Controlling copies isn't necessarily part of an artist's livelihood, but getting them accurately attributed is

Danny O'Brien's new essay "Copyright, Fraud and Window Taxes (No, not that Windows)" makes a really good point about the way that people view copying on the Internet: copying is a ho-hum, every day thing (after all, in order for you to read these words, they had to be copied dozens, if not hundreds, of times) but "passing off" (plagiarism, fraud) is more frowned-upon than ever.

Copying is important in the process of creative remuneration, I feel, because it used to be an excellent tapping point from which to extract value and distribute it back to the creator. Copying cost money, and the only reason you'd do it would be to sell the produced copy for cash. Therefore, it was a perfect statutory location to place a money-pipe back to the artist. Matters blurred when radio broadcasts and performance rights came along, but fortunately the term "copying" could still be stretched to cover these events without anyone feeling too uncomfortable. It always took money and effort to make a copy: costs that you'd almost always only pursue for commercial gain.

In a digital world, many people don't see the act of copying as a particularly momentous or profitable event. Copying isn't what we do as an act of purchasing; copying is a thing we do to our valuable artifacts. People are scandalised when its suggested that you should pay for a copy copied to backup drives, or iPods; they're amazed when vested interests demand that cached copies or transitory files should count as extra purchases. Copying is no longer a good proxy for incoming revenue; which means it is no longer a good place to extract remuneration…

Nowadays, copying isn't always the core part of remunerative creative business. But accurate accreditation very much is.

I'm reminded of the fact that the original Creative Commons license allowed creators to choose whether they wanted their works attributed to them or not, but after a year or two, it was discovered that nearly every CC user turned the attribution switch on while generating the license — everyone wanted correct attribution, even when they were giving away free copies.

Copyright, Fraud and Window Taxes (No, not that Windows)