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Re: [affs-project] Re: [Fsfe-uk] Re: APIG inital report

From: Chris Croughton
Subject: Re: [affs-project] Re: [Fsfe-uk] Re: APIG inital report
Date: Fri, 24 Feb 2006 08:01:17 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.28i

On Thu, Feb 23, 2006 at 12:49:53AM +0000, Graham Seaman wrote:
> Alex Hudson wrote:
> >On Wed, 2006-02-22 at 23:10 +0000, MJ Ray wrote:
> >
> >>If you are the copyright holder or sole licensee of the holder
> >>(a common situation created by publication contracts), then
> >>you have a 100% market share and can pick and choose who can
> >>enter the market in that copyrighted work. Were it not exempt,
> >>most copyright licences seem be right up there among the worst
> >>anti-competitive practices. How is that not a monopoly?
> >
> >Well, it's a monopoly in a colloquial sense - we're talking about
> >exclusive control of something - but not in a economic sense. It's not
> >control of a market, it's control of supply of a particular product in
> >a market. 
> >
> It's refusal to allow a market to be created. There is a market in (for 
> example) the works of William Morris, which are no longer under 
> copyright. You can buy (expensive but well produced) copies of his works 
> printed by the William Morris society, or if you prefer you can buy 
> (nearly as expensive but trendier) print-on-demand copies through 
> Amazon, or you can buy cheap paperbacks of his fantasy works; there is 
> also a secondary market in (cheap but often tatty) second hand copies 
> printed in his lifetime, or incredibly expensive  copies hand made by 
> the man himself. There is no such primary market in  recent works (as MJ 
> says, if you want to get a book printed you normally have to give 
> exclusive printing rights to one publisher),

That's not really true now, there are a lot of authors who self-publish
and/or web-publish, particularly if the major publishers aren't willing
to buy the books.  Since the traditional book publishers can only afford
to publish a small fraction of the books submitted to them (I don't know
the exact proportion but I'd be surprised if it were over 1%), on volume
grounds if nothing else, they have to make as much profit as possible on
each of the ones they do publish, and that means writing in exclusive
terms.  If you don't like the terms you are free to go elsewhere, and
these days there is an 'elsewhere', there are a number of PoD and small
presses which will publish virtually anything (and with PoD there is no
problem with a minimum 'run' to break even, and since they are supplied
print-ready electronic copy (usually PDF) their costs are minimised;
they do lack the economies of scale which balances it out).

But even with the traditional publishers the 'monopoly' rights tend to
now have built-in limits, so that if they cease printing the book and
have no intention of reprinting the rights revert and can be sold
elsewhere, and in other cases they are only exclusive for one form
(hardcover by one publisher, paperback by another, for instance).

> and some copyright based 
> licenses even rule out the secondary market. Profits made in this 
> situation are called 'monopoly rents' by economists; this is the normal 
> technical term for it, and doesn't necessarily imply criticism.

If an author wants to impose that, it is their choice.  They can invoke
the alternative (as the GPL does) that if you don't like it you don't
get to read it at all (and they don't have to write it either), if they
want to limit their income that way it's their business.

> >As with most things, it's a balance - control of a market is seen as a
> >bad thing, control of the fruits of your own labour is seen as a good
> >thing. There is a continuum there, but labelling copyright as a monopoly
> >on your own labour isn't going to convince many, I don't think.
> >
> I think MJ is following normal usage: google for 'copyright grant of 
> monopoly' and see how many references you get. I don't think we should 
> surrender the long standing definition of copyright as a temporary grant 
> of monopoly so easily.

Copyright is not a grant of monopoly, intrinsically.  It can be used as
such, if the copyright holder so wishes, but it is literally the right
of controlling who is permitted to make copies (and how much they pay
for that permission).

> The question is the length and completeness of 
> the monopoly that can be justified for the claimed aim of motivating 
> producers, and now in addition the costs to users imposed by technical 
> measures intended to enforce the monopoly.

The problem is the length of copyright these days, 70 years after the
person's death is ridiculous especially since those in control of it
often act against the author's wishes (either witholding permissions or
publishing work which the author expressly did not want published --
examples E.E.(Doc) Smith and JRR Tolkien respecively).  Most people
would have no problems with copyright being limited to the lifetime of
the author, possibly with a minimum period (like 10 years) in case the
author dies immediately after producing the work, which would ensure
that the author gets to say how their work may be used and gets to make
an income from it (if they can't make a living you won't get the work).

Chris C

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