5 Dumb Myths about Copyright

John Degen, writing on Medium, has an interesting article: 5 Seriously Dumb Myths About Copyright the Media Should Stop Repeating. Because there are lots of dumb myths about copyright, many of which get rolled out over and over by the “information wants to be free” crowd. (Information doesn’t want to be anything…)

Most people who want everything to be free do not make their livings from creating copyrightable content. So they come up with these ideas that suggest why copyright is a Bad Thing.

John’s five myths:

  • Myth #1. Copyright only helps Corporations
  • Myth #2. Copyright Costs Consumers
  • Myth #3. Copyright is an Attack on Artistic Freedom
  • Myth #4. Copyright Harms the Public Domain
  • Myth #5. Artists Feel Restricted by Copyright

It’s worth reading his explanations of each of these myths, and how they apply to creators. It’s hard to imagine that anyone can think the first one is true; but lots of people do. Especially those who do not create things.

I’ve become a lot more amenable to the ideas that Mark Helprin presents in his book Digital Barbarism: A Writer’s Manifesto. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) He suggests that copyright should be perpetual. While I wouldn’t go that far, I don’t think copyright terms should be shortened. But, hey, that’s just me; I write things that are copyrighted for a living…

I reviewed Helprin’s book on Amazon, saying the following:

“Helprin writes like Mencken, with that sort of creative contempt for stupidity and vapidity that is missing in our day and age. Too often, commenters and bloggers just repeat the same, tired arguments, with vituperative language and ad hominem attacks. These “boobs” – to use Mencken’s term – went rabid when Heplrin published an op-ed about copyright in the New York Times. Helprin joyously (though I have the feeling that he wasn’t that happy about them) pushes aside their arguments and presents one that, while in the minority, makes a lot more sense. Some of my work is intellectual property, and why should I allow the government to say that I can’t pass that on to my descendants? Interestingly, the same people who criticize this idea are often libertarians (or lean in that direction) who don’t want government getting in the way of anything.

All in all, this is a brilliant book, worth reading not only for the unique voice but for the arguments in favor of copyright. Just because it’s easy to steal digital content doesn’t mean it’s morally correct, or should be allowed by law. You may not agree with Helprin, but if you are a Reader, you’ll love the way he presents his case.”