It's Mine! All Mine!
Take it! It's Yours!
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.

On the one hand, I feel strongly that people who have enough talent to try to make a viable living by creating things like songs and stories really should be able to claim ownership of the things that they produce, and be able to sell said product on an open market at a price that will support a decent lifestyle.

On the other hand, it seems odd that anybody could make millions or even hundreds of millions by selling a pattern of sounds in the air or marks on paper, and fairly absurd that copyright protection extends so far now, thanks to lobbying by corporations like Disney, that it’s hard not to outlive your creations’ eventual free use in the public domain. On a similar note, does anyone really deserve to make millions playing ball, or doing anything else, for that matter? Obviously, it all just comes down to business – and the music business is big business. So is the movie industry, so is television, so is publishing, and so is sports. If you can get enough hype going to get a million people to tune in to your show, line up at the box office, click over to Amazon, or pay for an ad slot, then I guess you ought to be able to collect whatever that market will bear for as long as you can. If P.T. Barnum’s suckers are still being born every minute, then let’s wean them on whatever pablum’s comin’ down the pipe and keep working at them until we bleed them dry.

At the other extreme, though, you’ve got someone like Seth Godin giving away Unleashing the Idea Virus as an e-book and generating enough of an idea virus about what he was up to that he had to go print some real books so he could sell them on Amazon. I saw him speak at the Audio Publishers Association convention at Book Expo America in New York last summer about how clever he was and what a great idea he had, but I can guarantee you that it was only a great idea because it was so unique – if everyone starts giving everything away, or if everyone just starts taking stuff that isn’t theirs, then ain’t nobody gonna be makin’ any money, folks.

I guess when you’re faced with what seems like an ethical dilemma, you have to go back to the basics, like the golden rule. If I was trying to make a living and support a family by publishing books or music, I’d expect to get what’s coming to me, so I try to make sure that if I’m enjoying someone else’s efforts, I pay for my ticket.

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