As it becomes harder and harder to attack the logic of the CwF+RtB business model, I’ve seen a lot more people reaching for a kind of compromise or balance option. It goes something like, “Okay, I see how this model can work, but it should be the creator’s choice whether or not they use it.” Such an argument implies that copyright or other forms of imaginary property should continue to be strictly enforced, even as smart creators embrace new business models. While it may sound reasonable, such an idea is flawed both on principle and in practice, highlighting why there can be no compromise while permitting the strict enforcement of copyright and other forms of imaginary property.
Failing on Principle
Simply put, a creator’s wish to have a right to choice what business model to use infringes on individual rights, reducing them or taking them away for the sole benefit of the creator. Creators are not more important than “the rest of us;” they do not get the ability to supersede individual rights because doing so makes it easier for them to make money. The public has a natural right to copy what they enjoy and share it with others, or to do what they wish with what they have purchased, like hardware. Creators certainly can choose whatever business model they wish, but they do not get the choice to invade the lives of others (physically or digitally) to ensure optimal working conditions for that model. As a result, business models based around the selling of copies are less likely to do well in practice.
Failing on Practicality
Even if one couldn’t care less about natural rights and whether or not creators should be able to control what is done with their work, the ideas of imaginary property fail on a practical level. Allowing it to exist and be enforced actually affects the ability of creators to create and share what they have done under any sort of model. People should be able to invent, create, and discover without having to worry about imaginary property thugs breaking down their door merely because they independently solved a problem in a similar way to somebody else, their album cover looks too much like a defunct logo, or because somebody thinks they own a word.
The Two Cannot Mix
Unfortunately for those who continue to cling to IP monopolies for their business, such a model is doomed in today’s world. Not only does it unethically attempt to abridge the rights of individuals, it creates a hostile environment for creativity. Even those who wish to encourage the sharing of their work are forced tiptoe around the minefield IP creates. Creators are certainly free to choose whatever business model they like, including one based around the enforcement of IP. However, they are not guaranteed a world in which this model works. A decade’s worth of law-passing and enforcement strategies has done nothing to return us to a world where selling copies (and nothing else) makes sense. It’s time to move on and look for strategies that work now, not in a fictional future world custom-tailored to optimize a legacy business model.
Ultimately, the choice creators have is whether or not to create something and share it with others, a decision that should be made with the knowledge that by contributing to culture, others will enjoy, share, and build upon what they have done. The toxic idea that somebody has infinite control over something they create serves only to stifle creativity and deny individuals access to the very culture they experience every day.