STATIC DISCLAIMER: All the stuff in here is purely my opinions, and they tend to change depending on what mood I'm in. If you're going to get bitter if I say something about you that you don't like, then maybe don't read. I avoid using names as much as possible, and would request that people who know me do the same in their comments. Basically, I often vent my frustrations on here, so if you happen to be someone who frustrates me, expect to read a description of someone very much like you in here!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Economics Of Abundance Is Not A Moral Issue

The point of a copyright is not to say "no one may copy this product unless the copyright holder has been compensated". It is to say "IF there is any money to be made from the duplication and distribution of this material, THEN the copyright holder has the sole right to make that money".
- Alexander Pensky, Comment #42 on the above-linked article.

This text is taken from the comments on the above linked article. This is *precicely* the problem I have with the current tension between media companies and consumers. Copyright wasn't about forcing consumers to pay full price for a product they're not sure they want. Make a copy, have a listen - if you like it, then buy it. If you wouldn't pay money for it, but might listen to it occasionally, why should it be illegal to copy it? You weren't going to buy it anyway. If it's got 2 good songs on it, why should you have to pay for the other 8 suckfest ones the band had to write to satisfy their contract?

Here's the model I see for artists in the future: Abandon the idea of the "albumn." It's dead, get over it. Go to work each day to write songs with your band. Release them online at prices that are simpler then trying to find a download for them. Release new tracks as you produce them. Yes, your songs will get copied and distributed elsewhere, but if it's easy to go to your site and buy a track for a buck fifty, plenty of people WILL do it. I know I would. Especially when I know the money directly goes into making more of the music I'm enjoying, rather then paying the legal fees to sue small children and grandparents. And hey - the band gets ALL the profits. Not some miniscule cut after the record company takes their share.

The above linked article is part of a series, and although I've only read this one, I'd recommend them all. Very logical well thought out discussion.

9 comments:

Tam said...

Better yet, have special promotions for those that actually support the music.

For example, hardcore fans would fawn over "special access" when buying a certain number of tunes, or perhaps access to a free back catalogue of demo or previously unreleased stuff when you reach a certain amount of credit points or something similar.

Personally I enjoy the artwork on albums, though with my increasingly busy schedule, time to sit down and listen to music is fast disappearing. The attraction of paying for digital music is becoming more and more attractive.

Joel Baltaks said...

Here is the quote from your post:

The point of a copyright is not to say "no one may copy this product unless the copyright holder has been compensated". It is to say "IF there is any money to be made from the duplication and distribution of this material, THEN the copyright holder has the sole right to make that money".

I don't think this is a very watertight argument. If there is value in the product (ie. people want it) then there is some potential to sell it. And if someone wants to copy it, then it must have some value. To say that if an artist's work is completely valueless then I can freely copy and enjoy it without paying, doesn't make sense.

A better approach to the whole issue is to discuss ways that the industry sales models can keep in touch with current technology (which, of course you have done), rather than saying the work is completely valueless.

On another note, I think that albums are still a good idea. If I hear a song I like, I might choose to buy a collection of similar songs that have been created and ordered by the artists to all go together well. But again I agree that if I just want one particular song, it's irksome to be forced to buy the whole album - I'm more likely to just forget it.

Justin Warner said...

Joel said:
"If there is value in the product (ie. people want it) then there is some potential to sell it. And if someone wants to copy it, then it must have some value."

This isn't true at all. Otherwise, your reading of this comment would constitute value and thus potential to sell - so by reading it, you are breaching my copyright, and I'll see you in court. Copyright does not exist to protect peoples "potential" to sell something. Just because you make something doesn't mean you have some preordained right to make money off it. Otherwise I'm going to go into the finger painting business.

The product needs to be a scarce commodity to be worth anything - basically, I think that it needs to be something that I want, but if you get it first, I'm unable to have - therefore I'll pay more money for it then you will. Then the supplier will try and get another so that you can buy it also. Eventually the market reaches an equilibrium where the supply and demand level out, and you can buy a CD for the same price everywhere. If I have a painting, you can copy that painting, but the original is still worth money. Why is that? Because there's something valuable in the fact that the original is the one the artist painted. Kind of like... music performance, for example. The original performance is worth money. The copies USED to be worth money because of the distrobution media and the costs involved in manufacture and supply. Now that it's easy to get a copy of a performance electronically at zero cost, people are trying to use copyright law to create an artificial economy - that is, that a copy of a performance that costs nothing to produce is somehow worth SOMETHING. This is a fallacy. Economically, the copy is worth nothing. However, if someone uses that work to create something saleable, then the original artist deserves to profit from that. THIS is the true intention of copyright. What artists and record companies need to do now is recognise that digital copies of performances are worth nothing, and find ways to make money using new business models. In the linked article, a number of ideas are suggested. The one I like best is that a band releases some songs (like a demo) for free. If people like it, they donate to the band to have them create more music, and in exchange the band supply sponsors with free concert tickets, exclusive merchendise, or something that costs the band little to supply, but is of great value to a fan.

An artists work is not worth nothing. But reproductions of the work are only worth what they cost to produce - and when that cost is zero, then that's what those reproductions are worth. Nothing. I can copy music at home, at good quality, for free. The only loss being made by the artist/recording company is a hypothetical "potential sale". But that potential never really existed in many cases. Music is just being heard by someone who if they had to pay for it, would never have heard it. The idea that someone should "publish" something and then have it's experience restricted to paying customers is ridiculous. Artists used to WANT people to see their work. Now it's just all about greed. I'm not into greed, and I refuse to support it. I'll buy CDs - but not because I believe that CD is worth the money. I do it to support bands I think are worth supporting so they'll be encouraged to create new works. After all - that's why copyright was created in the first place.

Joel Baltaks said...

Say I write a really great book, and I want to sell it to make money. Copyright means that Big Bad Publishers Inc. can't start selling copies at a cheaper rate, without my permission. The reason for this is that all the people who want to read my book will go for the cheaper option here, and I won't make nearly as much money - that Big Bad Publising company is stealing the profits from my book!

Of course it gets less clear cut than this when you have basically everyone in society making costless copies of your creation. Technology has changed how the system works (as it has done many times in the past - the invention of the printing press is the earliest example I can think of).

There is an argument that says the best course of action in making a living off my book is to give away these costless copies for free, and then invite people to buy my book anyway if they like it. Will people pay money for what they can get for free? I think sometimes they can - Corey Doctorow is a science fiction writer who gives away electronic copies of his books for free. This allows him to spread in popularity - lots of people who wouldn't have paid money upfront for his books because he's an unknown, will now read his book because hey, it's free. I think it's working for him. And I think that it's a good model, especially for someone trying to make a name and build a reputation.

But the other part of the question is - should I be forced to allow people to read my book free? Current copyright laws basically say no. You can't distribute free (or cheaply priced) copies of my works without my permission (of course there are exceptions for things like educational purposes, etc.).


Quote: "Now that it's easy to get a copy of a performance electronically at zero cost, people are trying to use copyright law to create an artificial economy - that is, that a copy of a performance that costs nothing to produce is somehow worth SOMETHING. This is a fallacy. Economically, the copy is worth nothing."

I disagree with this statement. And so does current copyright law.

Quote: "An artists work is not worth nothing. But reproductions of the work are only worth what they cost to produce - and when that cost is zero, then that's what those reproductions are worth. Nothing."

To paraphrase your view: you state that if there is (near) infinite supply, then the economic value drops to (near) zero, because that's how supply and demand works. However I think this is beside the point with copyright - the manufacturing costs don't even come in to the equation.

For example: take my book again. Some guy decides he really likes it, and spends weeks of his time hand writing copies onto gold encrusted paper, which he gives to all his friends. This is a direct breach of copyright law, even though the medium and/or the process of copying has value. The value is derived from the creative content, and the medium becomes irrelevant.

Of course this should mean that if I buy a CD in a store, and the CD gets scratched, I should be able to take it back and get a replacement for just the cost of printing the CD - I've already paid the artist for the privilege of listening to the music, whatever medium it's on. A very practical example of this is if I own a movie on VHS tape. Now I want to buy the movie on DVD - but it's the same movie I already own! I'm not buying anything new, just porting it to a different medium! How is this different from copying it myself? The answer is that they put bonus extras onto the DVD, so they can claim that you're paying for a new product. This is pretty dodgy. I beleive that you should be able to copy it from VHS to DVD for your own use if you like, and American fair use provisions actually do allow this (although in Australia we don't have that). But clearly the movie industry will push every law and mechanism that will squeeze any extra pennies out of the general public - for example region encoding. But I digress.

Anyway, I think the distinction you are making is if I copy something that I don't hold the copyright for and sell it to my friends, or if I copy something I don't hold the copyright for and give it to my friends free. Now I know that the law currently says you just can't do this. My personal opinion is that it depends on the circumstances as to what should happen. Some people should be encouraging this kind of copying because it will make them more money. And I can also understand that others hate this kind of copying because it means they will make less money.

Ultimately it should be about one thing: to enrich society by getting as much good creative work into the public domain as possible. This can be helped by copyright restrictions, because artists will be able to make decent money from their works, and they'll be encouraged to create more. However I think the current laws have the goal: to allow large media corporations to perpetuate their profits as much as possible.

I think the single best change to copyright laws would be to reduce the length of copyrights to a much shorter time - I dunno, a couple of decades, tops? Then the works would go into the public domain. This would force artists to come up with new, better stuff rather than feed us the same claptrap from seventy odd years ago. Well, I'm preaching to the choir here - I think we agree on this. It's only the subject of your original post that I disagree with.

Summary:
- a creative work has an intrinsic value independent of its medium related costs.
- even if it's free and easy for someone, they can't just copy my creative works without the copyright, because in the general case it may reduce my profits.

Justin Warner said...

Joel said:
"Say I write a really great book, and I want to sell it to make money. Copyright means that Big Bad Publishers Inc. can't start selling copies at a cheaper rate, without my permission."

and

"Some guy decides he really likes it, and spends weeks of his time hand writing copies onto gold encrusted paper, which he gives to all his friends. This is a direct breach of copyright law, even though the medium and/or the process of copying has value."

Your first example is exactly what copyright is about. It's to prevent someone from profiting off your creative content WHERE THERE IS PROFIT TO BE MADE. The books are selling - therefore, them selling them and not giving you the money, breaches copyright.
Your second example I believe should not be a breach of copyright - as the person making the copies is making a (enourmous) loss in copying the book onto gold encrusted paper and GIVING it away. While this may impact your your potential market, we are again looking at protecting potential for profit, and if that's the case then surely someone owes me money for reading these comments - they have the potential for profit, so they should be protected. Shouldn't they? Also, following the "protecting potential profits" logic, this person has absorbed the potential loss involved in potentially publishing a handwritten, gold-encrusted version of your work - shouldn't you owe THEM money?

You also said:
"But the other part of the question is - should I be forced to allow people to read my book free?"
Should people be forced to pay to read it? Better shut those public libraries down. Once you PUBLISH something, its out there - you can't take it back, nor can you restrict it's audience, really. I mean, if I had a really good memory and could quote your book from cover to cover to my friends, do my memories breach your copyright? What about the words as I speak them? Or is it the reception of my words by the ears of the listener? What if they were to then write them down? Is that breaching copyright?

The notion that ideas can be "owned" I believe is completely ridiculous. "Interlectual Property" is the invention of people who ultimately want to make money off less work. If I come up with one good idea, why can't I just make a money off it forever? This is the purpose of the current incarnation of copyright law - to perpetuate income streams off ideas that are not only old, but also now ubiquitous. Just look at Disney.

"I disagree with this statement. And so does current copyright law."

Yes, and that's the problem. The whole reason copyright law disagrees is to create that false economy I was talking about. Current copyright law is not based on intelligent economics nor reasonable moral view that a creator should be able to make a living. It's based on big business paying governments in the US lots of money to their campaign funds to get laws created, and then other countries falling into line in order to perpetuate trade with the US.

Ultimately, economics is not about what people "should" be able to do to make money - it's about what they can do that people will pay them for. However, some clever bigwigs in the US have changed the laws to create a new economy where you buy things that are readily available for free (and cause no loss of actual property), because of a fear that you may get sued if you don't.

"- a creative work has an intrinsic value independent of its medium related costs."

Cultural/artistic value, yes. Monetary value, not at all. Artistic works have the potential for marketed profitability, but not intrinsic monetary value. If I play you a song on my guitar, it costs me nothing to play, and you nothing to listen. It's an idea, expressed musically. It's only worth money if I don't share it until you've given me money. Trying to extract that money after I've shared it is just non-logical. Can I take the idea off you if you don't pay? You can argue peripheral costs of the guitar and my time to write the song, but to suggest the song itself has some intrinsic monetary value seems a bit crazy to me. If it does - how much? How do you determine the intrinsic value? Should this blog comment be worth a million dollars? If I spend a year working out where to paint a single black dot on a white page, should that be worth more then a masterpiece that was painted over the course of a month? Does my son's performance in a Sunday School skit hold the same value as Jack Nicholson's in "A Few Good Men"? It just doesn't make sense. There is no scale for assessing this - as money just doesn't work that way, as much as you might want it to. The only way to assess cost is demand, and regardless of how much you think your painting is worth, if no one wants to buy it, it's monetary value is nothing.

Haven't got time for a summary - but... fight the power? I dunno.

Joel Baltaks said...

In the two examples I gave (Big bad publishers, and the gold encrusted pages) the only realy difference is that someone is giving it away for free, and someone else is charging for it (and making their own tidy profit). But, don't you see that the negative effect this has against the original artist/publisher is EXACTLY THE SAME. From their point of view, the same thing is happening. What if Big Bad publishers decided to give my book away for free? Would that be ok? It's still just the same copyright infringement. And what it comes down to - this is the heart of it - is that people can go and get copies from someone who's not giving money back to the original artist/publisher, so the original artist/publisher ends up poorer.

Or in other words, it all relies on the assumption that if a person can get the book cheaper/free from somewhere else, they won't go and buy the book from the original artist, so the money for the book is going to the illegal competitor. If you can disprove this assumption, then you successfully undermine copyright law. I've read rumours of studies showing that for all the file sharing of songs and movies going on in the world, sales of CDs and DVDs are stronger than ever - this suggests that although the record publishers do hold the copyright on their songs, they should relax about prosecuting people and go with the flow since it's not hurting them - they could leverage the trend to make more money. But that's a different debate, and really it's still their choice (althogh it'd be win-win if they'd get with the times).

You said:
The notion that ideas can be "owned" I believe is completely ridiculous. "Interlectual Property" is the invention of people who ultimately want to make money off less work.

I disagree - intellectual property is important in many regards. Patents are intellectual property rights for inventions (science related things), and copyright is the intellectual property rights for creative works. Now, again, the whole system is ideally set up to further society as much as possible. So on the one hand you could say there are no more patents anymore - then nobody would try as hard to come up with new inventions because there's just no money in it, and someone else is just going to copy it straight away and steal your market. Same with copyright.

You said:
If I come up with one good idea, why can't I just make a money off it forever?

I agree that intellectual property should have a limited, reasonable life span. Shorter for artistic works than for inventions, I'd say. As you correctly point out, the Disney lawyers will perpetuate copyrights till infinity at the rate they're going, which is a distortion on the original intent of copyright.

You said:
Should people be forced to pay to read it? Better shut those public libraries down.

Actually, when I go to the library and read a book, I have paid to read it. This is important. The library pays the publisher for the privilege of obtaining a copy of the book. I pay council rates, which is where the library gets it money. What you will NEVER see is a library with rows of photocopiers out the front, librarians creating copies of the books, and putting them in piles for people to take home for free. They're not allowed to because of copyright. Copyright is all about the right to produce a physical copy of something. The library is not allowed to make copies.

An interesting aspect of this is that only physical recordings can be copyrighted. Spoken words cannot be copyrighted. If I make a speech from a pulpit, you are free to write down what you hear. There's probably grey area here if you're reading from notes, but if I just start saying words off the top of my head they are definitely not copyrighted, and I cannot copyright them until they are physically recorded.

In your example, if you were to memorise my book and recite it to a friend, who then writes it down word for word... well, again it's a bit of a grey area I guess, but try telling a judge that it's a different, original work because it was recited by someone.

As for your blog posts and comments being copyrighted - yes they are covered by copyright by default (as I understand the law). And no I don't have to pay you for reading them because I haven't made a copy of them. If I were to make copies of your posts and sell them, say in book form, then yeah I've done the wrong thing because it's your creative work and I don't have the right to copy it. If I gave it away for free - then technically I'm still in breach of copyright. I mean, a blog post is not such a big deal, but if your blog post was a rollercoaster of a read, some epic novel or something, then it becomes clearer. The other aspect of course is that your blog is not a pay per view site - it's freely viewable. It would become even clearer if I had to pay for the original viewing. Anyway this one's getting a bit abstract, but the principle still stands.

You said:
Cultural/artistic value, yes. Monetary value, not at all. Artistic works have the potential for marketed profitability, but not intrinsic monetary value.

Yes, I kinda sorta agree with this. I think we're saying the same thing but in different ways. The only monetary value that a creative work has is how much people are willing to pay for it. A song may be worth on average $100 per listen one day, then it'll go out of fashion the next day and nobody will pay a cent to hear it. So in that sense, it doesn't have intrinsic monetary value - it's all potential for marketed profitability. But, people are willing to pay money to listen to songs, read books, etc. So they do have a monetary value. The intrinsic value of the creative work is determined by market forces. It's determined purely by how much people are willing to pay for it. Therefore, my finger paintings are worth squat. There's no real way to accurately assess the value, other than to go ahead and see how much you can flog it for.

In a nutshell, imagine two parallel universes - one in which current copyright laws are enforced, and one in which everyone is free to copy creative works as much as they like. Billy writes a great song. In world one, he sells 10,000 copies and all the profits go to him because he's the only one allowed to make copies. In the second world, he sells 100 copies, then everyone else just gets free copies off those people. Now, everyone else got free copies, but they were worth money. Collectively, they were worth 9,900 sale's worth.

Now, I just made these figures up, and I made assumptions that free (or cheaper) copies would hurt sales, but the example summarises my point.


Hey this is a great discussion here...
I like a good debate.

Justin Warner said...

"...only realy difference is that someone is giving it away for free, and someone else is charging for it (and making their own tidy profit). But, don't you see that the negative effect this has against the original artist/publisher is EXACTLY THE SAME... It's still just the same copyright infringement."

But what you're looking at here is what is currently law, and the current laws are corrupted. Australia's laws werent' made based on our politicians representing Australians, but rather were conceeded in order to attain free trade with the USA. And I've previously mentioned where USA's copyright laws came from. In 2004, Disney and a conglomerate of other large media successfully got congress to pass a bill extending copyright to life + 75 years.


"...if a person can get the book cheaper/free from somewhere else, they won't go and buy the book from the original artist, so the money for the book is going to the illegal competitor."

This is the crux of current copyright law, and in the case of another party making money off your work, is fair with reasonable length terms. We generate a limited artificial market to encourage artists to create more. The extension of copyright terms has led artists to believe that this is their "right" - mind you, most of them sold that "right" to large media conglomerates anyway. Where it's being distributed free, yes it's currently illegal. I don't believe that should be the case, as while legitimate purchasers may take it for free, that would indicate that the asking price is beyond what people believe they should be paying. Remember the author has to sell a copy before the book can be copied. So if zero copies sold for months, and then someone bought one and copied it and distibuted it for free to a hundred people, what does that say about the value of the book?


"...is that people can go and get copies from someone who's not giving money back to the original artist/publisher, so the original artist/publisher ends up poorer."

You've assumed that the artist will make the sales of his book, when the truth is quite likely that the people buying the cheaper copies/taking the free copies would not have paid for the content. Which brings us back to you needing to pay me money for reading this blog. If you're going to enforce pay-per-read for best selling authors, then don't I deserve it as well?


"And no I don't have to pay you for reading them because I haven't made a copy of them."

If you're using a web browser to read this, yes you have.


"So on the one hand you could say there are no more patents anymore - then nobody would try as hard to come up with new inventions because there's just no money in it, and someone else is just going to copy it straight away and steal your market. "

This situation has been proven false. Forgive me if I don't have all the facts 100%, but my understanding is that Italy had no patent law, and a thriving pharmasuticles industry. Patent law was introduced to "bring them in line with international patent laws" and the industry came to a grinding halt. People patent inventions that they never plan to implement. So no one else can. That sounds fair. And useful to society. Patent law is worse then copyright, but I'm not going to focus on that right now.


"Actually, when I go to the library and read a book, I have paid to read it."

I guess that depends on which library you go to. Because libraries are public, they are accessible to anyone from anywhere. You don't have to be a local citizen to go to a library. Yes, library running costs are subsidised by local residents, because buildings and staff cost money, and original books are nicer to read then loose-leaf photocopies. But they pay once, for a single copy of a book. One person might read it, or a million people might read it. This just highlights the point - they're paying for the book, not it's content. Otherwise it would be pay-per-read, wouldn't it?


"Billy writes a great song. In world one, he sells 10,000 copies and all the profits go to him because he's the only one allowed to make copies. In the second world, he sells 100 copies, then everyone else just gets free copies off those people. Now, everyone else got free copies, but they were worth money. Collectively, they were worth 9,900 sale's worth."

How much did it "cost" Billy to write his song? Analogy time:

Say I spend 10 million dollars designing a car. Each new car costs me $100,000 to manufacture, I manufacture 5000 of them, and I'm selling them for a million dollars each. My car is obviously not worth a million dollars to a consumer in the marketplace, so nobody buys it. Now imagine that I get together with every car company and we make a deal that we're going to sell cars for a million dollars each. Now, if people want a car, it will cost them a million dollars. Say I take it a step further, get a handful of friends and form a cartel. Then we make it impossible to sell cars except through us. For a while, this works for us - and people are paying a million dollars for their cars.

One day, someone invents a machine that will take one legitimate car, and make a copy of it for close to zero cost. Free cars for everyone!! Hooray!!! Right?? Apparently not. Apparently now, it's not the car that's worth the money, but the design of the car. We move to "licensing" cars. You're not buying the car, you're buying the right to drive it. Licensing a car still costs a million dollars, even though you now own nothing. People buy them because, well, you're a criminal if you copy a car and having a car is important to you.

Time goes on, and car copying machines still are around and subject to "fair use". People occasionally copy a car here and there for their personal use, but it's no big deal. Then suddenly, there's this thing called the INTERWEBS, and it will let you copy a car in Australia, and other people can have a copy of the car wherever they are - for FREE!!! No more distrobution costs! No more manufacturing costs!!!

In response, the car cartel builds a technology that means cars won't start if they're a copy, and then makes it illegal to tamper with that technology, undermining fair use in the process. They then start suing people left right and centre for copying cars over the interwebs. Meanwhile, the zero cost cars they produce are still being licenced to people for a million dollars. Yep, it costs them money to design - but only the FIRST car is costing them money. Every car after that effectively costs them ZERO dollars to produce. But they're "licensing" them for a MILLION dollars a pop. Hopefully you're seeing the parallel.


There comes a point where I have to say "yes, the laws say it's wrong. But the laws are wrong." And that's where I am. Personal copying should not be illegal. For-profit distrobution should be. An artist should have the right to be the only person who can make money of a work, but not to be compensated for every use of that work. As was mentioned in the original article, saying someone has the "right" to profit means that they should be able to force someone to pay for it. And that's just not good. And also, copyright terms should be reduced massively. Like, originally they were 14 years. I'd say in this current market of mass distrobution, that may even be too long.


And yep - I like good debate too! Forgive me if I get fired up - I'm quite passionate about this stuff. "Sharing" is what we were encouraged to do as kids. It's good for all involved. Apparently as an adult it's a whole different story. I don't own anything I buy, and so have no right to share it with anyone. As you might imagine, I'm not so into that. :)

Justin Warner said...

Joel - Did you want to take further discussion to email to make it easier to read/respond, or would you prefer to continue here?

Joel Baltaks said...

I think this comments forum is a good spot for the debate.

I'll just start this post by saying that I agree with basically all of your replies to my statements (except not entirely with the car cartel analogy).

Australian copyright law is a bit sub-optimal? Agreed. My point was not whether the law was justified, but simply that regardless of what the law says, it's affecting the artist the same whether you're selling copies of the work cheaply, or selling them for zero (giving them away) - the sale price difference only matters to the seller and the buyer.

Whether the artistic work actually has any value to anyone is beside the point. Just because someone can prove that my finger painting is rubbish, doesn't give them the right to make copies of it and sell/give it away to others. And I don't have a "right" to make a profit on my finger painting, as such (because I might not and fair enough), but I do hold the "rights" on creating copies of the work - the copyright, if you will. If I'm making virtually no money from the sales, someone distributing their own copies of it will not really be cutting too many sales out, but there's no way to draw the line on whether it's costing me money in lost sales, or by how much. And quite frankly, if I decide to charge a really large amount for my crappy finger painting, that doesn't give someone else the right to copy it because they think I'm charging too much. It's simply how a free market works.

I agree that not everyone who takes a free copy of the work would have paid full price for it - it's ridiculous and frustrating when you hear record companies say things like "a billion songs pirated, multiplied by $1 per song = 1 billion dollars in lost revenue." But I do think that they might have lost some small revenue from the free copies. And that's what the whole copyright deal is all about.

Using a web browser makes a copy - Yes you are correct on this. It's one specific example where copyright law doesn't make sense because technology has changed the way some things work. The RAM in my computer has made a transient but physical copy of the work. What about all the routers along the way that have even for the briefest moment cached a copy as well? However, for all intents and purposes, I haven't been making free copies apart from what you'd expect to fall under the US style "fair use" provisions.

With the abolition of patents idea - yes you could be right. I'd have to read studies and examples to get an opinion on whether the people who came up with the idea of patents were off their rockers, or if they came up with a good idea with merit. I'm sceptical that the world would be a generally happier, better place if patents (and other forms of intellectual property) were abolished. However I'm also sceptical that the system can't be improved (perhaps to give less favour to large corporations).

The library - we agree on this. The fact is that the library has paid the publisher for each copy of a book it has. It doesn't matter at all how many people read it, it's all about who's allowed to make a copy. Actually I feel strongly that once someone has paid for a copy, they should be allowed to read it wherever they want to - the publisher should no longer have ANY say over this. This applies to a DVD I buy in europe - I should be able to watch it ANYWHERE in the world (region encoding :( ), and if I buy a song, I should be able to listen to it anywhere (on my phone or ipod if i choose). But this is a different issue than making lots of copies and giving them out to friends. In summary, DRM is unmerited.

Ok the car analogy. One problem is that we basically need a car in today's society, but copyright only covers artistic works that we can happily do without. So imagine it's a world where nobody needs a car, and there are car substitutes. In the analogy, the manufacturing costs of making the car are COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to the copyright on the car. How much is being charged for the car is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT to the copyright, too. Whether there is a cartel organised so that they can jack up the prices is also COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT. Hopefully a free market exists where someone else can undercut, therefore matching supply and demand. If a monopoly forms then the market regulators should step in.

Also, all the DRM equivalent copy protection technologies are also completely irrelevant to who owns the copyright and who can make copies. That's just the publishers taking it into their own hands and putting technological barriers in the way. This doesn't even have to correlate to what is legally allowed! (see DVD region encoding). I agree with you that it's a load of bunk. But it doesn't alter one jot of who owns the copyright and who is allowed to make copies.

I agree copyright terms should be reduced to something short, maybe a couple of decades. And Disney's "life of the author plus 70 years" is waaaaay too long to have merit.