A Brief Reminder That Intellectual Property Is A Form Of Theft.Posted: January 19, 2012 | |
Congress may take books, musical compositions and other works out of the public domain, where they can be freely used and adapted, and grant them copyright status again, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
In a 6-2 ruling, the court ruled that just because material enters the public domain, it is not “territory that works may never exit.” (PDF)
The top court was ruling on a petition by a group of orchestra conductors, educators, performers, publishers and film archivists who urged the justices to reverse an appellate court that ruled against the group, which has relied on artistic works in the public domain for their livelihoods.
With the whole uproar of PIPA and SOPA, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that there are other efforts to subvert participation in the media landscape by the bulk of the population and not just media conglomerates. Bet your bottom dollar that this new power for Congress will inevitably get abused, as public domain works can get recopyrighted and sold to private hands. This is a bad decision, and one that is a further effort to preserve an intellectually bankrupt idea a little while longer.
Since the tie between content and its physical container has been severed by the computer, the concept of intellectual property has become increasingly obsolete. It is the artificial imposition of scarcity on an item that can potentially be perfectly copied infinitely. Copyright (and patents) are like trying to charge for breathing. As Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine, said when he released the method of making his vaccine into the public domain, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” His decision not to exercise his intellectual property rights prevented profiteering and by doing so probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Understand that I’m not saying artists shouldn’t be compensated for their hard work, because that’s literally as far from where I’m coming from as one can get. What I’m saying is that we need to come up with a new method of compensating artists than the methods we have right now, because the system we have isn’t working. As a stopgap, though, we should resist attempts by groups like the MPAA and RIAA to bulwark this system through legislation like PIPA and SOPA and court decisions like this, because it will only make whatever new method to compensate artists we develop more difficult to implement.
And for maximum irony, the lead plaintiff in this case won’t be able to play Prokofiev and Shostakovitch due to licensing fees costing too much. Yes you read that last one correctly, and yes it’s that Shostakovitch, the famous Soviet composer. You couldn’t make this shit up if you tried.