Creating a Culture that maximizes welfare gains from Sharing

Web 2.0 Expo San Francisco 2010Thursday I’m on a Web 2.0 Expo panel that should be interesting, as I just wrote on the Creative Commons blog.

I post here because I’m pleased that the Web 2.0 Expo blog asked my fellow panelist Jack Herrick a version of the obvious question (once they went off-topic into copyright policy):

Kaitlin: Let’s imagine a world without copyright or the need to attribute your content source. Do you think artists and writers would be hesitant to create or able to if they can’t make money on it? How do creatives cope in this world?

Jack: There are lots of reasons people create things in this world that don’t include money. People create for personal joy, to share with others, to build reputation and myriad other reasons. I doubt the artists of the beautiful cave drawings in Lascaux, France were paid. I doubt that all artists in our future will be paid. Yet creativity won’t stop. The beauty of what the combination of open licenses and the web brings is that creators who wish to create for non-monetary reasons can now reach a broad audience and a willing body of collaborators. I don’t think we need to fear that non-monetary creation will completely replace paid creative work. But we should all rejoice that the web is offering an venue for non-professional creativity that wasn’t drawing such a large audience before.

Why isn’t this question asked more often? Note this is far from an ideal phrasing — the nut should be global welfare, not how the class we currently deem creators might cope.

3 Responses

  1. It is still a utilitarian perspective that considers society should be engineered, subject to legal straits (that may reward the manufacturers of copies at the expense of individual liberty).

    The utilitarian has the notion of ‘global welfare’ as the objective, instead of it being the epiphenomenon – one that arises when the individual’s liberty is the objective (to be protected against commercial privilege).

    Without copyright, individuals can still exchange their intellectual work for whatever price the consequently free market will bear. The price of copies will undoubtedly be very low, but there’s no reason why intellectual work should become less valuable as a consequence.

    If you can only conceive of selling intellectual work via the sale of copies then the market for intellectual work without copyright must appear like jumping off a ship over the Mariana Trench end without a life belt.

    The problem is, we don’t have copyright any more. We just have a means of randomly bankrupting people. The legislation doesn’t actually prevent unauthorised copies.

    The ship of copyright is sinking and the skill of swimming, selling intellectual work without a monopoly over the manufacture of copies, is going to become essential. The first step is to convince people that no, the ship cannot be prohibited from sinking. The next step is to reassure people that it is possible to swim.

  2. sconzey says:

    Absolutely; always in mind should be our social goals: the rewarding of creation and innovation.

    When reproduction had high transaction costs, copyright was a feasable way to achieve this. The question should be: “how can creators be rewarded when reproduction is cheap?” not “how can we do copyright on the Web?”

  3. Some would have us believe that people create only because of death.

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