not happy that, to take two obvious examples, that the music business and the film business are dominated by a handful of huge conglomerates that commercialize and exploit everything to the maximum possible extent. The main problem with both is in distribution, and what we need to do is break this kind of chokehold on industries by developing alternative forms of distribution to make it more equitable for artists and the public. I see progress in this area but there is still a long way to go. Also, artists need to be much smarter about signing away all rights to their work for pennies on the dollar to exploitive corporations.

You are right about one thing, there is no need for copyright protection to be 75 years. It should be much less but still at least 25 years or the lifetime of the artist whichever is more.

The main issue here is incentive. People need to have an incentive to work hard and/or to work harder than other people. Yeah, some artists just do it for the art but every single creator of something original needs to survive somehow, and the only way to encourage artists to do what they do is to make sure that potentially they can benefit from their work in a financial way (so they can survive and continue to produce work that benefits society and human culture as a whole).

And really, if you create something that a million people are willing to buy for $1, why shouldn't this million dollars go to you (assuming you still have the rights to it)? As for the public, gimme a break, you can download almost any song in the world for $0.99. I think that is an amazing deal and I gladly will keep paying it to keep the good music coming. I wish more of the $0.99 would land in the artist's pocket, and that is something to work towards. And really isn't that $0.99 I spend on a song a "donation" to the artist to support the work. So, with your logic, my giving $0.99 to the artist is OK, as long as it was in the form of a donation and not a purchase (which involves several corporate intermediaries unfortunately)?

As I mentioned before, artists are entrepreneurs in a definite sense. For any kind of entrepreneur, if you take away the reward element, then nobody takes a risk. I am quite a left end of the dial guy, but I see this issue firsthand. I live in a former Communist country in Europe (as an expat not a native) and I see the remnants of a system where all incentives to create, produce, and succeed were removed. Where I live, there is very negligible entrepreneurialism because the system in place 20 years ago did not allow it. Now there is a remaining legacy of high unemployment, heavy bureaucracy, and general unhappiness and malaise amongst the people. What very few people seem to understand (especially the older generations) is that there is tremendous potential here to start things and create things with little or no competition but people here have never had the incentive to think like this and the mentality does not change overnight. What I am saying is that a system that removes incentives, and thus discourages creativity, entrepreneurialism, and risk-taking, is a very bad system and doesn't create a healthy or wealthy society. I've got a lot of issues with the US these days but one awesome thing about US society is the amount of risk-taking and entrepreneurialism (from the very beginning of the country really) in the spirit of the people and in the fabric of the nation that has helped to create a very wealthy country (albeit very inequitably distributed across the population).

I am not only building entrepreneurial ventures here (and employing people, something which is badly needed here) but also teaching others the art of entrepreneurialism so that hopefully a ripple effect takes place and many other people benefit from a whole new mindset.

By no means do I advocate the opposite, runaway capitalism, which is what we have with some artistic businesses right now. What we need to do is rein the excesses in as much as we can, but the idea of completely removing the incentive system (copyrights and other IP) is very misguided. Let's fix the many other pressing issues of the day (that you regularly discuss) and this will take care of itself.

Keep on writing and creating and you will in time understand what I am saying.

I have alway been an idealist but I now understand that what I create and what I produce (through many, many hours of hard work, struggle, and risk-taking) belongs to me, with some temporal limitations. I've had enough of selling my precious time to a soulless corporation or law firm for 8 hours a day. I now try to sell my ideas (artistic and entrepreurial) rather than my time (I've got a lot of ideas but not so much time!). Think about it...

At Sunday, February 19, 2006, Anonymous Mighty Thor said...

Very interesting argument presented above, but I wonder if it all just misses point.

For isn't the DEMOCRATIC purpose one of providing incentive? So the gov. of democratic consensus has determined to establishing monopoly in interest of providing what it considers legitimate incentive.

So qrswave, u just gotta convince people ur way is better.

Besides, u never presented ur pretended argument against interest: it ought to be simple, a conclusion following premises and definition(s). Otherwise u cannot refute (in reason) the basic concept of Constitutional contract and the basic principle of sanctity-of-contract.

So give ur argument against interest in fewest possible words, or hold ur peace till u do--isn't that reasonable? Thanks again, Thor

At Sunday, February 19, 2006, Blogger qrswave said...

Anon, Feb 19, 12:04:52 AM EST:

The founding fathers are commonly referred to as if they agreed on everything, when in fact they were fiercely divided over a number of issues, especially when it came to ratifying the Constitution.

There is not much documented discussion over the Copyright clause, that I have seen. But, I suspect that it's safe to assume that anti-federalists (who truly represent the revolutionaries of the time) were not in favor of the Copyright clause.

If they did not put up such a strong fight it would be because they did not and could not foresee how much power monopolies over technology and knowledge would give so few people.

That said, no doubt the monopoly of the money supply exacerbates the evils that result from monopolies created by patents and copyrights.

MTA, thanks for your thoughtful and detailed reply. I have a deadline tomorrow, so I can't respond now. But, I intend to reply to your points in detail. Thanks for your patience and your time.

Thor, you are right of course, people must be convinced why my perspective is right. Hopefully, my next post on this will clarify and strengthen my position.

And, though I have presented my argument against interest a number of times before, I will address your persistent concerns about it in the near future. Thanks for your patience.

At Sunday, February 19, 2006, Anonymous Mighty Thor said...

Thanks, for once u're honest and straight-forward about this otherwise mysterious subject--am awaiting ur expo; pls keep simple as possible for my humble understanding, fewest words, conclusion following premises. Meantime, I continue to hold people have right to agree in contract to pay this fee, called, "interest." Thanks again, Thor


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