The Next-Generation Copyright Monopoly Wars Will Be Much Worse


We've been manufacturing without a license in our homes for 30 years now. It's about to go physical. Maybe that will wake legislators up to the bigger picture. If not, we're in for something much worse.

copyright-brandedWe’ve been manufacturing our own copies of knowledge and culture without a license for quite some time now, a practice known first as mixtaping and then as file-sharing.

Home mass manufacturing of copies of culture and knowledge started some time in the 1980s with the Cassette Tape, the first widely available self-contained unit capable of recording music. It made the entire copyright industry go up in arms and demand “compensation” for activities that were not covered by their manufacturing monopoly, which is why we now pay protection money to the copyright industry in many countries for everything from cellphones to games consoles.

The same industry demanded harsh penalties – criminal penalties – for those who manufactured copies at home without a license rather than buying the expensive premade copies. Over the next three decades, such criminal penalties gradually crept into law, mostly because no politician thinks the issue is important enough to defy anybody on.

A couple of key patent monopolies on 3D printing are expiring as we speak, making next-generation 3D printing much, much higher quality. 3D printers such as this one are now appearing on Kickstarter, “printers” (more like fabs) that use laser sintering and similar technologies instead of layered melt deposit.

We’re now somewhere in the 1980s-equivalent of the next generation of copyright monopoly wars, which is about to spread to physical objects. The copyright industry is bad – downright atrociously cynically evil, sometimes – but nobody in the legislature gives them much thought. Wait until this conflict spreads outside the copyright industry, spreads to pretty much every manufacturing industry.

People are about to be sued out of their homes for making their own slippers instead of buying a pair.

If you think that sounds preposterous, that’s exactly what has been going on in the copyright monopoly wars so far, with people manufacturing their own copies of culture and knowledge instead of buying ready-made copies. There’s no legal difference to manufacturing a pair of slippers without having a license for it.

To be fair, a pair of slippers may be covered by more monopolies than just the copyright monopoly (the drawing) – it may be covered by a utility patent monopoly, a design patent monopoly, possibly a geographic indication if it’s some weird type of slipper, and many more arcane and archaic types of monopolies. Of course, people in general can’t tell the difference between a “utility patent”, a “design patent”, a “copyright duplication right”, a “copyright broadcast right”, a “related right”, and so on. To most people, it’s all just “the copyright monopoly” in broad strokes.

Therefore, it’s irrelevant to most people whether the person who gets sued out of their home for fabbing their own slippers from a drawing they found is technically found guilty of infringing the copyright monopoly (maybe) or a design patent (possibly). To 95% or more, it’s just “more copyright monopoly bullshit”. And you know what? Maybe that’s good.

The next generation of wars over knowledge, culture, drawings, information, and data is just around the corner, and it’s going to get much uglier with more stakes involved on all sides. We have gotten people elected to parliaments (and stayed there) on the conflict just as it stands now. As this divide deepens, and nothing suggests it won’t, then people will start to pay more attention.

And maybe, just maybe, that will be the beginning of the end of these immoral and deeply unjust monopolies known as copyrights and patents.

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 focuses on information policy.

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