Copyright, Part II

I think maybe one of the reasons I don’t see eye-to-eye with other people about copyright is that I don’t see copyright as protecting something that is morally mine.  Yes, I wrote my book.  Yes, I sweated blood over it.  But I wouldn’t have been able to write the book I did if I hadn’t read so voraciously, and the books I read shaped me.  It’s kind of a gestalt peer-review process of fiction: the writer I am stands on the shoulders of the writers I have read.

And so I see copyright as a way to help authors make enough money so that they can write a little bit more (or, um, promote her book so that anyone reads it at all).  It’s not a moral thing; it’s a manners thing.  (Not plagiarism, though–plagiarism and copyright infringement are distinct, and plagiarism is morally abhorrent.)

I’m not sure this makes any sense, but I see copyright as kind of my bargain with society:  You guys recognize that I did something cool, and when I’m done with my toys over here, I’ll pack them up in a nice box and let everyone else play with them.  That’s it.  Copyright infringement, in my mind, is like taking a soccer ball from someone else on the playground–if someone else took possession of the ball first, they should get to use it first that recess.  Taking the ball away from someone who claimed it first is a complete asshole move–but it’s not the same thing as stealing.  It’s just being an asshole.

Copyright, like a soccer ball at recess, has a time limit.

I recognize that this is a minority view.