Stimulated by a series of sceptical arguments against the full abolition of copyright by Marco Fioretti, the P2P research discussion list debated the issue for a few days. What particularly struck me is the intervention of Stan Rhodes, which I’m reproducing here below.
Stan and myself also believe there is an added subjective reality, which is that many artists still believe in copyright, and that in that context, the freedom to choose is imperative, i.e. not coercively abolishing copyright, but creating alternative licensing schemes, funding options, and concrete value exchange networks, so as to practically ‘obsolete’ the existing system without coercion.
Stan Rhodes: Analysis of the Socioeconomic Argument for Restricting the free flow of information: Invalidating the Incentive Argument
The restriction of information is at best inefficient, and at worst, a form of coercive power. In all cases such restriction negatively impacts the public good. The only good reason to create a restriction, legally, would be because of some other factor affecting the public good. In this case, the concern of creator incentive. The origin of copyright and patent, Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the US Constitution, addresses this economic concern, attempting to maximize public good by balancing the benefit of creator incentive and the resulting higher output (quantity and/or quality) of works with the detriment of restricting distribution among the public.
Today we can question, and I believe invalidate, the very basis of the incentive argument, for three main reasons:
1. Distribution of information–nonrival goods–is continually approaching zero cost. Attempting to raise the cost of distribution (artificially, particularly through the fallacy of “property”) fights against this technological reality, requiring restriction of technology through stifling technological innovation and restricting individual freedom. This is the “losing battle” reason.
2. The benefit of the the works created by the incentive must be greater than the societal detriment the restrictions cause. As distribution costs become trivial, the amount of detriment caused by reducing cumulative knowledge production increases rapidly. The benefit cannot outweigh the stunting of growth. This is the “stifles progress (of science and the useful arts)” reason.
3. Technology currently provides, and will continue to provide and improve upon, methods of direct compensation, means of creation, decentralized risk-sharing. Technology enables direct exchange of value between parties. Technology increases availability of means of production (from digital media to fabrication using design information). Technology enables a near-zero middlemen cost (distribution and risk cost) between users and creators, enabling risk to be efficiently spread widely and in small amounts. This is the “service model” reason.