Why Those Who Claim Copyright Enforcement Stifles Innovation Are Wrong.

Innovation has been hit by inflation in the past decade. The word has, that is – not the art.

innovation1

Innovation” is the new, new “thinking outside the box“.  It’s almost as overused as “amazing”.  Both words are on the verge of losing their meaning completely, though in the case of “innovation,” the culprits are largely from the tech and media community.

If simply creating an app is, in itself, trumpeted as innovation, the past four years could be described as more innovative than the Renaissance and the past two centuries combined.  Consider that iTunes features 399 apps just for search term “internet radio”.

steamengine

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines innovation as: “the introduction of something new, a new idea, method, or device.” But it continues: “In technology, [the definition is] an improvement to something already existing. Distinguishing an element of novelty in an invention remains a concern of patent law.”  The dictionary goes on to use submarines, airplanes, the telescope, the steam engine and semiconductor technology as examples of innovation through the centuries.

If having a new idea and expressing it in tangible form is an innovation then, surely, musicians and writers are some of the most prolifically innovative people in the world.  So how come innovation is one of the most overused words bandied about as one of the two reasons for not enforcing their rights (the other being “censorship”)?

innovation3

Yes, any attempt to effectively enforce copyright – or, as the Swedes call it, “the originator’s right” – online is portrayed as anti-innovation and pro-censorship.  It’s an odd argument, as copyright underpins and supports both innovation and freedom of speech.

Yet it’s been repeated so many times that, by many, it’s accepted as truth.  Take this Washington Post blog by Gregory Ferenstein that discusses the “outrage” against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), for example, asking why there’s no such outrage against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

While it’s a valid question (though the answer is quite simple: because CISPA wouldn’t hurt the interests of Google and the other corporations that largely orchestrated and manipulated the response to SOPA), why is it posted in the newspaper’s ‘Innovations’ section? And why does it pose the follow-up question: “Does this younger, tech-savvy generation care more about innovation than civil liberties?

Ferenstein says the anger directed at SOPA was due to “an almost parental protection of information and innovation (there’s that word again). If that’s true, then they’ve just created a new definition of the word. Something like: “innovate: (verb): (1) to provide political cover for achieving non-trespassory taking of the property of third persons; (2) to accumulate wealth by providing unlicensed access to creative works, see e.g. Google.”

But let’s stick with the Merriam Webster definition for the time being.

If, as anti-copyright campaigners claim, copyright stifles innovation, then how come the interfaces of pirate websites are so unimaginative and, let’s face it, crap?

How come a music service such as Spotify, which respects copyright, is constantly developing to improve the user experience, while those that infringe it remain largely stagnant?

The business dictionary, more specifically, defines innovation as “the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay”.

A good or service that makes it possible for quality newspapers, musicians and movie-makers to survive amongst all this so-called “innovation” – now that’s an innovation that could truly rival the steam engine.

 

Image is of the first passenger carriage in Europe, 1830, Liverpool and Manchester Railway (public domain).

57 Responses

  1. EDS
    EDS

    It’s worth examining why there are so many pirate sites. It’s not out of altruism, but rather greed. These pirates create these sites to make money, not “share.”

    There’s no reason Google et al should be facilitating (and profitting from) piracy. Hold legit companies accountable and you will see results.

    Certainly piracy will never disappear, but the more inconvenient for users and unprofitable for site owners, the more opportunity for legit sources to flourish.

    Quality content is not free to make, nor should it be free for others to steal and profit from.

    Reply
  2. Tod
    Tod

    Helienne,
    You follow a defective theory of property which has you and many others bringing about and repeating weak arguments…
    The theory of property and property rights came about to resolve interpersonal conflict concerning the use of scarce resources.
    These theories did not come about to command innovation, but that’s not to say these things are absolutely unrelated. When scarce resources are held up in conflict, they cannot be used efficiently or productively. From here, one can make the argument that Copyright, in that it creates conflict concerning scarce resources, can hamper innovation.

    Reply
    • Tod
      Tod

      A few thoughts on enforcement…
      A great deal of Copyright enforcement is funded by taxation. Taxation is an involuntary exchange of scarce resources or titles to scarce resources. And as humans use scarce resources as a means to their own ends, this exchange prevents individuals from peacefully using and innovating about these resources. Again, here, we have conflict concerning scarce resources, and from here, one can make the argument that Copyright can hamper innovation.
      What if would-be artists and innovators did not come about because the instruments, the teachers, the time, etc. are all taxed away from them or their families in order to fund the privileges of others?
      How can anyone, with certainty, say that Copyright enforcement, taxation, invasive exchange, does not negatively affect innovation?
      Again… Property rights did not come about to incent production or promote innovation. Property rights came about to resolve conflict and facilitate the peaceful allocation of scarce resources.

      Reply
      • Tod
        Tod

        Helienne,
        (this is one of my comments from below… thought it’d be fitting to place it here as well)
        Today’s debate should focus on a correct theory of property and property rights.
        Humans act to relieve current or immediate discomforts. Humans use and allocate scarce resources to obtain these ends. The fundamentals of human behavior and economics have not changed.
        Scarcity is a necessary fact. Interpersonal conflict (conflict between humans) over the ownership and use of resources can arise because of this scarcity.
        Over time, as an extension of self preservation, humans came to avoid these conflicts and acts of aggression concerning scarce resources. Humans found it in their best interests to follow rules and standards concerning scarce resources to resolve these conflicts. This is the origin of property and property rights. A correct theory of property and property rights cannot be divorced from scarcity nor can it extend to non-scarce, intangible things such as ideas.
        The theory of property did not come about to promote innovation or economic advancement. And the aim of innovation and economic advancement do not justify acts of aggression and the creation of conflict.
        And because ideas cannot be property, the peaceful rearranging of a scarce resource, following a certain idea or pattern, cannot bring about a shift in property rights of that scarce resource or other resources legitimately owned by an individual or party.
        The rearranging of a piece of plastic into a burned disc and the rearranging of a piece of plastic into a spoon are both peaceful acts. Interpersonal human behavior, morals, principles, etc. concerning scarce resources have not changed with the coming of certain “revolutions” or other cultural changes.
        The use of aggression to disrupt peaceful acts (use and exchange) concerning legitimately owned property (correctly defined) is the “wrong” we should be discussing…

        Reply
        • akadummik
          akadummik

          YO, GET OUTTA SKOOL AND GET REEL TO REEL.
          The theory of property did not come about to promote innovation or economic advancement.
          A PROPERTY EASEMENT IS LIKE A MINI SKIRT … IT CAN BE VERY BINDING ON THE ASS AND KNEES.
          And the aim of innovation and economic advancement do not justify acts of aggression and the creation of conflict.
          … NUKE BOMB AIN’T INNOVASHUN? OIL WAR AIN’T FOR ECONOMIK ADVANCEMENT?
          The rearranging of a piece of plastic into a burned disc and the rearranging of a piece of plastic into a spoon are both peaceful acts. Interpersonal human behavior, morals, principles, etc. concerning scarce resources have not changed with the coming of certain “revolutions” or other cultural changes.
          The use of aggression to disrupt peaceful acts (use and exchange) concerning legitimately owned property (correctly defined) is the “wrong” we should be discussing…
          WHILE YOU PEACEFULLY RIP OFF A CD, I HOPE THE COPYRIGHT POLICE WILL PEACEFULLY RIP YOU A NEW ONE WITH YOUR PLASTIC SPOON.

          Reply
          • Tod
            Tod

            I expect no royalties from the sampling of my ideas. (That was some kind of educational rap, right?)

        • Visitor
          Visitor

          Really good ideas, the kind that require a lot of work, imagination, talent and time are scarce.
          People without really good ideas and who aren’t willing or able to do what it takes to come up with them, naturally want to steal the intellectual property of those who do.
          Those who can’t, steal.

          Reply
          • Tod
            Tod

            Ideas, good or bad, can be replicated and can be replicated without interpersonal exchange. Because of this, ideas, good or bad, are not scarce. To say ideas are scarce is figurative language.
            Stealing or theft necessarily involves aggression, interpersonal exchange of a scarce, legitimately owned resource, and a victim who has been aggressed. None of these things take place when an idea is replicated. Replication is not stealing. To say replication is stealing is figurative language.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “Stealing or theft necessarily involves aggression, interpersonal exchange of a scarce, legitimately owned resource, and a victim who has been aggressed. None of these things take place when an idea is replicated.”
            Wrong. The property owner isn’t home when his house is robbed. There is no requirement of interpersonal exchange for theft.
            Agression: 2. any offensive activity, practice, etc.
            Copyright violation fits the definition. If an artist creates a work, that is a scarce, legitimately owned resource. The illegal de facto publication of someone else’s work makes the legitimate owner of that work a victim of agression. Just because the theft of intellectual property can be done with craven anonymity and without sticking a gun in someone’s face doesn’t mean a crime hasn’t been committed. If you get caught downloading other people’s credit card information you can go to prison for that. Your definition of theft is merely Orwellian doublespeak.

  3. Tod
    Tod

    A few words about the steam engine…
    During the period that the steam engine was under James Watt’s patent, few engines were produced and the efficiency of these engines stagnated (in part because other patents prevented Watt from bettering his own product). It was only after Watt’s patent expired did innovation surrounding the steam engine explode, and along with it, production and efficiency (innovations included the steam locamotive/passenger carriage). It was only after Watt’s patent expired did the steam engine come to “fuel” the Industrial Revolution.
    Economic freedom brought about progress and prosperity not monopoly privilege.

    Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      Without Intellectual Property (copyright, patent, trademark, etc.) law & enforcement, we would still depend on steam.
      Nobody would be motivated to work for years and years without pay to create all the necessary, entertaining and funny things you use every day.
      There would be no professional artists, authors, inventors or software developers. (Fortunately, there wouldn’t be any need for the latter either since there would be no computers.)

      Reply
      • Tod
        Tod

        “Nobody would be motivated to work…”
        “There would be no…”
        History, as I’ve pointed out, does not provide the evidence to suggest these alternatives. The entirety of your response is an example of the false dilemma fallacy.
        But let me entertain your response.
        “Without Intellectual Property (copyright, patent, trademark, etc.) law & enforcement, we would still depend on steam.”
        As your comment on the dependence of steam suggests, you believe that humanity would have still come to and innovated about steam without intellectual property law and enforcement. You believe that James Watts would have still had ideas concerning steam, acted on those ideas, innovated, and shared those ideas with the masses without intellectual property law and enforcement. And you believe that others would have innovated about and advanced ideas concerning steam without intellectual property law and enforcement.
        You believe, as your comment on the dependence of steam suggests, there would still be motivated workers and there would still be inventors and those with enough incentive to innovate.

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          Go back to your history books my friend, you have a lot to learn.
          Here’s where I would start:
          Compare scientific and musical development and achievements in cultures that enforce Intellectual Property laws to the achievements in those who don’t.
          Constantly growing chunks of global economy are based on Intellectual Property products, and IP legislation has proved its value over and over throughout history. That’s why most countries have signed IP protection treaties by now…

          Reply
          • Tod
            Tod

            Another post, another fallacy.
            History books go no further than to record that unjustifiable acts of aggression resulting in the redistribution of scarce resources occurred in the past. They cannot tell you if these acts brought about a net benefit to society.
            The belief that these acts of aggression brought about a net benefit is an economic fallacy, namely, the broken window fallacy.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            USA has historically been behind the rest of the world in enforcing copyright. We were one of the last holdouts in permitting copyright on works that weren’t explictly registered by the copyright office, and for most of our history we didn’t respect the copyright of foreigners. And we have some of the strongest fair use provisions of any country.

          • Tod
            Tod

            You do realize you’re defending aggression and the redistribution of scarce resources for the economic gain of particular parties. This used to be called, piracy.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            I’m saying that USA being a superpower because of strong IP is a fallacy. Ultimately it is no matter though.
            People underestimate what technology can do to societial norms. The industral age and the information age are cultural revolutions as much they are technological revolutions.
            My personal belief is times have changed and the society and economics that existed when copyright system thrived no longer exist in the information age. So copyright and the theory behind it has become this broken ideology we debate about today. This would have never happened before the information age.
            And get this, because it is key: the controversy has nothing to with any tenets of copyright itself. But the normal behaviors of people have changed as technology enabled these behaviors.
            It’s very much true that people like Helienne are the modern day equivelent of Luddites. Luddites were not anti-technology at all. Luddites were people who hated what the industral age did to their way of life and ability to make a living doing what they always did. The machines that modern day Luddites keep trying to destroy are different, but the ideology behind it is mostly the same.

          • Monkey
            Monkey

            Actually, the US is a superpower based entirely on strong IP, one examples in particular.
            (Hint: the fruits of this IP remain in silos all across the country and used to be aimed at the other country that stole that IP)

          • Tod
            Tod

            Your response does not alleviate the fact that your overall argument is a defense of old-school piracy. But let’s move on… (I’m not even sure if I’m still speaking to the same Visitor… but here’s a message to the collective…)
            Today’s debate should focus on a correct theory of property and property rights.
            Humans act to relieve current or immediate discomforts. Humans use and allocate scarce resources to obtain these ends. The fundamentals of human behavior and economics have not changed.
            Scarcity is a necessary fact. Interpersonal conflict (conflict between humans) over the ownership and use of resources can arise because of this scarcity.
            Over time, as an extension of self preservation, humans came to avoid these conflicts and acts of aggression concerning scarce resources. Humans found it in their best interests to follow rules and standards concerning scarce resources to resolve these conflicts. This is the origin of property and property rights. A correct theory of property and property rights cannot be divorced from scarcity nor can it extend to non-scarce, intangible things such as ideas.
            The theory of property did not come about to promote innovation or economic advancement. And the aim of innovation and economic advancement does not justify acts of aggression and the creation of conflict.
            And because ideas cannot be property, the peaceful rearranging of a scarce resource, following a certain idea or pattern, cannot bring about a shift in property rights of that scarce resource or other resources legitimately owned by an individual or party.
            The rearranging of a piece of plastic into a burned disc and the rearranging of a piece of plastic into a spoon are both peaceful acts. Interpersonal human behavior, morals, principles, etc. concerning scarce resources have not changed with the coming of certain “revolutions” or other cultural changes.
            The use of aggression to disrupt peaceful acts (use and exchange) concerning legitimately owned property (correctly defined) is the “wrong” we should be discussing…

        • steveh
          steveh

          Sir, you talk complete crap.
          The reason you talk complete crap is that you dense horseshit paragraphs contain not one droplet of relevance to MUSIC.
          You are so fucking off topic it must the Olympic record for off topic-ness.
          So why don’t you fuck off and take you warped psychotic ideology somewhere else.
          This discussion is about music, you tone-deaf fuckwit.

          Reply
  4. AnAmusedGeek
    AnAmusedGeek

    Seriously? UI design on pirate sites is the best example you can come up with? I can give 2 reasons ‘geek stuff’ typically has terrible UI’s. – geeks generally don’t care if it has a fancy interface, and many geeks have no artistic talent. You also fail to give any supporting information as to the claim people are ‘wrong’. The fact you think spotify’s UI isgood is hardly proof.
    I do agree we live in a ‘me too’ period as far as tech goes. ‘innovation’ lost out to ‘cloning’ years ago. Now we have 3 of everything, with little to differentiate them. For instance, how many streaming services are there?

    However, copyright has less to do with ‘innovation’ then patents. This is generally what geeks are referring to when speaking of. ‘IP law reform’. The patent office has given out so many ridicules patents that there is always someone waiting to sue you. ‘patent trolls’ build large portfolios of patents just to threaten people with. Whether your infringing or not,the cost of the lawsuit can easily bankrupt small companies.Imagine if someone had a patent on the notes of the musical scale, and you could be sued by different firms and have to prove you dont use the notes they have patents on….

    Reply
  5. Casey
    Casey

    Interfaces do not reflect innovation. While not ideal for music services, the most powerful interface remains a CLI. In what way has copyright helped innovate that? It hasn’t.

    The steam engine is a very powerful engine btw, and steam engines can still to this day out pull many modern tractors in tractor pulls.

    Reply
  6. Roger Bixley
    Roger Bixley

    If, as anti-copyright campaigners claim, copyright stifles innovation, then how come the interfaces of pirate websites are so unimaginative and, let’s face it, crap?
    This is like saying “If drugs are supposed to make you feel so good, they why do so many drug dealers look so ugly?”

    Reply
    • billeeto
      billeeto

      Yeah maybe its a bit of a non-sequitor, if that’s your point, but its a funny comment… revealing that the copyright pirate isn’t a creative robin hood, but just a hood … they’re sloppy crooks like your online gambling scammers.

      Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “how come the interfaces of pirate websites are so unimaginative and, let’s face it, crap?”
      If pirates could create content, they would. Nothing is more satisfying.
      But they can’t, so they don’t.

      Reply
  7. Nasa
    Nasa

    Amen to this piece. You want to talk fireballs in the sky? How about the corporate domination of sillicon valley companies ovee the arts? How about the devaluation of creatives accross all media? How about a generation of kids thatd rather code for a conglomerate then become a rock star?
    The idea that fighting piracy is uninforcable or worse, not worth the effort, is a myth created by self serving theives. The goal isnt to crush all of it anymore then the goal isnt to end all murders with gun control. The goal is to be sensible, ethical and fair hopefully curbing destructive actions.
    Wake up and take some truth this morning folks. Look in the mirror for once.

    Reply
  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer

    I’m an artist, and I support myself off of my work. But I’m not blind to reality either. When I see fellow artists pirating without the slightest twinge of shame, that’s a sign, you know?
    By the way, pirate sites are evolving constantly. (Not that they need to, because they already have a HUGE competitive edge in that they offer instant, free, fast downloads worldwide. Why innovate when you’re already the best?) But, over the years they have developed better anonymity, become more decentralized, sped up downloads, expanded (Physibles), developed new evasion tactics, and brought in more secure finances (Bitcoins). Yes, yes, piracy is bad, I agree. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand and deny reality.
    And one other thing–technological change is happening faster now than it ever has before in human history. In the process it’s become REAL obvious who the heel-draggers are. Did you happen to notice that researchers studying the brain can now reconstruct blurry images of things that people have seen? Fun questions: Do we own copyright on our memories or imaginations? If a person views artwork without paying for it and stores a copy in their brain cells, is that infringement? What if they digitalize their infringing thoughts and upload them to the internet? We’ll be asking these questions in the next twenty years. I support a voluntary, industry led euthanansia program for thought infringement.
    You don’t realize it yet, but this is a pointless discussion. It’s like watching a triceratops fighting a t-rex, but there’s this huge fireball coming down from the sky…

    Reply
    • billeeto
      billeeto

      < >
      not sure the drafters of the copyright laws forsaw something as far out as that, but coincidentally the law takes it into account. The idea-expression dichotomy recognizes that if there’s not much, or any, work involved in having an idea dawn on you, then you get no protection for that idea. Only for the fruits of your sweat labor. Ideas are in the air. No one owns them. Expressions are, and should be, property. Just like that table over there. Not the one in your mind, the one over there in the corner.

      Reply
    • silly
      silly

      just after the industrial revolution, there were probably industrialist saying “it’s a new world, deal with the pollution” and yet laws were brought in about dumping into rivers, and not scrubbing your smoke, etc.
      and the earlier monopolies (oil, railroads, etc)… “it’s a new world, deal with it”… well, people did, and laws were brought in to make competition fair.
      look at all the changes that have come due to legislation: desegregation, voting rights etc. so laws actually can effect positive change.
      all the unthoughtful, robot repeating talk of “change”, while ignoring the fact that things HAVE changed enormously in the last 10 years — you can d’load any song instantly for a dollar, in seconds. you can rent any movie quickly online, or through cable, in minutes. couldn’t do that in the late nineties.
      legislation and education can protect artists, stop illegal d’loading (say, forcing ISPs giving access to infringers, or forcing them to pay royalties, or whatever.)
      and as for switching it to some hypothectical “do you own your own thoughts” … let’s leave that to phillip k dick. we don’t need to think about someone uploading their blinking version of a movie, or a waxy-ear-heard version of a song being copyright infringement quite yet.

      Reply
    • JC
      JC

      Best comment ever on DMN. Jennifer gets my vote for president of the music industry. Who are you in real life?

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        Yes, yesterday’s pirates need to wake up and adjust to the new reality.
        The Piracy Decade is over. Here’s the new rule:
        Pay or go away!

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          You are right. The piracy decade is over. This very website was commiting piracy for years by stealing the images of photographers without their permission, and nobody even so much said a word. So the piracy decade is over. What we called piracy is now normal and socically acceptable behavior.

          Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “piracy is bad, I agree. But let’s not bury our heads in the sand and deny reality.”
      Agree, it was a huge mistake to ignore piracy during the 90’s and 00’s.
      Fortunately, that’s changing now — big time!

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        …also, it is very important to remember that the new anti-piracy measures work!
        Criminals now prefer to steal safe content, e.g. songs and movies that are not aggressively policed by the owners.
        Today, TorrentFreak.com tells you which material you can steal without risk — and which you shouldn’t touch:
        “the burning question is which content is being monitored? Which TV shows, which movies, which music albums? In the absence of any central source of information that question can only be answered accurately by rightsholders, but let’s try to solve this puzzle with what we do know.
        For a moment let’s presume that the removal of links to illicit online content shares the same motivation as the monitoring of end users for the purposes of warning them. Google receives millions of takedowns every month and lists these in its Transparency Report, so a trawl through that database will show which content rightsholders want to protect. That’s not exactly a two minute job though, but there is an easier way.
        To find out if a rightsholder is actively enforcing its rights by sending takedowns, simply search Google for any content followed by the word ‘torrent’. (Tip: “Game of Thrones” + torrent illustrates this perfectly)
        Once the results appear, scroll down to the bottom of the page and see if listings have been removed and replaced with a line saying that the takedown notice can be found on Chilling Effects. The notices can be checked for a date to see if the monitoring is current or historical, i.e whether rightsholders used to be interested or still are. It’s not a guaranteed or fully comprehensive method of discovering what’s being monitored, but it should give a general idea.”
        Source:
        https://torrentfreak.com/dont-download-that-bro-youre-going-to-get-busted-130316/
        So take your time to police your work if you want to avoid theft.
        Send as many legitimate DMCA notices as you can — it makes a huge difference!

        Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “Do we own copyright on our memories and imaginations?”
      I write songs using just my memories and my imagination. I only copyright what I deem worthy. Most of what we remember and imagine isn’t original enough to warrant it.
      “If a person views artwork without paying for it and stores a copy in their brain cells, is that infringement?”
      No, obviously. We would have to at least be able to read other people’s minds for that to even become an issue.
      “What if they digitalize their infringing thoughts and upload them to the internet?”
      That’s called plagiarism. And theft of other people’s ideas is the least innovative idea imaginable.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “I write songs using just my memories and my imagination.”

        Did you audit your memories and imagination to ensure it wasn’t copyright infringing the memories and imagination of others?

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          After decades of listening to music I have an internal data base of many thousands of known songs. There is always a chance as a songwriter that one might inadvertently plagiarize someone else’s work — that’s a chance you take. If someone accidentally plagiarizes one of mine I can prove I wrote it first through copyright. Or vice versa.
          If someone writes a song it is incumbent upon them to copyright it. Because we can’t read other people’s minds and anyone can say they thought of something first. Talk is cheap, that’s why we need proof.

          Reply
    • Kevin Scally
      Kevin Scally

      How big an incentive really is it, for any artist, to think that, in the unlikely event of your being mega successful, you will be supporting some media corporation for 70 years after you die?
      Cut the copyright term to 20 years post mortem (enough to cover your children) and see who squeals loudest. It won’t be the artists.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “Cut the copyright term to 20 years post mortem (enough to cover your children)”
        I’m all for the protection of Intellectual Property, but this is an interesting suggestion.
        It really doesn’t make much sense that you have to ask Chuck Berry’s grand children for permission until at least 2083 if you want to use a phrase from Beach Boys’ Surfing USA.
        In fact, I’m not sure it makes sense to have a post mortem period at all.
        But that can — and should — be debated.

        Reply

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