Communicator (communicator) wrote,

They also serve

The issue of Intellectual Property Rights is very difficult. I completely agree with the comments made by various writers online in the last few weeks, that the willy-nilly illegal downloading of new texts onto e-readers undermines the livelihood of writers. And this is a big deal, because many writers are only marginally getting by financially, and far more are only able to write the content we love in time off from earning a living doing something else.

On the other hand, I find it hard to see how IPR can be properly controlled. In music the situation is out of control, and has been horribly mishandled by the record companies. And the production and distribution of text is so terribly easy, that I think text publishing is likely to be more damaged than the music industry now that e-readers are so widespread all of a sudden. I am wondering whether the bookshops in Coventry might close, for example. And writers continue to be under-rewarded.

There's an interesting discussion of the issues on Crooked Timber here.

To my mind IP exposes one of the biggest problems with capitalism and the free market. Here's a quote from that Crooked Timber thread.
Ideas, designs, technologies, once they’re released, are public goods. Non rivalrous and non excludable. And we know very well that a pure free market, entirely unadorned, will under-supply us with public goods.

Capitalism relies for its very existence on things which it does not support very well. It desperately requires imaginative content - technical, scientific artistic, conceptual - but it does not have good methods for resourcing the production of that content.

And actually I don't think it's just about adequately rewarding successful creatives. It also means protecting and allowing a thousand false starts, and moderate successes and so on. As Milton said - I think one of the most profound things said about creativity - they also serve who only stand and wait.

I think that IPR is not working, but like a lot of things, our best bet for now is to bodge-on, patching up the old systems, and trying to moderate their failures. Because really what is needed is a complete overhaul from the ground up of the whole way we reward work. But for such an overhaul, the old system would have to break down so completely that there's nothing left to salvage, and god knows what that would be like.
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