The copyright monopoly was reinstated in Great Britain in 1710, after having lapsed in England in 1695. It was enacted because printers (not writers) insisted, that if they didn’t have exclusive rights to boost profitability, nothing would get printed.
(Do note the difference between books getting written on one hand, and getting printed and distributed on the other. It was printers, not writers and authors, that drove the reinstatement of the copyright monopoly through the so-called Statute of Anne.)
The Parliament of Great Britain accepted this premise, and thus, the social contract of the copyright monopoly was formed: “In return for providing the only service that can make culture come into being for the benefit of the public, the publishers and distributors are awarded with time-limited exclusive rights.”
Note the very important assumption here: if the exclusive rights – the copyright monopoly – don’t exist, there will not be any culture. This is the contract which governments have been acting on ever since: in exchange for providing a magic service that calls culture into being in the first place, the publishers have enjoyed exclusive rights that allow them to punish and withhold.
The social contract between the public and the copyright industry is, that in exchange for exclusive rights, the publishers will make culture available, being the only ones who can supply such availability of culture.
It turns out the entire premise is bullshit.
With the advent of the Internet, we see that people are creating despite these exclusive rights, this monopoly, instead of because of it. Millions of creators – millions! – have publicly renounced their already-awarded exclusive rights by publishing under a Creative Commons license.
YouTube alone receives 300 hours of new video every minute. This means YouTube alone provides 18,000 24/7 TV channels, most of which are not worth watching – in other words, just like the legacy TV channels.
The notion that the copyright industry alone is capable of providing culture has been exposed as an enormous, audacious, bold-faced utter lie.
So if you were the government, the buyer in this scenario, what would you do? The buyer who gives very valuable exclusive rights to the copyright industry who claimed that the existence of such a contract was the only way to have any culture available at all – what would you do now that it’s clear that you’ve been paying much much much too high a price?
You would terminate the contract with this lying seller of public culture who demanded harmful exclusive rights in exchange for culture to be created. You would find another supplier who provided better terms to the public. And most importantly, you would not care about what the old seller – the copyright industry – had to say about your new negotiations.
That’s now any other procurement works, after all: if you’re unhappy with a supplier, you find a new supplier, and obviously, the old supplier doesn’t get to have a say about the next deal with another supplier. There is no reason at all why culture and knowledge should work differently.
In other words, there is no reason at all why the copyright industry should enjoy any exclusive rights at all, and in particular, there is no reason why they should have any say about having them revoked. They haven’t delivered on the social contract, so the contract gets revoked. End of story.
About The Author
Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.
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