About QuestionCopyright.org

Our mission is to provide advocacy and practical education to help cultural producers embrace open distribution.

QuestionCopyright.org is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding the range of acceptable public debate about copyright, and to reframing the way people — especially artists and those who work with them — think about copyright.

Our organization was founded in 2007 by free software developer, writer and copyright reform activist Karl F. Fogel, as the outgrowth of his activism around issues of copyright restriction and cultural freedom. Since that time, the organization has grown into a collective and mostly volunteer effort of artists, open source developers, and non-profit professionals passionate about opening up opportunities for collaborative cultural production.

Our projects
highlight the restrictive effects of distribution monopolies, and help creators and their allies realize the potential of freedom-based distribution.  We’re trying to change the terms of the debate, so that copyright reform efforts aren’t stuck always reacting to industry rhetoric that equates copying with theft, plagiarism, and the abuse or destruction of the original work.

Our viral Minute Memes videos educate artists, distributors, and the general public about the benefits of copying throughout history and have been viewed around the world millions of times; our Sita Distribution Project in support of Nina Paley’s highly-acclaimed and freely-distributed film Sita Sings The Blues is showing artists how being on the same side as the audience can have better economic results than monopoly-based distribution; our Creator-Endorsed Mark is a new trademark being used by distributors to enable consumers to support artists without restricting the spread of that artists’ works.; our self-supporting online store offers products based on (and advocating) non-restrictive business models, and we regularly write and speak about the effects of copyright restrictions on expression and the free flow of information..

If you’re new to this site, please view our Learn section to find out more about how and why we do what we do.

For more basic information about the organization, please see:

7 Comments on "About QuestionCopyright.org"

  1. Printing presses are involved with the manufacture, not distribution, of a book. Claiming that copyright was used by printing press owners to subsidize distribution is, to my thinking, a non-sequitor.

    The internet has a zero-cost manufacure step and a zero-cost distribution step. It’s easy to collapse the two. In the time of the printing press, neither were zero-cost. And they were separate operations.

    Was the copyright, then, created to protect the manufacturing step, the distribution step, or an integrated collection of steps monopolized by a publisher? Or something else?

  2. Please read my responses to Bob O.’s essay on The Professional Suicide of a Recording Musician.

    As a Composer/recording artist/ producer/ musician, I disagree with many of the assumptions in this “Welcome..” Statement.

    “Copyright royalties do not play a significant role in the lives of most artists. ” This is WRONG.

    In my responses, I have given many examples of how the Copyright benefits the Creator of the Music/Song. This is not “Rich and Famous” elitism. I have also pointed out how the Internet can offer equal Distribution/exposure to all levels of Artists, allowing the best to rise to the top and sustain their careers with a diverse stream of income based on the Copyright of his/her songs. It all trickles down to the budding Artist developing his Art in hopes of making a living. That was me.

    What started as a statement of “Professional Suicide” by one person has brought me to see a group movement “questioning” and attacking the legal, economic basis for free choice in marketing an Artist’s music. The Copyright, is the Right of an Artist/Creator to choose who can copy or purchase his Art, until it goes into the public domain. It is not: “my right to profit against your right to listen”. Any artist welcomes widespread exposure, but to open the floodgates and eliminate his rights to control and profit from his Product is unfair in any sense.

    So many “myths” mentioned on this website tilt toward copyright as putting limitations on “access”, “innovation”. Let’s innovate by retaining the right for creators to be compensated in the face of run–away copying technology. Or, by inventing a new business model that can keep the recorded music business alive, AND make live performances more affordable and accessible……..generally, supporting Artists.

    I’m sensing a subtle form of “Artistic Extinction”. (not so subtle when you look at the DJ vs. Musician example). Like global warming, we can now see it coming, but we have to get our heads out of the sand and clear the air to make the right choices based on facts, not sensationalism or personal selfishness, educate the young music-consumers, RESPECT our ARTISTS by including them (me) in the dialog and make sure our laws have the teeth to protect the Art community as technology evolves.

    “Sharing music”, “open source”, are all versions of distribution. I need to CONTROL my own distribution, thank you, so I can decide what to share and what to charge money for.

    Copyright law provides for all of that and protects me.

    Gregg Karukas

  3. Your idea that musicians just want credit for their creation is laughable, if not tragically flawed. Ultimately, an artist wants to make a living working on his art. They aren’t looking for creditright (unless they are some crappy garage band), but actual copyrights (the right to control the copies of their work — namely to charge for such copies).

    Your notion that copyrights were used to subsidize production and since it costs zero money to copy a file, it should not be copyrighted is sad and misinformed. Whether manufacturing is easy or hard, costly or cheap, the “copyright” was to ensure that the creator was able to make money off of his creation. Do you *really* think there will be as many musicians and bands devoting their lives to music if they cannot sell their music because it is free to copy?

  4. But they’re not making a living from copyright royalties now. That’s the most important point: for the most part, musicians don’t earn money from copyright.

    You assert that “the ‘copyright’ was to ensure that the creator was able to make money off of his creation”, but our point here is that that’s not why it was created, and it’s not really the effect it has even today.

    For example, a band selling its CDs at the concert is not a true copyright scenario. Lots of people say that they purchase CDs (as well as T-shirts, hats, beer mugs, and many other things) at the concert in order to support the band, and most interestingly, they say they do it even when they already have all the music on their computer or iPod. So there may be some revenues you’re thinking of as copyright revenues that really aren’t.

  5. For the creator of a work the priorities are almost always in this order

    1 That the work should be widely seen/heard/read.

    2 That he/she should get the credit for it.

    3 That he/she should receive fair financial reward for it.

    Of course for a distributor who has paid for the rights to a work the priorities are reversed.

  6. For the creator of a work the priorities are almost always in this order

    1 That the work should be widely seen/heard/read.

    2 That he/she should get the credit for it.

    3 That he/she should receive fair financial reward for it.

    Of course for a distributor who has paid for the rights to a work the priorities are reversed.

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