“If copyright law, at its core, regulates something called ‘copies,’ then in the analog world… many uses of culture were copyright-free,” he explained. “They didn’t trigger copyright law, because no copy was made. But in the digital world, very few uses are copyright-free because in the digital world … all uses produce a copy.”
The paradigm for copyright law enforcement emerged out of this “analog world” as a way of ensuring authors were remunerated for their contributions to culture, thereby creating an incentive to make further contributions and drive the progress on human art and discovery forward, he said.
Times have since changed, said Lessig, but the letter of the law hasn’t.
Copyright law was originally intended to protect those who create for profit (Lessig used the example of recording artist Britney Spears). But academics also create original works, he said, and they are — or should be — motivated by a desire to advance human knowledge, not line their pockets. Therefore, sealing their work behind copyright barriers does no social good.
I was thinking about the Luddites, wondering if they wouldn’t be stringent copyright protectionists these days. E.P. Thompson seems to suggest this, in his reading of their history. From Wikipedia:
In his work on English history, The Making of the English Working Class, E. P. Thompson presented an alternative view of Luddite history. He argues that Luddites were not opposed to new technology in itself, but rather to the abolition of set prices and therefore also to the introduction of the free market.
Thompson argues that it was the newly-introduced economic system that the Luddites were protesting. Thompson cites the many historical accounts of Luddite raids on workshops where some frames were smashed whilst others (whose owners were obeying the old economic practice and not trying to cut prices) were left untouched. This would clearly distinguish the Luddites from someone who was today called a luddite; whereas today a luddite would reject new technology because it is new, the Luddites were acting from a sense of self-preservation rather than merely fear of change.
A belated (but new to me) thought on open access from Matrullo has relevance as well. I wish I could forget about the whole kerfuffle, but I can’t.