Why The Copyright Industry Isn’t a Legitimate Stakeholder in Copyright

Opinion

When the copyright monopoly and its future development is discussed, parties called "stakeholders" are frequently invited to discuss its wording and principles. Yet, current lawmakers have forgotten the reason the monopoly exists in the first place.

All through the history of copyright, its motivation has been very clear. In the United States Constitution, it is worded “to promote the progress of science and the useful arts”. But the purpose of the monopoly is to maximize the available culture. Nothing more and nothing less.

Some people, and corporations in particular, claim that the purpose of the copyright monopoly is for a certain profession to make money. That was never the case, and frankly, the idea is revolting to any democracy and functioning market. Bricklayers don’t have laws guaranteeing they make money, marketers don’t, plumbers don’t, and nobody else does, either.

However, the means of achieving the maximization of the available culture has been to give some creators a monopoly on the opportunity — not the right, but the opportunity — to make money off of a creative work. This has been the means to maximize culture for the public at large, and never the end in itself.

This also means that the only legitimate stakeholder in copyright legislation is the public. The monopoly is indeed a balance, but not the “balance” between corporate profits and human rights that the copyright industry likes to paint and pretend. In fact, the copyright industry is not part of the balance at all.

The copyright monopoly legislation is a balance between the public’s interest of having access to culture, and the same public’s interest of having new culture created.

That’s it. Those are the two values that go into determining the wording of the copyright monopoly.

The copyright industry always demands to be regarded as a stakeholder in this monopoly. But to give them that status would be to royally confuse the means of the copyright monopoly with its end.

If they were a stakeholder, they would never agree to anything that went against their interests. But the copyright industry is not a stakeholder. They are merely a beneficiary of the copyright monopoly. Just because you benefit from something, you don’t get to affect its future.

Actually, it goes even further: particularly if you benefit from something, you don’t get to affect its future.

Let’s take an analogy. Blackwater Security benefits from United States foreign policy. Does that mean that Blackwater is a stakeholder in the US foreign policy, and should get a seat at the drafting table? Of course it doesn’t. The notion would be horrifying, with quite predictable outcomes. Yet, we accept this horrendous construction in the case of the copyright monopoly, with just the outcomes predicted.

Using a similar analogy from Europe, there are many regiment towns that would disappear if the regiment was closed. That doesn’t mean that town get to influence the national defense policy. The issue that some thousands of people would be unemployed in the case of closing the regiment would have to be solved by job market policy — but not by giving the regiment town a seat when drafting the national defense policy, and for all intents and purposes, give them a veto against killing their own current jobs.

Imagine if Blackwater Security had a veto against ending a particular war. Next, imagine if the copyright industry had a veto of giving the public more access to public culture.

So in the same way, it’s totally insane to give the copyright industry the same kind of veto against reductions in legislation that benefit them.

The copyright industry is not a legitimate stakeholder in the legislation of the copyright monopoly.

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Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at http://falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

Follow Rick Falkvinge on Twitter as @Falkvinge and on Facebook as /rickfalkvinge.

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