World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Opposition to copyright


Opposition to copyright

The symbol of BitTorrent tracker The Pirate Bay, before it was spun off as an independent organisation.
Grey market

Opposition to copyright refers to the complete or partial opposition to prevalent copyright laws. Copyright is defined as the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something such as a literary, musical, or artistic work.[1]

The classic argument for copyright is the view that granting developers temporary monopolies over their works encourages further development and creativity by giving the developer a source of income; normally copyright is enforced within a framework of the Berne Convention, instituted by Victor Hugo and first enacted in 1886. A central anti-copyright argument is that copyright has never been of net benefit to society and instead serves to enrich a few at the expense of creativity. Some anti-copyright groups may question the logic of copyright on economic and cultural grounds. Furthermore, in the context of the Internet and Web 2.0, it can be argued that copyright law needs to be adapted to modern information technology.


  • Organisations and scholars 1
    • Groups advocating the abolition of copyright 1.1
    • Groups advocating changes to copyright law 1.2
    • Groups advocating using existing copyright law 1.3
    • Scholars and commentators 1.4
  • Economic arguments against copyright 2
    • Copyright results in a weaker incentive at creativity 2.1
    • Non-scarcity 2.2
    • Historical comparison 2.3
  • Information technology related concerns 3
  • Cultural arguments 4
    • Freedom of knowledge 4.1
    • Authorship and creativity 4.2
  • Ethical issues 5
  • Criticism of anti-copyright 6
    • Morality 6.1
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Organisations and scholars

Groups advocating the abolition of copyright

Demonstration in Sweden in support of file sharing, 2006.

Pirate Cinema and groups like The League of Noble Peers advance more radical arguments, opposing copyright per se. A number of anti-copyright groups have recently emerged in the argument over peer-to-peer file sharing, digital freedom, and freedom of information; these include the Association des audionautes[2][3] and the Kopimism Church of New Zealand.[4][5]

In 2003, Eben Moglen, a professor of Law at Columbia University, published the dotCommunist Manifesto, which re-interpreted the Communist Manifesto by Marx in the light of the development of computer technology and the internet; much of the re-interpreted content discussed copyright law and privilege in Marxist terms.[6]

Recent developments related to BitTorrent and peer-to-peer file-sharing have been termed by media commentators as "copyright wars", with The Pirate Bay being referred to as "the most visible member of a burgeoning international anti-copyright—or pro-piracy—movement".[7][8] One well-publicised instance of electronic civil disobedience (ECD) in the form of large scale intentional copyright infringement occurred on February 24, 2004, in an event called Grey Tuesday. Activists intentionally violated EMI's copyright of The White Album by distributing MP3 files of a mashup album called The Grey Album, in an attempt to draw public attention to copyright reform issues and anti-copyright ideals. Reportedly over 400 sites participated including 170 that hosted the album with some protesters stating that The Grey Album illustrates a need for revisions in copyright law to allow sampling under fair use of copyrighted material, or proposing a system of fair compensation to allow for sampling.[9][10]

Groups advocating changes to copyright law

French group Association des audionautes is not anti-copyright per se, but proposes a reformed system for copyright enforcement and compensation. Aziz Ridouan, co-founder of the group, proposes for France to legalise peer-to-peer file sharing and to compensate artists through a surcharge on Internet service provider fees (i.e. an alternative compensation system). Reportedly, major music companies have equated Ridouan's proposal with legitimising piracy.[2] In January 2008, seven Swedish members of parliament from the Moderate Party (part of the governing coalition), authored a piece in a Swedish tabloid calling for the complete decriminalisation of filesharing; they wrote that "Decriminalising all non-commercial file sharing and forcing the market to adapt is not just the best solution. It's the only solution, unless we want an ever more extensive control of what citizens do on the Internet."[11]

Groups advocating using existing copyright law

Groups that argue for using existing copyright legal framework with special licences to achieve their goals, include the copyleft movement[12] and Creative Commons.[13] Creative Commons is not anti-copyright per se, but argues for use of more flexible and open copyright licences within existing copyright law.[14] Creative Commons takes the position that there is an unmet demand for flexibility that allows the copyright owner to release work with only "some rights reserved" or even "no rights reserved." According to Creative Commons many people do not regard default copyright as helping them in gaining the exposure and widespread distribution they want. Creative Commons argue that their licences allow entrepreneurs and artists to employ innovative business models rather than all-out copyright to secure a return on their creative investment.[15]

Scholars and commentators

Scholars and commentators in this field include

  • Abandoning Copyright: A Blessing for Artists, Art, and Society – Opinion by Professor Joost Smiers
  • Anti-Copyright Resources
  • Gnomunism – Utopia of Anti-copyright applied to all types of data that can be copied
  • The Surprising History of Copyright and The Promise of a Post-Copyright World by Karl Fogel of
  • – The Unlicense is a template for disclaiming copyright interest in software.
  • The 18th Century Overture – Copyright in historical perspective
  • Culture vs. Copyright – ebook by Anatoly Volynets. The book is composed of dialogues of first graders and their teacher contemplations on cultural, psychological, economical and other aspects of "Intellectual Property."

External links

  1. ^ Merriam Webster online
  2. ^ a b Rose, Frank (September 2006). "P2P Gets Legit – The new Ascap: Audionautes". Wired. 
  3. ^ Byfield, Bruce (May 2006). "FSF launches anti-DRM campaign outside WinHEC 2006". Linux. 
  4. ^ Rose, Frank (April 2012). "Challenging Copyright". Kopimism. 
  5. ^ Byfield, Bruce (May 2012). "The case for copyright reform". Kopimism. 
  6. ^ Moglen, Eben. "dotCommunist Manifesto". 
  7. ^ Sarno, David (April 2007). "The Internet sure loves its outlaws". Los Angeles Times. 
  8. ^ Mitchell, Dan (August 2006). "Pirate Take Sweden". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ Kim, Melanie. "The Mouse that Roared, Grey Tuesday". Tech Law Advisor. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  10. ^ Werde, Bill (February 2004). "Defiant Downloads Rise From Underground". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ Bangeman, Eric (January 2008). "Swedish prosecutors dump 4,000 legal docs on The Pirate Bay". Ars Technica. 
  12. ^ "What is Copyleft?". Archived from the original on 29 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-29. 
  13. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions".  
  14. ^ "FAQ — Is Creative Commons against copyright?". Creative Commons. Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  15. ^ "FAQ — What is Creative Commons?". Creative Commons. Archived from the original on 27 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  16. ^ "How Does An Asian Commons Mean". Creative Commons. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  17. ^ Jorge, Cortell (May 2005). "Lecturer censored in Spanish University (UPV) for defending P2P networks". Own Website. 
  18. ^ Fleischer, Rasmus (May 2006). Mechanical music" as a threat against public performance""" (PDF). Institute of Contemporary History, Sodertorn University College. 
  19. ^ Leo Tolstoy, Letter to the Free Age Press, 1900
  20. ^ Scherer, F.M. (2004), Quarter Notes and Bank Notes. The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Princeton University Press 
  21. ^ Kinsella, Stephan Against Intellectual Property (2008) Ludwig von Mises Institute.
  22. ^ Eckhard Höffner. "Copyright and structure of authors’ earnings" (PDF). Retrieved February 11, 2012. 
  23. ^ Fleischer, Rasmus (June 2008). "The Future of Copyright". CATO Unbound. 
  24. ^ a b "Second Manifesto". Hipatia. Retrieved 2008-07-25. 
  25. ^ a b c d Liang, Lawrence (February 2005). "Copyright/Copyleft: Myths About Copyright". 
  26. ^ Selmer Bringsjord, "In Defence of Copying", Public Affairs Quarterly 3 (1989) 1-9.
  27. ^ Alfino, Mark, "Intellectual Property and Copyright Ethics", Business and Professional Ethics Journal, 10.2 (1991): 85-109. Reprinted in Robert A. Larmer (Ed.), Ethics in the Workplace, Minneapolis, MN: West Publishing Company, 1996, 278-293.
  28. ^ Edwin Hettinger, "Justifying Intellectual Property", Philosophy and Public Affairs, 18 (1989) 31-52.
  29. ^ Warwick, Shelly. "Is Copyright Ethical? An Examination of the Theories, Laws, and Practices Regarding the Private Ownership of the Intellectual Work of the United States.", Readings in Cyberethics. 2nd ed. Ed. Richard A. Spinello and Herman T. Tavani. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2004: 305-321.
  30. ^ Forcehimes, Andrew T, "Download This Essay: A Defence of Stealing Ebooks", Think, Volume 12, Issue 34, June 2013, pp 109–115
  31. ^ a b "Copyright is Even More Right in the Digital Age" (PDF). January 2011. 
  32. ^ a b Verrier, Richard (September 2010). "Independent filmmakers feel the squeeze of piracy". Los Angeles Times. 
  33. ^ United Nations. "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights". Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  34. ^ WIPO — The World Intellectual Property Organization. "Human Rights and Intellectual Property: An Overview". Retrieved October 25, 2011. 
  35. ^ Ronald V. Bettig. "Critical Perspectives on the History and Philosophy of Copyright" in Copyrighting Culture: The Political Economy of Intellectual Property, by Ronald V. Bettig. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996), 19–20
  36. ^ a b c d De George, Richard T. (2009). "14. Intellectual Property Rights". In Brenkert, George G.; Beauchamp, Tom L. The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.  
  37. ^ a b Spinello, Richard A. (January 2007). "Intellectual property rights". Library Hi Tech 25 (1): 12–22.  
  38. ^ The Law of Intellectual Property, Part 1 Chapter 1 Section 9 - Lysander Spooner
  39. ^  


See also

Writer Ayn Rand argued in her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal that the protection of intellectual property is essentially a moral issue. The belief is that the human mind itself is the source of wealth and survival and that all property at its base is intellectual property. To violate intellectual property is therefore no different morally than violating other property rights which compromises the very processes of survival and therefore constitutes an immoral act.[39]

Lysander Spooner (1855) argues "that a man has a natural and absolute right—and if a natural and absolute, then necessarily a perpetual, right—of property, in the ideas, of which he is the discoverer or creator; that his right of property, in ideas, is intrinsically the same as, and stands on identically the same grounds with, his right of property in material things; that no distinction, of principle, exists between the two cases".[38]

  1. Natural Rights/Justice Argument: this argument is based on Locke’s idea that a person has a natural right over the labour and/or products which is produced by his/her body. Appropriating these products is viewed as unjust. Although Locke had never explicitly stated that natural right applied to products of the mind,[35] it is possible to apply his argument to intellectual property rights, in which it would be unjust for people to misuse another's ideas.[36]:415–416 Locke's argument for intellectual property is based upon the idea that laborers have the right to control that which they create. They argue that we own our bodies which are the laborers, this right of ownership extends to what we create. Thus, intellectual property ensures this right when it comes to production.
  2. Utilitarian-Pragmatic Argument: according to this rationale, a society that protects private property is more effective and prosperous than societies that do not. Innovation and invention in 19th century America has been said to be attributed to the development of the patent system.[36]:416 By providing innovators with "durable and tangible return on their investment of time, labor, and other resources", intellectual property rights seek to maximise social utility.[37] The presumption is that they promote public welfare by encouraging the "creation, production, and distribution of intellectual works".[37] Utilitarians argue that without intellectual property there would be a lack of incentive to produce new ideas. Systems of protection such as Intellectual property optimise social utility.
  3. "Personality" Argument: this argument is based on a quote from Hegel: "Every man has the right to turn his will upon a thing or make the thing an object of his will, that is to say, to set aside the mere thing and recreate it as his own".[36]:417 European intellectual property law is shaped by this notion that ideas are an "extension of oneself and of one’s personality".[36]:418 Personality theorists argue that by being a creator of something one is inherently at risk and vulnerable for having their ideas and designs stolen and/or altered. Intellectual property protects these moral claims that have to do with personality.

Various moral justifications for private property can be used to argue in favour of the morality of intellectual property, such as:

The arguments that justify intellectual property fall into three major categories. Personality theorists believe intellectual property is an extension of an individual. Utilitarians believe that intellectual property stimulates social progress and pushes people to further innovation. Lockeans argue that intellectual property is justified based on deservedness and hard work.

According to Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author".[33] Although the relationship between intellectual property and human rights is a complex one,[34] there are moral arguments for intellectual property.


Richard Verrier, editor at Los Angeles Times who covers labour and production issues in Hollywood, wrote in an article that piracy undermined independent filmmakers, who, unlike larger studios, would not be able to afford revenue loss.[32] Independent filmmaker Greg Carter described it as; "It feels like someone is walking into your house and stealing your furniture... The big studios can absorb it, but guys like me, we're not millionaires. We're fighting like crazy for every dollar, every nickel, every penny just to survive in this marketplace."[32]

Copyright proponents such as Sumner M. Redstone of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, majority owner of CBS Corporation, Viacom, MTV Networks, and BET, argue that copyright drives the economy by compelling creativity, and is a fundamental right for both creators and consumers. He argued that all proposed alternatives to copyright protection do not allow for viable business models, as content creators would not have incentive to produce their products if they cannot be guaranteed payment.[31] "Propose to a dairy farmer that the milk he sells become a free commodity available to all, and he will stop cultivating cows. Why buy the cow, when consumers can get the milk for free?'"'[31]

Criticism of anti-copyright

Andrew T. Forcehimes argues that the way we think about copyrights is inconsistent, because every argument for (physical) public libraries is also an argument for stealing ebooks and every argument against stealing ebooks would also be an argument against libraries.[30]

Shelly Warwick believes that copyright law as currently constituted does not appear to have a consistent ethical basis.[29]

Edwin Hettinger argues that natural rights arguments for intellectual property are weak and the philosophical tradition justifying property can not guide us in thinking about intellectual property.[27][28]

The institution of Copyright brings up several ethical issues. Selmer Bringsjord argues that all forms of copying are morally permissible (without commercial use), because some forms of copying are permissible and there is not a logical distinction between various forms of copying.[26]

Ethical issues

Liang argues that the concept of "author" is tied to the notion of copyright and emerged to define a new social relationship — the way society perceives the ownership of knowledge. The concept of "author" thus naturalised a particular process of knowledge production where the emphasis on individual contribution and individual ownership takes precedence over the concept of "community knowledge".[25] Relying on the concept of the author, copyright is based on the assumption that without an intellectual property rights regime, authors would have no incentive to further create, and that artists cannot produce new works without an economic incentive. Liang challenges this logic, arguing that "many authors who have little hope of ever finding a market for their publications, and whose copyright is, as a result, virtually worthless, have in the past, and even in the present, continued to write."[25] Liang points out that people produce works purely for personal satisfaction, or even for respect and recognition from peers. Liang argues that the 19th Century saw the prolific authorship of literary works in the absence of meaningful copyright that benefited the author. In fact, Liang argues, copyright protection usually benefited the publisher, and rarely the author.[25]

Lawrence Liang, founder of the Alternative Law Forum, argues that current copyright is based on a too narrow definition of "author", which is assumed to be clear and undisputed. Liang observes that the concept of "the author" is assumed to make universal sense across cultures and across time. Instead, Liang argues that the notion of the author as a unique and transcendent being, possessing originality of spirit, was constructed in Europe after the industrial revolution, to distinguish the personality of the author from the expanding realm of mass-produced goods. Hence works created by "authors" were deemed original, and merges with the doctrine of property prevalent at the time.[25]

Authorship and creativity

Such groups see copyright law as preventing or slowing human progress. They argue that the current copyright system needs to be brought into line with reality and the needs of society. Hipatia argues that this would "provide the ethical principles which allow the individual to spread his/her knowledge, to help him/herself, to help his/her community and the whole world, with the aim of making society ever more free, more equal, more sustainable, and with greater solidarity."[24]

Groups such as Hipatia advance anti-copyright arguments in the name of "freedom of knowledge" and argue that knowledge should be "shared in solidarity". Such groups may perceive "freedom of knowledge" as a right, and/or as fundamental in realising the right to education, which is an internationally recognised human right, as well as the right to a free culture and the right to free communication. They argue that current copyright law hinders the realisation of these rights in today's knowledge societies relying on new technological means of communication.[24]

"Free Beer" demonstrator supporting the "freedom of knowledge" idea: "Copyright is preventing access to knowledge" (2007).

Freedom of knowledge

Cultural arguments

Fleischer's central argument is that copyright has become obsolete with regards to the Internet, that the cost of trying to enforce it is unreasonable, and that instead business models need to adapt to the reality of the darknet.[23]

One of the founders of Piratbyrån, Rasmus Fleischer, argues that copyright law simply seems unable to cope with the Internet, and hence is obsolete. He argues that the Internet, and particularly Web 2.0 have brought about the uncertain status of the very idea of "stealing" itself. He argues that in an attempt to rein in Web 2.0, copyright law in the 21st century is increasingly concerned with criminalising entire technologies, leading to recent attacks on different kinds of search engines, solely because they provide links to files which may be copyrighted. Fleischer points out that Google, while still largely uncontested, operates in a gray zone of copyright (e.g. the business model of Google Books is to display millions of pages of copyrighted and uncopyrighted books as part of a business plan drawing its revenue from advertising). In contrast, others have pointed out that Google Books blocks-out large sections of those same books, which motivates purchases, and supports the legitimate interests of rightsholders.

Information technology related concerns

It is entirely unclear that copyright laws are economically useful, even for the majority of authors. Thus Höffner compared the economic effects copyright law had on authors and publishing in the United Kingdom to those in Germany in the first part of the nineteenth century when in Germany such laws had not been instituted, and found that more books were printed and read in Germany where authors, in general, also made more money.[22]

Historical comparison

There is an argument that copyright is invalid because, unlike physical property, intellectual property is not scarce and is a legal fiction created by the state. That is, infringing on copyright, unlike theft, does not deprive the victim of the original item, and so enforcement of copyright law constitutes aggression on the part of the state.[21]


"The evolution of copyright from an occasional grant of royal privilege to a formal and eventually widespread system of law should in principle have enhanced composers' income from publication. The evidence from our quantitative comparison of honoraria received by Beethoven, with no copyright law in his territory, and Robert Schumann, benefiting from nearly universal European copyright, provides at best questionable support for the hypothesis that copyright fundamentally changed composers' fortunes. From the qualitative evidence on Giuseppe Verdi, who was the first important composer to experience the new Italian copyright regime and devise strategies to derive maximum advantage, it is clear that copyright could make a substantial difference. In the case of Verdi, greater remuneration through full exploitation of the copyright system led perceptibly to a lessening of composing effort." [20]

Copyright results in a weaker incentive at creativity

Economic arguments against copyright

Traditional anarchists, such as Leo Tolstoy, expressed their refusal to accept copyright.[19]

. Siva Vaidhyanathan, and Stephan Kinsella [18],Rasmus Fleischer [17]

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.