Last week, I was asked by someone to summarize the very complicated legal activity around copyright over the last decade or so. I gave it my best shot, but with the cavaet that copyright's very complexity is part of the challenge artist-rights activists have in fighting against the false populism of an anti-copyright campaign that drapes itself in a flag of consumer "freedom" every chance it gets. Simplistic concepts sell well. Nuance and complexity, not so much.
As part of my answer, I summarized what I believe, at its core, copyright means to professional creation. Here's what I said:
"If you create it, you own it. If someone wants to use what you own, there needs to be a discussion. That’s the whole basis of copyright."
"It doesn’t mean nothing’s free or available; it means there needs to be a discussion."
"Removing or severely weakening copyright means there are no discussions, which means you actually don’t own what you create. If you don’t own what you create, you have no legal protection as a professional."
On the weekend, still noodling the idea of a simple summary of copyright, I tweeted a short passage from "This is My Country, What's Yours?: A Literary Atlas of Canada," by Noah Richler, that I felt helped illustrate my point.
My tweets were retweeted among folks who value copyright, and then I received this curious question from an academic in Finland - "What's an attack on copyright? Other legal concepts do develop and evolve? Has cultural history ended?"
In my long history of discussing copyright on the Internet, I've become used to this kind of voluntary blindness. "I'm not attacking your rights; I'm merely questioning whether or not they actually need to exist." Etc. So, I responded.
Which led to a longer discussion. My new twitter friend expressed concern that the debate over copyright is so polarized.