Here's a nice piece on the subject by John Ringo (a scifi author) A friend asked me for my take on intellectual property rights and the internet. This was a quick mail I posted and thought people might want to see. There are two types of copyright, individual and corporate. Many of the founding fathers of America were in the intellectual properties field. Thomas Jefferson was a writer as well as, most notably, Ben Franklin. They felt that a sixteen year copyright was appropriate, but that was based on that day human lifespans. At the time, European guilds held the sort of "eternal copyright" that is now becoming the norm with corporate copyright. The founding fathers were thoroughly against "eternal copyright" and so am I. Arguably, there should be no such thing as "corporate copyright." An individual, Walt Disney in the case of Mickey Mouse, creates intellectual property. A corporation has no intellect. It has individuals with intellect. The creator is the individual and to them should the associated value be assigned. They may trade their thoughts to a corporation for a limited time period, but the corporation cannot create and should not be permitted to "own" such intellectual property. Arguably, based on changes in life-span, copyright should be assigned to approximately the life of the artist and perhaps twenty to thirty years beyond. Copyright should be assigned to an individual who may or may not turn over "lifetime rights" to that property. But corporations should not be permitted, as they currently appear to be, to eternally extend copyright by getting "twenty year extensions" for the life of the corporation. This locks up intellectual value eternally, preventing growth in those respective areas. The same, by the way, could be said for, is more important in, patents. As to intellectual property and the internet, the internet and IT in general, creates a situation where new creation is the only fixed value. There has been proven, however, to be a "real market value" to intellectual property. I get almost all my songs from places like iTunes and MSN Music. (Especially the latter, more on that.) Most people find a real value in an easily sought piece of music that costs a buck. Many people continue to "pirate" but the majority of those people do not appear to be a "real market." They'll go on share sites and download everything available, just for the thrill of getting so much "property" for nothing. Most "real market" persons, persons with disposable income, are willing to pay for their property. If you don't have the sense to buy the shit, you probably don't have a real job, anyway. Baen has found "real market values" for its internet releases by the simple process of asking, online, what people are willing to pay. And when someone goes on the share sites, such as alt.ebook, and say "Hey, does anyone have the next John Ringo novel?" the response is "It costs five bucks. Pay the artist." Part of that is also that Baen has adjusted much higher royalties to the online books and makes an issue about it. If people knew that the artist, Britney Spears for instance, got a fair royalty off of the songs they'd be much happier about paying. NObody wants to pay a company like Columbia or Sony 99% of the money. Nobody has a personal attachment to Sony except Sony share-holders. When the CEOs and share-holders finally realize that, things will loosen up quite a bit. And the companies will start making more money, not less. About iTunes vs MSN music. Currently iTunes dominates the market but I give them another five years. Apple has made the same mistake they always make. In iTunes you can only download in a very restrictive format. iPods want that format and are balky about others. Restrictive format is a form of cost. Make it easy to use and they will come. Hugely restrictive formats, combined with stupid price pointing, of ebooks is one of the reasons that ebooks have never taken off in the general market. As more and more songs become available in less restrictive formats, such as Windows Media, I would expect iTunes share to begin falling. As usual, Apple has taken the restrictive line, Windows the less restrictive line and eventually I see Windows burying them. So the secret to intellectual property management on the internet is "go with the flow." Feed the market and don't be stupidly greedy. Price point where people are willing to pay for the property rather than steal it. If bread was a hundred dollars a loaf, people would steal more bread. (One of the reasons that bread used to be stolen, by the way. The cost was equivalent during famines.) Make the format easily accessible. Forget about trying to overcontrol; it's too easy to steal to bother. For God's sake, you could download Half-Blood Prince off alt-ebooks before it was available in paper in the US! There is no way to control intellectual property on the internet. Corporations, though, want utter control. As one person puts it, "they'd like to control what you're permitted to write in an email, much less what you can read that they've printed." As more and more secondary markets open on the internet, the corporations will be forced to either go with the flow or fail utterly. The third choice is something like 1984, where there's a program on your computer that automatically informs the FBI when you "steal" something. Such as quoting Steve Jobs' last speech. That is what corporations (and, alas, many authors) want. People like that are idiots. They think that by putting more and more restrictions on stuff they can somehow make more money when every single similar market experiment (going back to Sony's Beta system) shows that they're wrong. I especially hate SF authors that think they can fight the wave. It's a big wave and you can ride it, you can let it leave you behind or you fight it. In which case it will bury your ass. I prefer to ride. John Ringo Feel free to distribute this as you wish. I'd say I want credit, and this is copyright John Ringo, 2006 and all that. But having seen stuff miscredited 90% of the time on the internet, I'm sure I'll get an email giving Ben Stein credit within a week. And two weeks after that I'll be informed that it was said by the former Delta Force operative Mister Rogers.