Monday, April 02, 2012

History Shows Copyright Monopolies Slow Down Innovation

Copyright and patent monopoly is supposed to encourage innovation and creativity, right? Well, that's what we're told. However, history shows the opposite is true. It's clear that the push for more severe laws and enforcement in the area of copyright/intellectual property is nothing more than a power move.

Let’s start around the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. In that day and age, copyright monopoly laws were in force in the United Kingdom, and pretty much the United Kingdom alone (where they were enacted in 1557). You know the “Made in Country X” that is printed or engraved on pretty much all our goods? That originated as a requirement from the British Customs against German-made goods, as a warning label that they were shoddy goods made in Germany at the time. It spread to pretty much global use.

But Germany didn’t have copyright monopoly laws at this point in time, and historians argue that was the direct cause of Germany’s engineering excellence overtaking that of the United Kingdom. In the UK, knowledge of handicrafts was expensive to come by. Books and the knowledge they carried were locked down in the copyright monopoly construct, after all. In Germany, however, the same knowledge was available at print cost – and thus, engineering skills proliferated. With every new person learning engineering, one more person started to improve the skill set for himself and for the country at large. The result is that Germany still, 200 years later, has an outstanding reputation for engineering skills – the rise of which are directly attributable to a lack of the copyright monopoly.
Everything is a Remix:
"All inventions are not so much original ideas but advances or tipping points along a continuous line of invention by many different people, but the most dramatic results can happen when ideas are combined. By connecting ideas together, creative leaps can be made producing some of history’s greatest breakthroughs.
[...]The interdependence of our creativity has been obscured by powerful cultural ideas but technology is not exposing this connectedness." -- Kirby Ferguson, creator of "Everything is a Remix"

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery. celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.'” -Jim Jarmusch


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