Imagine no possessions

As I alluded to previously, YouTube is cracking down on videos that use copyrighted tracks. This has led to some backlash. Rick Hodgin at TGDaily posed the question, “What if intellectual property laws were rolled back – so there were no copyrights, patents, or digital rights management (DRM) software?”

In discussing the upside of this ideal, Hodgin paints the same picture as John Lennon’s “Imagine“: “Imagine all the people / sharing all the world.” The problem is that taking away the financial incentive for creativity will, because of human nature, reduce the number of people who attempt to be creative. And where financial interests are concerned, a no-intellectual-property policy favors those with money. Hodgin illustrates this with a flawed example:

“Suppose you’re into model airplanes and would like to build and sell those craft for a living, but don’t know as much as you should about design? Why not take someone else’s design, copy it and sell it? They have just as much opportunity to sell it as you do.”

In this scenario, the “Big Corporation” is more likely to be the party that takes someone else’s design, copies it, and sells it. An independent engineer may come up with a good design, but may could not finance mass production as easily as Boeing or some Lockheed-Martin.

There are reasons that companies who own the rights to music should want their music to appear – even unlicensed – on YouTube. And there are many creative ways that music is used.

You can’t force someone to give up his or her property for others to use, even if it’s in the owner’s best interest. (Well, sometimes you can, but you shouldn’t be able to.) The good news, though, is that an owner’s best interest is usually a good enough selling point. It’s happening in the music world, where companies like Amazon and eMusic have become extraordinarily successful selling DRM-free music. Even Apple’s iTunes – for years a symbol of limiting the use of downloaded music – has relaxed its DRM policies.

So it’s that financial incentive for creativity which will spur more creativity for distribution – which, in the digital world, will eventually mean more materials available for wider use.

Imagine that. I wonder if you can.

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