I’m posting this passage from Cory Doctorow’s generally awesome discussion of copyright to Microsoft because it’s too long to tweet:
Copyright isn’t an ethical proposition, it’s a utlititarian one. There’s nothing *moral* about paying a composer tuppence for the piano-roll rights, there’s nothing *immoral* about not paying Hollywood for the right to videotape a movie off your TV. They’re just the best way of balancing out so that people’s physical property rights in their VCRs and phonographs are respected and so that creators get enough of a dangling carrot to go on making shows and music and books and paintings.
Now, I think this is perhaps overly simplistic, since utilitarian considerations might ipso facto be ethical ones. More explicitly, if it’s true that violating copyright reduces the efficacy of Doctorow’s “carrot”, and if the ensuing decreased productivity of content producers has negative overall “utilitarian” impact, then that initial act of piracy might rightly have negative ethical import.
But the core of what Doctorow is saying strikes me as absolutely correct: to act like the copying of a CD is a violation of someone’s rights is to make a lot of very questionable assumptions about the concept of intellectual property.
The piece is worth reading in its entirety. Do it!