You know what’s a silly concept? Intellectual property rights. You create something, it goes out into the world, and if somebody wants to use it, they have to give you money. Seems harmless enough, but imagine if all the work a brilliant scientist did on cancer research was copyrighted. Not only would all pharmaceuticals and therapies derived from that research cost extra money for the royalties for that scientist, but any further research on cancer would have a similar financial barrier.

Say there’s another brilliant scientist further down the road, who, if they had access to this research, would be able to cure cancer. Everyone loves curing cancer; that’s why we all wear pink and grow ridiculous mustaches. Who wouldn’t want those irritating trends to be a thing of the past? And I guess a deadly illness would be gone too. However, with copyright, this brilliant scientist would have to cough up any and all royalties before they could even begin. What if this genius doesn’t have those funds? If there is an inherent initial obstacle that must be overcome for any additional research to be done on curing cancer, potentially preventing a groundbreaking boon to society, then we have a deficient system.

Any progress-minded individual would agree that any technology, be it medical or otherwise, should not be stymied by something as petty as money. Ethical reasons, maybe, but that ship has sailed long ago. If we want our society to improve, then removing barriers to those improvements should be a top priority. Tesla Motors, for example, recognized that the more people working on electric cars, the better off society will be, and put all their patents into the public domain.

Just as with technology, culture too is degraded by copyright. Arguably the greatest rock and roll band of all time, Led Zeppelin,  “stole” a solid percentage of their music. Johnny Cash may have stolen a song or two as well. As did The Beach Boys, Elvis Presley… Now, I’m not making a moral judgement about proper crediting, and I don’t want to get into white people stealing music from black people, but I will say this: the songs that Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, and Elvis produced were wildly successful because they were great songs. Taurus by Spirit is a good song, sure, but Stairway to Heaven is the best song. Ice Ice Baby is probably not a better song than Under Pressure, but they can’t all be winners. There will always be bad with the good. Do we eliminate Stairway to Heaven simply to prevent Ice Ice Baby?

Art can move us and inspire us. It can create a revolution or end one. Art motivates us politically, socially, and even artistically, and following the same logic as technological copyright, it is absurd to place a barrier on something that can drive us forward. What if Johnny Cash couldn’t afford the rights to Crescent City Blues? Walk Hard taught me that he was a poor country boy; it’s not an impossible idea. My childhood would be a lot different if I didn’t have my dad singing me old Johnny Cash tunes.

Of course, even beyond the pointless concept of copyright laws, within capitalism copyright get super capitalistic. In Canada, copyright extends for the entirety of your life, and then 50 years after that because we all know how much your grotesque, decomposing corpse needs pocket change. In the US, it’s 70 years after you die. If the purpose of copyright is to protect the creator’s rights, why does it extend past the very existence of those creators? John Oliver has his own critique of patents and their ridiculous cash-grab nature, wherein he discusses organizations that exist solely to purchase patents, and then sue the shit out of people. They don’t actually create anything, they just possess wealth and then use that wealth to fuck people over in an effort to accumulate more wealth.

So is the answer to abolish copyright and get rid of this detriment to human society? Unfortunately, no.

When creating something, it takes time and money. If the product of that creativity is given away for free, or pirated, or whatever, then that time and money is gone with nothing tangible to show for it. Which would be fine from a collective, short-term standpoint, sure, but that individual is now fucked. And if creative people are routinely fucked, we will eventually run out of creative people. If Gordon Jenkins didn’t get recompense from Johnny Cash, there might not be more Gordon Jenkinses in the future, and if there are no more Gordon Jenkinses, there would be no more Johnny Cashes.

So long as money is required to live a normal life, we need copyright laws to protect the labour of creative individuals even if the entire concept of copyright is insane. So long as capitalism exists, we need pointless laws to function. It’s almost like I’m driving at something here…

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