Thursday, January 31, 2002

New Scientist goes Copyleft The british popular science journal, New Scientist, published an article on copyleft under a copyleft license. The question is why?

Publicity and having a cute gimmick was obviously the key reasons--the article appeared on slashdot, which is always nice for traffic. But the value of text online is that people can read it and comment on it freely, just like I'm doing here. I don't want to edit the text, just point at it and pontificate.

Under a DRM world, the article would have to be under password protection, which meant I might not be able to point at it (the way I can't point to Wall Street Journal articles, and try not to point to NYTimes articles). Also, I can cut-and-paste quotes into this post right off the screen, which I could not do under CD crippleware style regimes. And the article does not need to have distributed hosting, it just needs to keep a static URL to be 100% useful.

The article dismissively notes "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Open Audio amounts to little more than an opportunity for obscure artists to put themselves in the shop window" ignoring the fact that getting in that shop window is incredibly important to artists, and is controlled by distributors. This is why any studio can take anyone off the street and make them a star. And since they originally signed up cheap, they have to produce multiple albums for peanuts. Anything that threatens control over the delivery channel reduces the value of this resource. The RIAA does not like bargaining with performers who have their own distribution channel and audience.

By contrast, copyleft is designed to keep working code available and useful, retain fair use, and prevent collusion that artificially restricts quantity and raises price to earn monopoly profits. Text online doesn't need copyleft, it's all essentially released into the public domain anyway.


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