Copyright and patent law were instituted as a way to reward and incentivize people who contribute to the public good – literature, music, art, artifice, technology advances, medicines, and on and on.

It was well intentioned but it has failed. There are works lost to the public because the copyright holder (who may be long dead) cannot be found. It failed because artists are bound by coercive contracts which decouple their reward from their actual contribution to society. A middleman controls the outflow of value and the inflow of revenue, and the public is poorer for it.

It has failed because it was founded on an assumption that has failed: that markets are effective at assigning value. We have seen that markets and agents can and will be manipulated (aka rigged) to defeat that alleged purpose.

We have lost sight of the notion of the public good, and how to improve it. Perhaps with today’s technology there is a better way.

[disclosure: I have written documents whose copyright is owned by my (ex-)employer. I am an inventor on 30 or more patents which are likewise assigned.]

About the Author

Tony Williams

physics nerd -> software geek -> progressive activist trying to make the world a better place.

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