Why The Copyright Industry Is Doomed, In One Single Sentence


In my last column about public libraries and the many parallels with online sharing of knowledge and culture, an unexpected gem surfaced in the comments. The most fundamental reason the copyright monopoly is harmful keeps being forgotten in details and irrelevancies about business models, so we must keep reminding ourselves of it, and keep reminding others of it.

Any digital, private communications channel can be used for private protected correspondence, or to transfer works that are under copyright monopoly.

In order to prevent copyright monopoly violations from happening in such channels, the only means possible is to wiretap all private digital communications to discover when copyrighted works are being communicated. As a side effect, you would eliminate private communications as a concept. There is no way to sort communications into legal and illegal without breaching the postal secret – the activity of sorting requires observation.

Therefore, as a society, we are at a crossroads where we can make a choice between privacy and the ability to communicate in private, with all the other things that depend on that ability (like whistleblower protections and freedom of the press), or a distribution monopoly for a particular entertainment industry. These two have become mutually exclusive and cannot coexist, which is also why you see the copyright industry lobbying so hard for more surveillance, wiretapping, tracking, and data retention (they understand this perfectly).

Also, the means of discussing knowledge and culture has changed quite a bit with new enabling technology. Before the internet, you’d discuss a song or movie by listening or seeing it on your own and then discussing it together; today, the culture and knowledge itself is part of the discussion – we share a file with something and then discuss it, all in the same conversation. Therefore, the initial statement that a private communications channel can be used for either private, privileged correspondence or violations of the copyright monopoly isn’t really true; the way we talk and work today, it’s used for both at the same time.

When I was a young kid, the Internet did not exist. My father and mother would tell me stories at bedtime; stories that I would normally have told to my kids in turn. For some reason, this is now illegal. (Not that the law is being respected – but still.) This is a very similar example of how private communications is also used for cultural exchange, although before the net and “modern” law on the area.

In one of my first presentations on this subject in 2006, at the net-entrepreneur SIME conference in Stockholm, Sweden, I gave a piece of advice to wannabe entrepreneurs that relates to this observation.

I said; “The companies that will be struggling in ten years will be those with business models that depend on preventing people from sharing with each other. The companies that survive will be those who are indifferent to sharing. But those who thrive and dominate, they will be the ones that wholly depend on people sharing with each other.”

Eight years later, this seems rather obvious, but it wasn’t in 2006. At the time, it was rather provocative that somebody would have a business model that depended on sharing.

So what’s that magic sentence, then, after all this background? It’s this (somewhat paraphrased):

“The very concept of a business around the copyright monopoly revolves around the ability to prevent people from telling each other interesting things.” — Scary Devil Monastery (as part of a larger comment to this article)

And that, in a nutshell, is why the copyright industry is dead as a doornail. It’s just zombieing around for a bit first.

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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