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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Financial incentive IS needed
by Savior on Mon 3rd Feb 2014 21:33 UTC
Member since:

People need a financial incentive to create. If you take that away, it will harm creativity.

According to the author, this argument is "astronomically false". I could not disagree more -- though perhaps not in the way the people who came up with this argument would expect. I DO think that everybody needs financial (= self-preservation) incentive to create/work. We are only human: we need food on our table. (Maslow's Pyramid, anyone?). But then the best way to encourage creativity was exactly to put these works into the public domain after a relatively short time (20 years seems about right) -- so that the those who created them would have to exert their talents to create more memorable work. How is that for an incentive? ;)

Other than that, the article was TL;DR. It was way too much ranty for my taste.

Edited 2014-02-03 21:34 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Soulbender Member since:

I DO think that everybody needs financial (= self-preservation) incentive to create/work

Work..well yes. Why else would you work your ass off for someone else?
Create? No. To many, work is what you do so you can create *without* having to worry about your creation being profitable. It might be nice if it makes you something but it's not the primary motivator.

Edited 2014-02-03 22:00 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:

You nailed it on the head. That's the exact right response. Nothing more to add.

Reply Parent Score: 3

woegjiub Member since:

People don't need a financial incentive to create - true artists will happily produce art so long as their needs are met.

If we lived in a post-scarcity, post-currency society, the creation of new ideas would be motivation in and of itself. As automation increases, and AI improves, it's only a matter of time before 99% of people are working for the sake of working - at that point, why not get rid of money and allow people to spend time creating ideas related to their passions, without feeling the need to generate useless wank (beauraucracy, red tape etc.) in order to live.

However, we live in economies and not societies, so people need money - for now, without a patronage system for artists, there's no way most of them can dedicate time to their passions, and are forced into wage-slavery instead.

Reply Parent Score: 5

WorknMan Member since:

As automation increases, and AI improves, it's only a matter of time before 99% of people are working for the sake of working - at that point, why not get rid of money and allow people to spend time creating ideas related to their passions, without feeling the need to generate useless wank (beauraucracy, red tape etc.) in order to live.

When you get rid of money, who's going to fix the machines that are doing all of the automation? And who's going to build new ones? Well, I guess you will, cuz if there's no money, I'll be sitting on my ass all day, every day, playing video games ;)

Reply Parent Score: 3

pmyteh Member since:

My wife is a novelist; most of our household income comes from copyright. Would her income be different if copyright was shortened from life+70 years to a fixed term of 20? Hell no.

The vast majority of cultural goods have a short period on sale, recoup or don't recoup their costs, then get deleted. The economics are calculated with a high discount rate and the expectation that the useful saleable life is ~3 years. The company's expected value for the last century of copyright is essentially zero, so that's what they'll offer you as an extra advance - nothing.

Sure, if the book turns out to be one of the all-time classics then my wife will be getting cheques for the rest of her days. But let's not pretend that incredibly remote jackpot possibility is in any way related to her decision to write novels, or a good way to organise our creative economy.

None of this is surprising, by the way: it's well-known in both the commercial and academic world (see, for example, Pollock, R., 2009. Forever Minus a Day? Calculating Optimal Copyright Term. Review of Economic Research on Copyright Issues, 6(1), pp.35–60.). It's just that the trivial benefits of longer copyrights accrue to the authors and (mainly) the publishers, while the larger disbenefits are evenly spread amongst the public at large.

Reply Parent Score: 10

protomank Member since:

Also, a short copyright would be an INCENTIVE for her to keep creating new and better stuff instead of living from maybe just one only hit as happens sometimes with a singer, for example.

Edited 2014-02-04 10:34 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 5

imthefrizzlefry Member since:

RSA Animate has a great video on YouTube RSA Animate - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us that talks about the nature of motivation; hint, money is a very small part once survival is covered. There are also many books that have been written about the history of copyright (Lawerence Lessig is a big name) that suggest short copyright terms are better for innovation than long copyright terms. In many instances no copyright encourages more innovation than copyright. This makes sense when you realize that everything you do is built on the shoulders of those who came before you. If you write a program, you use libraries to create it; most of the time, you are just manipulating someone else's work to fit your needs.

Copyright and patents grant people a limited monopoly to recover the cost of creation before you have to compete with others to sell your own idea; the concept that this is to ensure profit is relatively new (~90 years old.) It also allows you to be first to market.

One look at the movie industry will show you the problem with long copyright terms; we have seen the same films over and over for almost 100 years. Yes, sometimes a new idea comes up, but most of the time we just see a new remake of a work covered by copyright (Sherlock, Avengers, Superman, Xmen, etc...), which was licensed to someone with a lot of money.

This severely limits the chances of independent film makers to reach the main stream, and there is no way to quantify what new ideas will never be seen because of that. I feel that continuing this trend in the software industry will lead to: more excessive patent trolling (Samsung-Apple, Rockstar Bidco, Intellectual Ventures, etc...); large companies suing small developers for bogus patents to eliminate the competition; and the ultimate stagnation of the industry as developers lose the ability to create a new and original products.

Most great works came from the public domain. Nearly all Disney films are inspired by public domain stories; Avatar is obviously an adaptation of Pocahontas. The list goes on and on; how many love stories are based on the works of Shakespeare?

Oh yea, in the technology industry we have: magnetic storage, Fiber optic cables, RAM, processors, FAT 32 file system, most home routers, most Internet backbone equipment, most web servers, the Internet (TCP/IP protocol stack), HTML, etc. Most of these things were developed by Bell Labs and DARPA, which is why it all became public domain. Imagine if these technologies were all covered under a copyright that had to be licensed; what would we have lost?

Yet, I will never live to see a new file system inspired by the technology of NTFS, unless Microsoft develops it? I may never see a version of Halo created for Linux, or legally have an Xbox 360 emulator to play my Xbox 360 games when Microsoft stops supporting it. Heck, I will never be able to provide security fixes and patches for the Windows XP OS, even though some important software doesn't run on Windows 7/8 (because the developer does not think it's profitable enough to make it.)

Anyway, I don't know how long copyright terms should last, but right now they are way too long. I think we should start over, and go back to 7 years, with an option to renew for 7 more. That seems fair. Especially now, when technology changes so fast. That type of copyright term would mean that just about now, all Windows ME/2000 technology would become public domain. A product that is not available for purchase, but people still use it for compatibility reasons.

Do you know of any computer software from 2000 and before that is still being sold today?

Reply Parent Score: 5