Due to unforgivable oversight, I hadn’t linked Christopher Bird’s website MightyGodKing in the side-bar here… Mr. Bird just showed up in the store here (he’s local) and I recognized my oversight immediately. Anyhow, Chris and I got to talking about the current state of the comics industry and his most recent blog post. I don’t want to misrepresent Mr. Bird’s position so I’ll only talk about my own: I may be a loud-mouthed jerk with a blog, but I know I don’t know better than the creators of my comics when it comes to how those comics are distributed.

I really don’t understand the entitlement of a fan/torrent distributor/comics scanner to say that their desires supercede those of the people who create the work that we’re scanning, distributing, and/or possibly enjoying? I appreciate that Marvel is a terrible corporate and comics citizen, that their online initiative is naive and their promotional interviews are content-free and full of double-speak; it’s all a terrible situation but so what? That doesn’t change the fact that they’re the ones who say what goes with Spider-Man at the end of the day. My frustration extends as far as the end of my nose… and my fingertips as far as the blog is concerned… but no farther than that. Just because Marvel’s comics have a shitty interface or an unwanted run of Gambit comics doesn’t validate my pirating their stuff, it doesn’t excuse or justify it or give me any moral or ethical high-ground. If I’m stealing their IP then I’m a thief, and I either make my peace with that or I don’t, and stop stealing.

Which isn’t to say I’m not a thief, a criminal. We all are, in different ways. Jaywalking, taking a free refill when you’re not supposed to, parking illegally for 5 minutes because “you’re just running in and out”. Whatever, we all break the law every day. The difference is the rhetoric surrounding these infractions and the ones against creators, both ‘real’ and ‘legal’, of our favourite entertainments. In the latter case, it’s a bunch of people screaming very loudly that information wants to be free (or variants thereof) and that the market will sort itself out as long as they get to do whatever they want. In the former case, there is no rhetoric because everyone knows they’re doing something wrong, they’re just taking their chances and maybe donating a few extra dollars to The United Way at Christmas so they feel like a good person.

No matter how egregious, wrong-headed, or flat-out stupid the online policies and initiatives of the publishers of our favourite comics, at the end of the day that’s their business, and they’ll fail or succeed on their merits. Making, hosting, or distributing material that’s illegal? I just don’t have any sympathy for folks getting shut down for that, no matter how good their intentions are.
On the other hand, a work that’s transformative? That parodies, significantly alters, or illuminates an existing work? Excerpts for review? Educational purposes?  Making fun of shit on your blog? Go for it! I’m right there with you! Which is why I wanted to link to Christopher Bird’s MightyGodKing in the first place, because he does superhero comics parodies better and on a more consistent basis than anyone, and he makes me laugh… I just can’t say that I agree with his positions all the time.
- Chris

39 Comments on “The Copyright Debate: Since When Do You Know Best?”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Quietus says:

    I really can’t see how his views conflict with yours. He’s criticizing the abysmal business plan that Marvel has put forward in his post. You’re bringing morality into the debate. Apples and oranges.

  2. Blog@Newsarama » Quote, Unquote says:

    [...] – blogger and retailer Christopher Butcher, on torrenting and entitlement [...]

  3. Chris says:

    Quietus- Well I do think there’s a morality to the issue that’s often ignored, and Chris’ blog post–in my mind–goes further than simple crticism to tacit agreement with illegal distribution because Marvel’s business plan is so poor (and shutting down those illegal sites). But re-reading my post I think it’s also based on some “facts not in evidence” gleaned from my conversation with Chris, in addition to his public posting… I was trying to stay away from that.

    Christopher, if you’re reading, I hope I haven’t misrepresented you in any way. I’ll drop you an e-mail later today.

  4. Quietus says:

    Well, the thing is, regardless of the morality of the issue, people are going to respond to poor policy, sometimes in extralegal ways. Hence, file-sharing. Or illegal immigration. One can argue the morality or not, but regardless, when you have large numbers of people retaliating against the law, one has to wonder if the law is really just, or is really smart or not.

    That’s not to say the laws on IP are the same thing as Prohibition. But when huge numbers of people are ignoring the moral issue, which is debatable in this zone to begin with, well, I think it all becomes secondary.

  5. Roger Benningfield says:

    I’m not one to defend illegal torrents, but this:

    “Well I do think there’s a morality to the issue that’s often ignored…”

    …is something with which I heartily disagree. Laws and morality often cross paths, but not automatically, and not much at all in this case.

    “Intellectual property” is a convenient conceit… it ain’t actually property, and the traditional moral implications of theft don’t apply, IMO. Copyright (when it comes to distribution, not attribution) is an artificial manipulation of supply and demand, and while I’m more than willing to accept it as a very limited necessity, it’s important to remember that “artificial” bit. It has about as much to do with good or bad as the Fed raising interest rates.

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Nov. 26, 2007: Z-Culture wars says:

    [...] J.K. Parkin has more from Vado on the subject. Related: Christopher Bird condemns Marvel and DC’s actions, while Christopher Butcher defends their right to protect their intellectual property from online thieves. Writing for the New York Times, computer scientist Jaron Lanier renounces his previous “information wants to be free” philosophy and asks that artists be allowed to earn money for their works online. [...]

  7. markus says:

    your legal examples are skewed. Take speeding and DUI: here people will quite loudly complain about the injustice as long as they perceive their transgressions to be minor and not contrary to the spirit of the law. Downloading leading to more purchase is a first rate example of someone finding that _for them_ the illegal activity leads to a win-win situation.

    On a different note: legal is not the same as moral and it’s an embarrassing shortcut in these debates. The corporate, transferable, 70+ years monopoly on “intellectual property” in an age where everything builds on everything else is certainly not up there with e.g. waterboarding but surely it’s a measure that primarily serves the established and the powerful, that’s entirely arbitrary, at that length (according to various studies of inconclusive merit) a barrier to innovation and thus if not actually wrong at the very least a pointless law. Following it does not _in general_ IMO confer a moral high ground in relation to those who do.
    Just like one isn’t a better or good person because one refrains from jaywalking in the absence of vehicles and impressionable children.

  8. Chris says:

    Quietus- Prohibition? You brought up prohibition to SUPPORT your point? Al Capone, an outright evil son-of-a-bitch and one of the most notorious gangsters in American history builds a massive criminal empire on the back of prohibition laws and that’s your example for “bad laws where public sentiment was right!” and that’s your example for the harmlessness of breaking IP laws?

    You can argue all you want that it would have been harder for Capone to amass his fortune without the silly prohibition laws, but comparing the folks benefiting from running torrent sites or pirating software or any other ‘victimless’ digital distro crime to bloodthirsty gangsters does not do your argument any favours, sir.

    Roger- …except where it takes actual dollars out of the actual pockets of people who need them, and who are being denied those dollars because digital copies of their work are plentiful and easy to find. I can appreciate people not WANTING to mix morality up with the issue: it makes them feel bad. But you as a consumer deciding who’s property you’re going to respect and pay for and who’s property you don’t think is worth it because “Intellectual Property isn’t real”? The morality of those actions is not easily subtracted from that… THis isn’t a government raising or lowering interest rates, this is you (metaphorical you) as a consumer decreeing what media you consume is or isn’t worth being paid for, consuming them both anyway, and telling yourself it doesn’t matter. You can decide that’s okay if you want to, I’m actually not condemning you for doing it, but it doesn’t stop being wrong just because we all really want it to.

    Markus- And if someone kills someone else while speeding or DUI, then the public outroar is swift and vociferous. Public sentiment is a swirling, contrary mess, and people can be remarkably stupid and self-interested; it’s why we set up laws in the first place, and don’t just hold a public referendum on every single crime committed by society.

    As for your second paragraph, I agree with you in general, but I never said that legality and morality were equivalent in this issue, but that both concerns are definitely present. I feel I’ve outlined my case on this matter. I encourage you to go and check out some of the rhetoric surrounding the online filesharing and torrenting communities, and see how convinced people are that they’re actually developing readerships for the books they enjoy, they’re actually doing companies a favour, despite any evidence (except for annecdotal…) to support those claims or positions. They’re attaching a morality to their actions (“We’re doing an awesome thing! We’re good people supporting comics!”) that is pretty undeserved (or at least unquantified) and that was (and is) the target of my discussions of morality, the “How dare they shut down a site illegally distributing their comics! Those people are FANS!” argument.

  9. dave merrill says:

    A similar debate is happening in anime fandom right now, between those who feel Japanese cartoons should be distributed free forever on the internets, and those who feel the creators and owners ought to profit from their work. There are entitlement whores everywhere.

  10. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Could Roger unpack that part about intellectual property not having the moral and legal implications of actual property?

    Is there a difference between taking a comic book off of the Beguiling’s shelves and taking a loaf a bread?

    What if I take a copy of Eightball and make bootleg copies and sell them for half off outside the Beguiling but return the initial issue of Eightball to the shelves before anyone is wiser it’s gone?

  11. Bitter Matt says:

    Tom, in answer to your “what if,” I think the answer is “Google gives you billions of dollars, Dan Clowes and The Beguiling will probably end up retroactively blessing your thievery in exchange for a cut of your profits, and you are universally praised as a brilliant entrepreneur.”

    That’s what happens if you sell the bootlegs under the name “YouTube,” at any rate.

  12. Monday Links « Graphic Fiction says:

    [...] Marvel publisher Dan Buckley talked to CBR about the new online comics service. And a retailer says no matter how crappy that online service is, it’s still not ok to steal Marvel’s comics. [...]

  13. Tom Spurgeon says:

    What? I don’t get it. Doesn’t YouTube take everything down reported as bootlegged? Do comics get posted at YouTube?

    Also, YouTube would be a terrible nickname for a lone street vendor. I would prefer “Captain Quarterbox.”

  14. Tina says:

    to Tom: type in manga at Youtube and you’ll get plenty of Naruto, scanned and panned.

  15. Quietus says:

    “That’s not to say the laws on IP are the same thing as Prohibition.”

    That’s what I said. Nowhere did I mention a single jot nor thistle, not a single iota about Al Capone. They are merely two examples where there are unpopular laws in the land, and a large number of people are deliberately breaking them. That’s it. And again, the law may or may not be just, but the real question is whether is it’s smart. Is it smart in continuing a policy that may be failed because the masses are flaunting it? Or are there are better ways to enforce those laws? Or are the laws themselves flawed? My point is that in these unfortunate cases, what is moral often becomes subordinate to the question of what is pragmatic.

    And frankly, I was expecting more of a reaction when I snuck in the reference to illegal immigration there. Didn’t know that the Volstead Act was such a hot button these days.

  16. Quietus says:

    Addendum: I had no point on this issue, other than bringing up the view that MightyGodKing’s original post was in regards of what is a smart business strategy, not what is a legal or moral issue. I personally don’t care for stringent IP laws, nor do I care for infosocialism (R), and I get my free comic reads courtesy of the nice warm lounge chairs of my local Barnes and Noble, thank you very much.

  17. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Tina, thanks. I didn’t know that. I still don’t get what the original argument being made that included that fact. Did Chris come out somewhere in full support of illegal Naruto scans on YouTube?

    The widespread practice of boozing does not in any serious way compare to the limited practice of reading free copies of Thor. Would that this were true.

    Also, I think Chris is arguing that the moral concerns should be a basis for decision-making above and beyond any and all smart business strategy concerns, so he doesn’t really have to engage that argument on its own terms.

  18. Tina says:

    Did Chris come out somewhere in full support of illegal Naruto scans on YouTube? Lord no, I don’t think he did that–but you asked: ‘There’s manga on Youtube?’ and so I answered. Yes you can find manga on Youtube–licensed, raw, or scanslated. Plenty of BL titles…but I didn’t want you to go searching for ‘yaoi’. ^_-

  19. Hugh Stewart says:

    Mr. Spurgeon:

    I think the general idea is that YouTube became popular, ‘made its brand’, based on being a giant repository of copyrighted material (i.e. videos of Family Guy, a man getting hit in the groin on American’s Funniest Home Videos, etc). I don’t believe they were always so stringent on bootlegs, I think it mostly happened after the Google buyout?

    ALSO: Are there YouTube Narcs? Like, is it somebody’s job to just troll YouTube looking for copyrighted material to report? I wonder if it is a paid position, or if they have an army of volunteers? Or does each media conglomerate have their own copyright enforcement YouTube net squads?

    ALSO ALSO: Chris brought this up already, but it seems like for the most part, these ‘Information wants to be free!’ arguments ignore the fact that every illegally downloaded song or torrented comic means that the creators Get No Money. I could care less if DC Comics or Marvel or whomever are mad about their copyright violations, but when it means that, say, Brian Wood can’t make his mortgage payment because DMZ just wants to be free, man, then that’s kind of awful.

  20. Hugh Stewart says:

    Although I think Brian Wood lives in some kind of awesome New York Housing Co-Op, actually. So I guess that internet piracy isn’t so bad after all!

  21. Bitter Matt says:

    Thanks, Tina, Thanks, Hugh. I had this feeling that if I had to explain the joke, there was just no point. But you did a better job than I would have, I think. Cheers.

    Moving right along…

  22. Bitter Matt says:

    (That is to say, I thought there would have been no point because it was meant as little more than a snarky observation in the first place.)

  23. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Oh, it was a joke. I thought it was a serious comparison which I just didn’t get.

    The sad thing is, I can imagine people arguing that because YouTube got a sweet deal rather than sued and harassed that all companies who do roughly the same thing as YouTube used to should see the same reward or God is being hypocritical or something.

  24. Tom Spurgeon says:

    thanks, by the way, for shouting into my ear horn

  25. "LINDSEY" says:

    There’s actually not much evidence that isn’t industry-manufactured crap about the losses sustained from piracy–at least versus its rise and real sales numbers versus normal economic fluctuations (Well golly, CD sales are down during a recession? Obviously the answer is PIRACY) and perceived consumer value of a product.

    Most of this research has been done with music-sharing, since it is the oldest and most visible, but the work is out there, and there just isn’t evidence in serious work for the claims of sustained, massive losses claimed by those IP owners wishing to clamp down tightly on everything.

    It is also the business of Marvel to satisfy its customer base. They are failing at this in the digital distribution model. When you ask–who are you to say how they distribute their product? Well, the person who buys it. Typically they’re supposed to have a voice in what they get, and how they get it, and the freedom to use it as one sees fit is supposed to be protected.

    If it’s immoral to violate copyright simply because it is illegal, is it not also immoral for companies to degrade the consumers’ right of first sale? Just because they have more money and PR consultants doesn’t make it okay any more than disagreeing with copyright law does.

    That doesn’t make violation of copyright acceptable either, but I would agree that the law at present is far too stringently tied. Of course, there isn’t that much readership for Superman comics from the 30s anymore.

    (Chris’s Note: Due to stupidity on my part, this comment was accidentally deleted, and then posted under my name instead of the commenter, “Van. I’m very sorry about this, for both the cock-up on my part and for making it look like I was arguing against my own point.)

  26. "VAN" says:

    As to the Naruto or any other manga on YouTube, manga publishers are far less likely to pursue copyright infringement. There’s an entire industry in Japan of underground manga that steals intellectual property, and the creators of it aren’t prosecuted. The mainstream manga publishers have realized such material helps promote their books. All of this was well researched in the recent Wired article on manga.

    In other words, apples to oranges.

    (Chris’s Note: Due to stupidity on my part, this comment was accidentally deleted, and then posted under my name instead of the commenter, “Van”. I’m very sorry about this, for both the cock-up on my part and for making it look like I was arguing against my own point.)

  27. Mike says:

    Chris – “versus its rise and real sales numbers versus normal economic fluctions. (Well golly, CD sales are down during a recession? Obviously the answer is Piracy) and preceived consumer value of the product.

    Although consumers may very well value the product lower and lower, it’s not hard to rationalize that that lower perceived value is the RESULT of piracy.

    If you new where to get free McDonald’s consistently, how motivated would you be to go buy said McDonald’s from the chain? And if you were still motivated to buy from McDonald’s, does is that cheesesburger still worth the 1.49 they are charging if you now it is free somewhere else?

  28. Lindsey says:

    People still buy bottled water, even though what comes from the tap is free. It’s an issue of quality versus perceived value. I mean, you can get music for free on the radio, and this is not a new thing.

    With intellectual property, more than anything else, free samples are a tremendous form of promotion (they’ve done studies on this, too) that especially now costs very little compared to other forms of marketing. This is the reason that Barnes and Noble lets people sit in their comfy chairs and read as much as they want, a sort of analog file-sharing.

    Baen publishing sells mostly trashy war sci-fi novels, but they have the best electronic offering of their catalogue that I have seen so far. For as little as $10, you can get an entire month’s worth of releases. It’s like five books or something. Completely DRM free. In multiple formats.

    Even better than that, they give some of their books away. http://www.baen.com/library/

    Somehow, they haven’t gone out of business even when handing out their product to just about anybody who wants it. People still want physical books. People buy digital versions that are almost certainly all over the web by now. Why? Because people do actually like being honest, even when something is available for free.

  29. Krinn DNZ says:

    “the fact that every illegally downloaded song or torrented comic means that the creators Get No Money.”

    Actually, that’s not a fact: it’s pretty well established that one download of a given work is not equivalent to one lost sale. The exact proportions are hotly debated, but claiming that each and every download is a lost sale is a viewpoint that cannot be taken seriously, it is self-evidently at odds with reality.

    Enough of them do represent lost sales that piracy is a problem, but pretending that all of them do is arguing in bad faith and doesn’t help the debate.

    Separately, as a writer, I realize that it’s absolutely critical that we find a way to get creators appropriately compensated for their work! I think that that MPAA and RIAA are obstacles to this achievement. Media-ownership consolidation, especially the advanced decay one sees in the USA, is a terrible thing for creators. The MPAA and RIAA are parasites and deserve to be completely destroyed by the moving-on of the world. They do not care about the welfare of creators, and their claims on the subject are manipulative bullshit. In practical terms, they can ignore the law when it is not convenient to them, or get anti-freedom anti-human laws like the DMCA passed. They attempt to extract content from creators at as low a price as possible and sell it to consumers for as high a price as they can extort. This situation must be changed before we can begin to seriously worry about the effect of piracy on creators. I hope that the WGA strike has a positive effect, but I’m not sure how well they’ll survive the brutal “negociators” being arrayed against them.

    If someone worries about piracy’s effects on creators, I think that they are like a person who sees an abused woman move out of her violent, murderous husband’s house and buy a large dog – then wails with worry that perhaps the dog will bite someone. The MPAA, RIAA, and similar organizations of middlemen are abusive, murderous husbands to content creators.

  30. Chris says:

    Person 1: “the fact that every illegally downloaded song or torrented comic means that the creators Get No Money.”

    Person 2: “Actually, that’s not a fact:”

    Lord give me strength. YES, IT IS. Fact: Someone illegaly downloads your comic/song and reads/listens to it and keeps it. You are not paid for that comic/song, because YOU WEREN’T SELLING IT, it was illegally distributed, illegally downloaded, and illegally consumed, without due recourse to the creator of the work.

    The argument that “they might not have bought it anyway, not every download equals a potential sale” is a seperate, though related argument. A creator of a work has a right, moral and legal, to determine the format of that work; how it is distributed, and to whom, and for what price, and a download without the creator’s permission ignores those rights.

  31. Frank S. Kim says:

    “As to the Naruto or any other manga on YouTube, manga publishers are far less likely to pursue copyright infringement. There’s an entire industry in Japan of underground manga that steals intellectual property, and the creators of it aren’t prosecuted. The mainstream manga publishers have realized such material helps promote their books. All of this was well researched in the recent Wired article on manga.”


    “This whole argument reminds me of when I first went to Japan. For years, manga and anime fans had told me how Japanese publishers didn’t mind doujinshi (fan created comics, usually featuring popular characters from major creators), how they had different copyright laws in Japan. Things were just sooooo different there. Publishers never got upset with fans!

    What a load of bullocks.

    I got an earful from almost every Japanese pro I met about how they were annoyed by doujinshi, and when I unknowingly wandered into the doujinshi area of a Tokyo comic shop, my host, an anime producer, went off on a rant. Her head spun around, she spat pea soup, and she pulled me away from the doujinshi racks by the arm, like I was a twelve-year-old, with the declaration “That’s nasty!”.

    I had always been told by American manga fans that manga publishers had no problem with doujinshi sales, but it turns out they choose to ignore sales of books that remain under a certain threshold, and only go after books that sell too many copies for comfort.

    At that time, I’d not seen much doujinshi, and didn’t understand what the fuss was about. Of course, I later learned many of them were fan porn versions of major comics and anime stories. While my American anime friends were telling me pros LOVED doujinshi and thought they were great compliments to their work, the real pros were freaking out about what trash it all was, and how it gave their profession a bad reputation.”

  32. Hugh Stewart says:


    I understand that free samples are great. But if the torrent sites have such noble goals in mind, then why can I download every issue of Fables ever published in one easy torrent? What’s left to buy after I’ve read that?

  33. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Most of this just seems like argumentative nonsense to me, although I appreciate Frank S. Kim throwing cold water on a much repeated assertion. If Marvel fails in its responsibilities to its shareholders by not providing decent digital distribution, they fail. I don’t get to make decisions for them in digital distribution, just like I can’t arrange a sale of Luke Cage movie rights to the director I think would do the best job with it, better than what they probably have planned. To assert otherwise just seems silly to me.I also reject the notion that either side of this argument has a moral leg up on other arguments, from contract negotiations to some of the institutionalized abuse and leaching organizations that these industries foster.

    I’ve made a full-time living as a writer since 1999 and some of that has involved getting people to not republish my creative work for free when I was charging for it, or to not have them put it in a different place than where the advertisers I wanted to benefit from my work were located. I’ve been called every name in the book, but even if I’m wrong, it’s my work.

  34. Abhay says:

    “There’s actually not much evidence that isn’t industry-manufactured crap about the losses sustained from piracy”

    There’s no evidence but the evidence I choose to ignore. Great.

    I’ve stolen loads and loads and loads of music, etc. I wasn’t “sampling” every Velvet Underground record. They weren’t being “promoted” when I took their music– they aren’t going to make money from me when the Velvet Underground go on tour. It was stealing. It felt great. I’d do it again, if my current copies got damaged somehow. I bought the Loaded album years ago, and I stole it again anyways. I once shot a man just to watch him die.

    Why is that hard for other people to admit???

    I know noone likes to see themselves as the bad guy, and likes to talk about how the “MPAA and RIAA are parasites” but– SO ARE YOU. You’re getting revenge on contracts between the MPAA and OTHER PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW YOU AND WOULDN’T LIKE YOU IF THEY DID? Thank you, Internet Zorro!

  35. sai says:

    >Frank S. Kim
    Doujinshi and scanlation are very different things.
    If you sell a photocopy of Naruto at a comic convention in Japan,you wiil be banned or arrested immediately.

  36. bad wolf says:

    I got tired of Mightygodking exactly for his pro-downloading statements … I’m all for satirical use, which is at least a value-added product, but the gentleman’s consistant defense of intellectual property violations was a bit much for me.

  37. Joe Williams says:

    As usual I come late to the party and many have said this better than I, but I will add my voice anyway:

    A victimless crime? Not REAL? Look, I agree Disney sucks, Time Warner sucks, copyright laws have grown out of control, etc. but to act as if stealing content doesn’t hurt anyone is BULLSHIT, plain and simple. One could look at the writers’ strike and realize people DO create content for a living and SHOULD expect to get paid fairly for their creation just as you get paid to do whatever it is you do for a living. If people steal, believing no one can or should own IP, it means they are stealing from that creative person who should be fairly compensated by those enjoying the product. If we quit compensating creators for popular works we enjoy then they lose their incentive to create more. I know people like to Marvel or Metallica doesn’t “need” any more money but if they made something you like it doesn’t give you the right to take it from them just because you think they won’t miss it. You ARE stealing from them whether you admit to yourself or not.

    I do wish though that corporations would wake up a bit and do what they can to deflate the rationale for IP thieves- such as to quit over-reaching and trying to control how I use what I paid for (to an unreasonable degree) as well as not overcharging for an item people can readily get for free on the black market and take away as much incentive for people to steal what they might be willing to buy- though obviously some people will always be willing to justify their use of ill-gotten goods whether they are physical or intellectual and will continue to steal no matter how little it would cost to buy.

  38. Steve Lieber says:

    “Thank you Internet Zorro” needs to become standard usage in these discussions.

  39. Roger Benningfield says:

    Chris & Tom: I’m coming back to this way, way late… such are the dangers of promiscuous commenting. :)

    “THis isn’t a government raising or lowering interest rates…”

    I don’t want to be tedious, but I’d like to emphasize this point. “Intellectual property” only exists as long as one or more governments actively interfere in the free market. The market can live (inefficiently) without the government, but intellectual property can’t. IP has no real value, as opposed to something like gasoline.

    If I could copy a gallon of gas and send it to you via email, that wouldn’t make me the moral equivalent of a thief. Yes, the market for petroleum would implode. Without question, millions of people around the world would lose their jobs, from the laborer on an oil rig to the dude behind the counter at the gas station. In all, it would have a far bigger impact that giving someone a copy of a song or a comic… but that wouldn’t make it immoral. I’m not prepared to cede anyone a natural right to manipulate market forces to their advantage.

    Now, don’t take that the wrong way… if I didn’t make it clear before, I fully support limited, reasonable copyright law. I’ve got no problem giving “lifetime of the author” rights to individuals, and perhaps ten years or so to corporate entities. (If the current state of Marvel and DC prove anything, it’s that the creative climate would only be improved if their sixty and seventy year-old properties were released into the commons.)

    But I’m not in favor of such laws as part of an effort to ensure that someone can feed his family doing whatever he wants for a living. That’s not my moral responsibility… if he can’t put food on the table creating his art, then he can go dig ditches. My support is derived from the desire to see a rich cultural commons develop, and to the extent that his creative job overlaps with that desire, we’re okey-dokey.

    But the day someone convinces me that there’s a way to feed growth in The Arts without copyright, I will vote to abolish all such laws without even blinking. And there won’t be anything immoral about it.

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