Linked by M.Onty on Mon 3rd Feb 2014 19:33 UTC

A few days ago I inadvertently caused a bit of a fuss. In writing about GOG's Time Machine sale, I expressed my two minds about the joy of older games being rescued from obscurity, and my desire that they be in the public domain. This led to some really superb discussion about the subject in the comments below, and indeed to a major developer on Twitter to call for me to be fired.

I wanted to expand on my thoughts.

Fascinating article on Rock Paper Shotgun from John Walker on why he thinks software copyright (and possibly other kinds too) should come with a much shorter shelf life. Although ostensibly about videogames, much of it could be said to apply to recent events in mobile OS development too.

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Copyright is not property
by asupcb on Tue 4th Feb 2014 04:44 UTC
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Copyright is an intellectual monopoly wholly created and enforced by governments due to special interest lobbying today. The history of copyright is even more discouraging. Copyright was created as a way to attempt to censor the production of works that went against the prerogatives of the ruling class religious, political, etc after the creation of the first printing presses.

Copyright is government censorship. In the past it was primarily ideological censorship and today it is primarily economic censorship. Patterns of code, language, or design (copyrightable ideas) are not property. Patterns are not inherently scarce after their initial creation and are therefore not property in the traditional sense because all things considered property are by necessity subject to economic scarcity.

It isn't even clear that copyright produces inherently positive utilitarian economic benefits. There is an increasing amount of theory around copyright that it has many negative externalities, such as the ability to limit innovation in the spread of ideas. (Although limiting the spread of certain ideas was the original point of copyright so that isn't surprising.) Copyright (especially its extensions) increases the power of the government and the lawyers who enforce this aspect of its laws. There is evidence that it can encourage the growth of monopolies and oligopolies in the economy. It also may slow down changes in culture.

Should the US Courts decide that API's are copyrightable, then substantial economic harm may instantly occur by ensuring certain economic monopolies/market shares could never be overcome. Reverse-engineering API's is often essential for small businesses to be compatible with larger players in a given market.

There is no reason that copyright should last more than 10 years given the way the known economics of various ideas and patterns actually work in today's economy. There may even be reason to eliminate copyright altogether. The current system needs a complete overhaul in any case.

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