It warms my heart to see a column titled Imagine a world without copyright in the International Herald-Tribune, but I’m afraid Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schijndel imagine too much from such a world:
What is interesting about this approach is that this proposal strikes a fatal blow to a few cultural monopolists who, aided by copyright, use their stars, blockbusters and bestsellers to monopolize the market and siphon off attention from every other artistic work produced by artists. That is problematic in our society in which we have a great need for that pluriformity of artistic expression.
I have great sympathy with this hope, indeed it is one of the things that first interested me in copyright. There is some very imperfect evidence from China that without copyright mass culture will still be star-driven and repulsive.
The authors also do not describe a world completely without copyright, offering creators a one-year exclusive right to exploit new works commercially (a one-year usufruct as they say) where the work demands sizeable initial investments. An unfortunate proposal: to protectionists, a ridicuously constrained mononpoly, but one that undermines the authors’ vision. Better to use the paragraph to mention ideas for financing of artistic works that do not require monopoly privilege. Or to mention peer production, open source, or free software, which they do not.