|The Confusion of Copyright
"Don't worry about people stealing an
idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats."
~ Howard Aiken
I just realized while writing something else this morning that
copyright creates confusion. What I mean simply is this.
If it wasn't for copyright law, when someone saw something someone
else didn't...instead of having to reinvent the wheel or rename the
same thing, they could take it and build on it.
However, if an idea is the same as someone
else's--with copyright--you just change the wording or modify the
language and whammo, you have your own copyrighted...whatever.
Anyone who wants to create something new, just makes it different
I've heard some people when referring to
copyright say, when you steal from one, it is against the law, when
you steal from many it is called research.
What if we could just expand, change a little
or modify someone else's "stuff" enough to make it better and use the
same idea so we didn't have to create so many renditions of the same
thing. Instead of expanding something vertically, we could
expand it horizontally. I realize that we would have to deal
with the issue of copyright.
However, wouldn't our society grow faster
without so much confusion around the same thing. We can't have
agreement on much because we continually fight over who owns it
through copyright. Someone would say..."well, what's to keep
people from duplicating it and selling it cheaply?" Not that
people don't do that now. Actually, nothing. Yet, would it
not be better for humankind?
How could we reconcile the huge development
costs and research that takes place? Isn't this something that
should be dealt with by government? Because the huge costs to
humanity through confusion and inefficiency are greater costs in the
long run? We have dozens of varieties of this and dozens of
varieties of that while the confusion stifles the expansion of
I'm a business person and I understand the
arguments for copyright and use them. Yet, should I and others
not rise beyond this short term issue and look towards the long term?
You say..."well, it is the long term issue
here. If we didn't have copyright protection we wouldn't have
the incentive to do research and development, people wouldn't be
entrepreneurial?" Actually, that is probably not true if you
understand desire. Some people would invent and develop because
that is what they do. In fact, if we considered all the people
who would rather invent and develop who aren't now because of the
ramification of the business of research and development, we might
actually free up more entrepreneurship and innovation, if we removed
the copyright laws.
I realize we would have to overcome the issue
of investment in long term R&D, but there ought to be a way that this
was rewarded in some way perhaps by a collective investment through
some form of tax (I know bad word) or contribution. We make
those same contributions now...yet here is the deal.
Companies must charge enough on the front-end
of the release of their "innovations" to recoup the R&D in a
reasonable payback period, or lose the ability to attract investors.
Ok, that is how capitalism functions. What about beyond
capitalism? What if people who could not afford the innovation
until it had gone through it price curve to recoup innovation expense
could purchase it because we amortized the R&D expense over more
For each unit a R&D contribution was made in
some way by the purchaser and matched by the collective (possibly
government), but we may have to get rid of that too and replace it
with something more efficient. Therefore the more sold (because
of demand), the better it was for society and the better it was for
Again, I realize in thinking through it, we
would have less "specialized" products that only the rich could afford
because the demand for this product was small in society. Then
again, would that be better for the collective anyway?
I don't know, there are so many complications
and ramifications that even as I write this, it seems like too much
trouble. Yet, the confusion created by everyone protecting their
intellecutal property has to be slowing down the cycle time of
societal growth and development. I guess it comes back to the
old us versus them argument. I wonder if there will ever be a
way to release ourselves from this purely human tension....