Copyright is Also Weird

Something we mentioned (briefly, I think) in class last week: should the heirs continue to profit from their ancestors’ work?

Some might make the argument that, yes, why not? If the work is still making money, and protected by copyright, it needs to go to someone, right? Why not the heirs? If they hold the copyright, then they have the legal right to the profits.

However, there is an argument to be made against this. After all, they didn’t create this. They might be related to the people who made it, but they themselves have no right to it. And if you didn’t create it, well, then why should you get paid for it?

Funny thing: that’s how it works. Whoever holds the copyright gets the money. It’s similar to patents: let’s look at Thomas Edison. The bastard didn’t invent half the stuff he’s credited for (like the lightbulb) but he held the patent for it; therefore, he got the money–and most of the credit.

Copyright laws are basically attempting to do this to intangible things. But how do you control an idea? Or a story? Or a song? It’s difficult to, especially with the internet allowing inexpensive and simple global distribution. What do we do to protect our intellectual ideas? I can’t lock my idea in a box to keep people from stealing it (well, you sort of can, but it’s not the same). And so we try to place invisible bonds on invisible things. Which is why we’re in this copyright-internet-downloading mess we’re in now. And how do you judge how many people have “stolen” your idea? Can you really prove that you are the parent of the idea? That it originated from your brain rather than someone else’s?

The problem could boil down to a much larger problem: that society put more value on the money the idea can give you, rather than the good it could do for society. Or perhaps that, if people want to make a living off of their excellent idea, they need to guard it against “pirates” who would take it and distribute it for free. On one hand, we have the desire to make money and survive in society; on the other, the value of creating for the good of all. It’s almost philosophical.

Basically, our society is effed in the a. And that affects our ideas and our life and it all sucks. Woo.


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