Charles Johnson (aka Rad Geek) has a great sally against copyright up at his site (see below). Johnson, like most of the libertarian left (along with the Austrians and anarchos), has been consistently great on IP for a long time now (unlike the minarchists, Randians and utilitarians). E.g. see his “Patents Kill” (I) and “Patents Kill“ (II), and “Libertarians for Protectionism” (1, 2, 3). In this notice he explains that he used to try to use “copyleft” but he now declares that the content on his site is “free content”. He has had enough of trying to issue licenses under the current statist copyright system.
I hear him. I put a CC-BY notice on my own site, and on Libertarian Papers, and on a group blog I participate in, The Libertarian Standard. That means that anyone is free to use the content as long as they give attribution. This is the least restrictive of the CC licenses—I don’t like -ND or -SA or -NC. Why? ND means no derivative works are permitted. Screw that. SA means copyleft or share-alike; it means you can’t use my copyrighted work unless you slap a -SA prohibition on it. This means your article could not be put into an anthology published by a normal publisher, which uses normal copyright terms. Why restrict ideas? Let them include my article as a chapter in their book if they want. And NC is non-commercial. What is wrong with someone making a profit? And anyway, what is commercial? If I have a site like this one which has some google ads, and I get more traffic from more hits, and I get more hits because I have better (sometimes reposted) content, then I am making a profit from the reproduction of others’ works. Is that “commercial”? I dunno. Who knows? The gubmint courts? Johnson says “you don’t need to ask permission.” I’m afraid this might be wrong. Some people do need to ask permission, because the copyright holder has the right to deny it. Making an informal statement on a website that “you don’t need my permission” doesn’t change this positive legal fact, as far as I can tell.
I use CC-BY because it is better than the others, as I explain in Copyright is very sticky! Why not just “disclaim” copyright, or use CC0, or public domain? Because there is no way to do this. You can’t disclaim it any more than you can disclaim your positive legal right to sue someone for gender discrimination You can use CC0 but it is cumbersome and not sure to be enforceable; copyright is inalienable, you see. You can say it’s “public domain” but this is a lie; public domain refers to works that were once in copyright protection but whose terms have finally, mercifully, lapsed (for a novel written today that will happen around the year 2100 or later; I am not joking). The law gives us no means to just “make” our works CC0 or “free content” by some decree. Unfortunately. So I applaud RadGeek for his efforts, but copyright still ensnares even his works.
All of the original work on this website is free content. It’s free content because I am against copyright, and indeed all forms of so-calledintellectual property.Copying is not theft, and when you reprint, duplicate or imitate you don’t deprive anyone of the work or the ideas that they had. If you like it, or you’re interested by it, or you want to single it out for mockery, you can feature it on your web page, you can print it in your newsletter, you can hang a copy on a bar wall and throw darts at it. If you do any of that, I’d love to hear about what you’re doing, but you don’t need to ask permission. Copy, reprint, translate, make derivative works as you please. If you want to support the work, you can do that. But anyone found copying the content on these pages without permission, will be a real good friend of mine.* * *
Several years ago, when I first put this website together, I dealt with these issues by means ofcopyleftingnotices and policy statements intended to make my writing freely available through a Creative Commons license. If you want to reprint this stuff under a Creative Commons license, you can still do that, all you want. But I don’t care anymore. It’s not enough to try to kludge the legalities of copy-monopolies from within. So-calledintellectual propertyis in fact nothing more than a legally fabricated monopoly, suppressing competition and emulation, constraining creativity, confining culture, science and technology to captive, capitalist-dominated markets, and violently depriving many of the poorest and most marginalized from access to critical resources for education and life-saving medicines. The legal fictions of copyright and patent are despotic attempts to monopolize the human mind; power-psychotic burdens crippling and destroying individual ownership and the progress of grassroots culture and technologies; outrageous constraints on human intelligence and creativity; and a destructive and desperate protectionist scheme for the profit of powerful corporations. This web project is, in spirit and in letter, at war with every aspect of Intellectual Protectionism, in its principles — of monopolizing power, entitlement, social control and economic privilege — and in its operation — through increasingly invasive government policing and legal coercion — and in the disastrous global effects of patent and copyright restrictions.
This machine kills intellectual monopolists.
- Roderick Long (2003), Thoughtcrime
- Kevin Carson (2009), How ‘Intellectual Property’ Impedes Competition
- Charles Johnson (2005), Libertarians for Protectionism, Appendix A (2006), Appendix B (2009)
- Charles Johnson (2005), Patents kill, Part II (2005)
- Charles Johnson (2009) Countereconomic Optimism
- —Rad Geek