What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright

Danny Colligan Ferris(Translations: Беларуская)

A lot of our work at Question Copyright happens in small chunks, because the issues and myths surrounding copyright are so numerous and interconnected that it's usually best to disentangle them and try to deal with them one by one. (That's what the Minute Memes project is all about, for example.) Slowly, brick by brick, we're trying to strengthen the idea that sharing culture is a human right.

But sometimes it's nice to just come right out make the case all at once too, through straightforward, rigorous reasoning. The article below from Danny Colligan is a resource we've long needed: an "article of reference" that lays out the arguments against copyright restrictions in a thorough, well-organized and well-referenced way. Each section in this article is meant to be linked to (just hover over a section title to see its link name), the article as a whole is a great read from beginning to end, and the references section is a treasure trove. For any open-minded skeptics of copyright reform out there, this is the perfect place to start — if you've been wondering how people could possibly object to copyright, the answer is below.


What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright

by Danny Colligan


Table of contents

Scope of this article

This article is intended for a general audience. No technical nor legal background is assumed. Also, I only examine American copyright law here.


With the advent of computers and computer network technology, copyright law has become increasingly relevant in the average American's life. One of the themes in the relationship between technology and law has been that law frequently lags behind technology. Copyright law, however, goes even further — it plainly contradicts the realities of modern technology. Specifically, computers and computer networks copy information, often without the explicit consent of any person, and copyright law criminalizes such copying. This mismatch of legality and reality poses devastating consequences.

All Creative Work Is Derivative (Minute Meme #2)

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Released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license. All Creative Work Is Derivative by Nina Paley, is the second meme of our Minute Memes series. It was supported by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

View at YouTube or download high resolution and OGG formats at the Internet Archive.


The Revolution Will Be Animated

Filmmaker Marine Lormant Sebag has released The Revolution Will Be Animated, a twenty-minute documentary presenting multiple viewpoints on copyright in the digital age, focusing on Nina Paley, author of Sita Sings the Blues and now Artist-in-Residence at QuestionCopyright.org. It's very well-made, and includes some of the best selections of Nina Paley speaking to be found anywhere. Paley talks about how she ran into copyright restrictions herself, her decision to release her own film under a free license, and her experiences since taking the plunge into the audience-distribution model. The contrasting segments with well-known animator Bill Plympton (who continues to distribute his work under traditional copyright restrictions) are also worth a close look: his belief in the monopoly system is clear, and he says Paley simply made "a big mistake" in using music without first arranging permission.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but: what have we come to when an artist like Bill Plympton can say with a straight face that people should get permission to use music? One could hardly make a better case for radical copyright reform than his own words.

The Revolution Will Be Animated is itself released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. Spread the word.


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