Canadian Copyright Consultation submission from Tucows and David Weinberger

Canada's copyright consultations are rapidly drawing to a close (you still have time to get your comments in) and the excellent folks at Canadian Internet giant Tucows (who also own Domain Direct and other tech businesses) have hired David Weinberger (author of Everything is Miscellaneous, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, and co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto) to write a plain-language, brilliantly argued submission. Weinberger explains how moderate copyright is better for creativity than the pervasive system favored by the American entertainment cartel.
Even within any one class of incentive, the effect of money on creativity is rarely a straight line. Mordechai Richler would not have written four times as many books if his advances had been four times larger. The Guess Who might be tempted to release more recycled compilations if you pay them enough money, but their songs would not have gotten 1% better for every 1% their revenues went up. Thus, while copyright may provide a financial incentive that enables many creators to create, stronger copyright that results in more money does not necessarily result in more creativity.

In fact, how long would it take you to list the bands that have gotten worse as they've gotten richer?

For the most important creative cultural works, money is an enabler but not the reason the person is putting pen to paper, chisel to stone, or camcorder to eye socket. There are so many other reasons people create -- from G-d whispering to them, to a neurological itch that can't otherwise be scratched, to wanting to get laid. Copyright could do its job -- facilitate an innovative, sustainable culture -- if it aimed merely at enabling creators to create, rather than thinking that the creativity-to-financial-reward curve is a straight line angled at 45 degrees.

Now, there would be no problem with setting up a system of laws that overemphasizes the financial incentives for creators if that system had no other effects. But it does, especially now that culture and economics have slipped the bonds of the old physics. Even if we devised a copyright law that provided the absolutely right amount of incentive for every creator to keep on creating, it takes more than motivated creators to build a creative, innovative culture.

It takes culture. It takes culture to build culture.

Copyright's Creative Disincentive (Thanks, Elliot!)



  1. Hear Hear! Beautifully argued. Usable around the world, level headed and thankfully sparing us any preaching-style arguments. Well Done.

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