I had the the pleasure of an interesting, but lengthy conversation with Brett Kowalczyk about copyright and patent law. I have included two short excerpts of the conversation for your reading pleasure.
9:27 PM Brett: the reason intellectual property deserves to be paid for is because people feel it has value. if they didn’t think it has value, they wouldn’t download it even for free
9:28 PM the fact of the matter is that that’s the way the world works; if somebody wants something I have, I can make money on it (be it intellectual or otherwise) and I deserve to make money on it if I want to (and if a market supports it)
a better way to fund engineers than what?
9:29 PM me: I feel that the air produced by the trees on someone else’s land has value. They own that land and the trees on that land, they have the right to charge for that air
9:30 PM Brett: but the air is produced without any effort from their own part.
to produce intellectual property requires effort on the part of the person producing it
9:31 PM me: but acquiring the land did require effort.
9:32 PM like acquiring the IP required effort
9:33 PM Brett: but you have the land, regardless of what trees are on it, and the using of the oxygen of the trees does not detract from anything’s value. COPYING CDS and distributing them, does detract from their value, because you flood the market. there is no longer scarcity (see /imagine-a-world-without-scarcity.html)
acquiring the IP required effort? you lost me there.
9:34 PM me: IP = intellectual property (the stuff protected by copyright and patent)
9:35 PM Brett: see my statement about detracting from value. you don’t detract from value by breathing the tree’s air, however, if you were to cut those trees down, then you’re detracting from value
9:36 PM that person still has the land, but they no longer have the trees on it
me: if there was a law that said I had to pay for oxygen usage in proportion to how many tree each person owned and I breathed the air without paying I would be stealing (according to that law) and I would be reducing the value that the tree owners got from their trees
9:37 PM Brett: yes, you’re right.
9:38 PM me: and if that where a law people would grow more trees, burn less of them (in the rain forest etc.)
9:39 PM and increase the common good
more so than does the average musician
9:40 PM Brett: actually, no, because a glut of trees would reduce the value of an individual tree.
in the same way a glut of a person’s music means it is no longer worth anything
9:41 PM and you can’t say if that increases the common good any more than music does. that is your opinion
me: well i guess supply and demand would have to balance that a bit
9:42 PM I can say something that is my opinion
at least in the USthat whole 1st amendment thing
Brett: also, if people never cut down trees, we would not have paper, which would be detrimental to society
you can’t look at these things individually
9:43 PM Brett: so to get back to the point. intellectual property takes effort, and people can choose to do it for free, but they deserve a way to ensure that if they want to be paid for the effort they put into producing it, they can get paid for it
9:46 PM me: so you agree that we “should” have a law that rewards people for the effort that they exerted in acquiring land that is able to produce air.
9:47 PM They did the work. We benefit. We should pay.
Brett: no, because they still OWN the land. we should have laws that state if people want to do something that detracts from the value of the land, they should be rewarded for it
we owe them for detracting from the value of their land. breathing the air does not do that
9:48 PM me: without copyright law, me listening to a CD does not detract from the value of the artist work
9:49 PM without air-right laws, my breathing does not detract
9:50 PM but if there was a law then my breathing without paying would also detract just as much as listening to the CD
9:53 PM Brett: no, copyright laws do not prohibit you from listening to a CD, but from copying it. when you copy it, you flood the market with content
me: ok so substitute copying for listening the argument is the same
9:54 PM and yes they can sue you for listening without making a physical copy now
it has been done
9:58 PM Brett: that’s why copyright laws forbid public display. people obviously want to see a movie, which they might otherwise have bought, but since we have 100 people viewing it at once, we are detracting from the number of purchases of those movies that would likely have happened otherwise
9:59 PM you’ll have to show me that court case where somebody was sued successfully for listening to music in a non-public or mass listening situation
I’m not gonna believe it otherwise
me: but the only reason the value is reduced by these actions is because a law exists
10:00 PM not the other way around
10:01 PM the law was not written to protect the value of IP. It gave it value.
Brett: the reason the value is reduced is because people deserve to be paid for their effort, and deserve to be paid for the benefit they’ve provided to society, and when that knowledge, that benefit is readily available, then the person no longer gets what they deserve for their efforts
10:02 PM no, the value comes from people liking the IP. The only thing the law does is ensure they are compensated in accordance with the value people place on it.
10:03 PM me: we do not pay for effort. we pay for product.
Brett: by value people place on it, i mean the value assigned by supply and demand, keeping in mind the artist deserves compensation
no, we pay for effort
me: work smarter not harder
10:04 PM Brett: luke, it takes effort to work smarter
you seem to think it takes no effort to produce ideas
me: if you have to work twice as hard to produce the same thing i produce with half the effort, I can still sell my product for the same price
10:05 PM Brett: but that’s the point. I work twice as hard for a period of time, to get returns (less work for a longer period of time), or I make a better product, or I make it more efficiently and improve the amount of profit that can be made
10:06 PM Only an idiot puts for effort to reproduce the same thing that is already out there without any improvement or gain
me: but just because you work harder does not mean you should be paid more
Brett: it’s called reinventing the wheel
10:07 PM no, but if I think of a way to do something better, or cheaper, or faster, or more efficient, or safer, I should be rewarded for the ingenuity
me: but you are not paid for the effort whether physical or mental. You are paid for the product.
10:08 PM Brett: no, because many things that are patented are processes, not products.
case in point: McDonald’s 2 drive-thru windows. they patented it because it improves efficiency. patent ran out now
patents (or trade secrets) exist on no tangible products
10:09 PM me: but if they never built a store with that design they would not make much off of the idea
Brett: no, because there is no demand
but if everybody realized the benefits of building the store that way, they would pay money for the idea on how to build it, so they could incorporate it
10:10 PM me: but again they only value it because they can “use” it
it is the product that is really valued
10:11 PM Brett: they value it because it does something for it. putting the word “use” in quotes doesn’t make it tangible
me: they have to build it into their physical store
10:13 PM Brett: luke, it’s not the shelving that makes it work, it’s the process those shelves take people through. putting the most expensive items at eye-level in a store is not a tangible product, it’s a process that results in people buying more of the product that was already there
10:14 PM you’re getting people to make decisions a certain way (which cereal is best)
me: but if you do not physically arrange your shelve according to that idea you will not make money from that idea
10:16 PM Brett: no, because you didn’t use the idea. luke, you keep forgetting about the demand side of the equation. you keep mentioning that IF YOU DON’T USE IT/BUY IT, IMPLEMENT IT, then you don’t make the money. the only reason we have copyright laws is BECAUSE there is a demand. PEOPLE WILL BUY IT/USE IT/ IMPLEMENT IT
10:17 PM copyright protects the inventor/artist in the event that you DO USE IT/IMPLEMENT IT/ WANT IT
10:18 PM me: and they will be rewarded for the product that they produce by using the idea. It is the person who actual does the idea that creates value
Brett: no, it’s the fact that people WANT it that creates value. if people really want it, and then never do anything with it, it still has value
10:20 PM somebody recently paid Carly Simon $1M to have her tell them who she wrote the song “You’re So Vain” about, but they had to sign a nondisclosure agreement. They couldn’t do anything with the information, but they paid $1M to SIMPLY KNOW IT. They placed value on something that would never even leave their head.
Value comes from somebody wanting something, not from them using it
10:21 PM me: and contract law covers cases like that
not copyright law
10:22 PM NDA is a contract
Brett: no, copyright law covers it if it’s intellectual property. contract law only covers when people came to somebody and says “I want you to do XYZ” It doesn’t cover somebody creating without someone wanting it until they hear it
Luke, NDA wasn’t the point, value was the point
me: copyright covers published information
10:23 PM Brett: yeah, published in case somebody wants it. if there HAPPENS to be a demand developed, then the creator gets compensated based on the value
10:24 PM me: the only value published information has is created either by the government via copyright or the physical material it is printed etc. on
10:25 PM Brett: COMPLETELY WRONG. Value is based on whether people want it or not. The government doesn’t decide how many people will want a song. Whether people like it decides how many people want it
The value comes from what people want, not from what the gov’t says. The only thing the gov’t says is, if people give it value, the originator deserves some of that value in compensation for the creation
me: value is a combination of BOTH supply AND demand
10:26 PM Brett: yes, and government saying that people need to be compensated does not exist on either side
supply and demand comes from how much is available and how much people want it,
me: once published information has the potential for inifinite supply
which means zero value
10:27 PM copyright restricts supply to create value that would not otherwise exist
Brett: yes, but to ensure the originator gets compensated for their effort, the government makes sure the supply doesn’t go infinite
copyright ensures the creator gets compensated for the demand. it protects the person who did the effort to create it
10:28 PM me: that is why I say that published information has no natural value. only artificial, government-created value
Brett: no, it has value because people want it.
10:29 PM the creator gets compensated for that value because the government ensures they do through copyright laws
people place high value on the trust they have from a loved one
me: nope it has value because people want it AND the government restricts the supply
without the government the demand is meaningless
10:30 PM Brett: but without the government, the creator gets no reward for his efforts
when people cease to be rewarded for their efforts, their efforts will trail off quickly
10:31 PM me: and only the effort that gets put into a physical salable product makes money
10:32 PM Brett: yes, so why would anybody create anything artistic in that case?
copyrights are one reason artists keep putting out material
and ideas make money too, not just products
me: only for the love of art
10:33 PM and that tends to be the best art anyway
Brett: what I’m saying is that WE HAVE TO HAVE ART in society, and the only way to ensure that is with copyright laws
11:03 PM me: People will produce art without being paid. Maybe not as much. But they will still produce enough. If they do not then someone will get desperate and pay for the first copy.
11:04 PM Brett: will they produce enough? how do you know? how do you ensure that? what if they produce garbage?
me: supply and demand
Brett: but there won’t be a supply if they’re too busy working
me: they will produce enough because someone will care enough to pay.
11:05 PM Brett: no, because Americans will, by and large, not pay for what they can get for free (the online free downloadable pirating attests to this)
11:06 PM me: but you are saying that without copyright there would be nothing to pirate
Brett: there would be nothing new to pirate, correct
me: until someone paid someone to sing
11:07 PM Brett: yes, and we’ve both agreed that art that has been paid before creation, is shameful
it’s hardly art when you’re only doing it for the paycheck
me: not really. i just said there is no need to pay ahead of time
11:08 PM Brett: but somebody who does it for love, and then can pay the bills because of a copyright law, that is better art
people who get paid to be creative are engineers, not artists
people who are creative, and then are paid without their original anticipation of getting paid, they create art
11:10 PM me: if a patron of arts (they used to be quite common) is willing to pay someone who is able to sing to do what they love, they will still be able to produce something of value.
11:11 PM as for producing without guaranty of payment that is where gifts come in.
Brett: the key being USED TO BE QUITE COMMON, but there are very few of them, and definitely not enough to maintain an influx of all the varieties needed by different types of people out there
11:12 PM me: they used to be common prior to copyright law
Brett: not many people are going to do something and simply HOPE that the gifts come in
they’ve got families to feed
11:13 PM me: not many, but enough
Brett: but I wouldn’t say copyright laws is was led them to not exist anymore. I would say copyright laws came about because there weren’t enough patrons to keep the supply of art coming into society.
and how much art is enough? do you know?
11:14 PM what if I think we need more art than you think?
me: then you can pay more and help an artist you like to produce more
11:15 PM Brett: how about I just copy that artist’s work, and hang up all of those copies?
he already got paid once right?
me: and a quick look at history shows that copyright caused the decline of patronage not the other way around
11:16 PM Brett: so I’m sure whatever he got paid that one time from the patron will hold him over forever because every building in the world now has a copy of his art
I’d like to see how the copyright caused the decline, and not the decline resulting in copyright to continue to provide for the artists.
tricky thing about looking at history is understanding cause and effect
11:17 PM me: it will not hold him over forever but it will keep him alive long enough to create enough art to supply the real demand that is out there
Brett: just because things correlate, doesn’t mean one caused the other
but who needs more art? we’ll just copy the stuff that’s out there
11:18 PM me: well it can at least eliminate the other possiblity since copyright predated the fall of patronage
so at this point the artist is useless?
Brett: but did it predate the decline of patronage? was there anything else that happened in the world that also coincided with the fall of patronage? how do we know it wasn’t that?
11:19 PM no, at this point, the copyright law is necessary
11:20 PM me: my point was that if there is a cause and effect it would not be the decline of patronage causing copyright law
Brett: to ensure that artist continues to get paid for the lack of demand that has been created by the wanton copying
11:21 PM me: no you said we needed so more new art would be made
Brett: if artists can’t get paid to make art, and people think it still needs to be in society, then maybe the gov’t needs to help society out
if the artists had to go scrub toilets to scrape together a living, then no, no new art would be made
11:23 PM copyright laws ensure that artists can continue to do what they do best, for the betterment of society, without having to resort to doing regular work to put food on the table because they need to be readily available and fully devoted to creating art
me: sorry I had to go back and figure out what we were talking about before the conversation split three ways:)
Brett: I just summed up my viewpoint for you
11:30 PM me: If someone needs additional original art (not copies) they will pay whatever amount necessary to fulfill that need. They will pay this amount without coercion, since they need (for physical, or emotional reasons) it. If someone needs or wants only a copy, they will pay whatever cost is involved in producing a physical copy. If they are not willing to pay this price they will not get what they want. This price will be lower than most artist are willing or able to meet but with less competition, the few that are left will be able to make a decent living. The is true capitalism at work.
11:31 PM Brett: the few that are left will make a decent living, but they won’t be enough to fill the demand. you’ll have a few wealthy artists, and a million has-been artists scrubbing toilets
11:33 PM me: In a free market demand does not go unfilled for long, because unfilled demand raises prices, which encourages more people to produce.
Brett: yes, that’s true, but we must rely on people being able to separate themselves from drudgery to pursue said art
me: In a free market (not tampered with by government) that is exactly what happens. People take time to produce a little art on the side because demand has gotten high enough to make it profitable to do it.