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Make Piracy Obsolete: The Payright System

Make Piracy Obsolete: The Payright System

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Published by Zacqary Adam Green
Copyrights, patents, and trademarks are clashing with freedom of expression and online privacy, all while not actually doing their job of promoting the progress of science and the arts. Erik Zoltán of the Massachusetts Pirate Party explains how we can fix all of these problems with a system called Payright: it's not the right to copy, it's the right to be paid.
Copyrights, patents, and trademarks are clashing with freedom of expression and online privacy, all while not actually doing their job of promoting the progress of science and the arts. Erik Zoltán of the Massachusetts Pirate Party explains how we can fix all of these problems with a system called Payright: it's not the right to copy, it's the right to be paid.

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Published by: Zacqary Adam Green on Nov 18, 2012
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Make Piracy Obsolete: ThePayright System
Primary Author: Erik Zoltán, Massachusetts Pirate PartyContributing Editor: Zacqary Adam Green, New York Pirate Party
This document contains a specific policy proposal designed to address the concerns of the Pirate Party regarding copyright, patent and trademark law. At the same time, it is designedto address the concerns of inventors, artists, musicians, filmmakers and businesses regardingthe Pirate Party's ideas about open culture. My goal here is to show how we will end piracyforever by making it obsolete - we will ensure that creators and inventors are paid for the freeand open exchange of their work and inventions. This will not prevent downloading, nor will itimpose fees - it is a comprehensive way to allow open culture and ensure that the creators arepaid for their work.In brief, the concept is to create an open culture where inventions and works can beexchanged freely and without limitation, while also guaranteeing that innovators and contentcreators will be paid a fair price for their works and inventions. It provides an open frameworkwhere anyone can make money by selling anyone else's works and inventions, and yet at thesame time where the creator of those works or inventions will receive a kind of payment thatcompares very favorably with the sort of payment that they could expect today under the “closedculture” of intellectual property monopoly.The policy allows anyone to exchange works and inventions non-commercially for free,at the same time that it contains funding provisions which would guarantee that content creatorsand innovators would receive ample payment for non-commercial use of their work. (This maysound contradictory, because the conventional wisdom is that these two things can’t possiblycoexist.) At the end of this document I will discuss possible objections to this proposal, legalchallenges, privacy issues and how we plan to implement these ideas.
What’s in a Name?
Throughout the document I will use the term “creator” to describe artists, musicians,writers, filmmakers, software developers, businesses and others who create a work or whootherwise own the rights to it. I will use the term “inventor” to describe anyone who comes up
with a new device, process or algorithm that is protected under the system being proposedhere, regardless of what form that invention takes.Payright LogoThis document describes a concept called “payright” that will replace both copyright andpatents. The payright logo will be used on protected materials. It is shown above, and the ideabehind the payright logo is shown below.The payright logo is a fusion of the paragraph symbol representing creative work, thecopyright logo representing protection for creators,and the Pirate Party logo representing openculture. The system described in this document is an attempt to exponentially increase theamount of money that creators and inventors are currently earning, to lower the barrier of entryto creative people and inventors, and to dramatically reduce costs for consumers by endingprice gouging and introducing market pricing determined by supply and demand. It will create arenaissance of open sharing of existing inventions and creative work, together with an explosionof new creativity and inventions. And those new ideas will receive the widest possibledistribution.In order to explain the benefits of this system, let’s start with some of the weaknesses of the current system that I am proposing to replace.
Whirlwind Critique of Intellectual Property
 A comprehensive criticism of intellectual property would be an entire full-size work untoitself. I can’t do it justice in a few short pages. Nonetheless, it’s important to at least refer tosome of the problems we are trying to solve, before describing the solution in detail.Intellectual Property has been mis-defined as a monopoly in which the term “rightsholder” applies only to the individual or corporation who owns the copyright of a work or thepatent on an invention, and not to the rest of the members of society who want to exercise their rights to privacy and free expression.The current intellectual property formulation directly contradicts the US Constitution’sFirst Amendment which guarantees free speech. A person can’t freely say whatever they want if to do so might directly or indirectly compromise someone else’s intellectual property rights. Thisis a big problem especially because those property rights have been defined in a very broad andextremely vague way. Restrictions on privacy also have this same effect, by allowing people’sprivate communications to be spied on without cause or due process. This proposal will address
those problems from both a free speech and a privacy perspective, because it will create anopen culture of unrestricted speech where privacy is completely protected.Copyright is intended to guarantee that creative people can be paid for their work, andpatents are meant to ensure that inventors can do the same. Copyright and patents givecreators and inventors exclusive rights to their own works. Copyright trolls and patent trolls arecompanies that buy up cheap copyrights and patents with no intent of promoting them other than to sue a lot of people for supposed intellectual property violations.The patent system drastically reduces innovation by allowing patent holders to “shelve”their inventions so that no one can use them, or to prevent others from building upon their inventions if they so choose. Patent trolls alone have cost the economy half a trillion dollars inlawsuits. (This effect is well-documented:http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2091210and http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2011/09/study-patent-trolls-have- cost-innovators-half-a-trillion-bucks/are examples.) Add to this half-trillion the costs of "legitimate" patent lawsuits, and factor in the substantial additional costs to companies struck bysuch suits. These costs are passed onto their customers.Patents are so vague and expensive to litigate that it is impossible to quantify theamount of “missing innovation,” which I would define as the amount of innovation that did notoccur because of the fear of patent lawsuits, or because of the need to do expensive legal workbefore a new idea can be shared and promoted.Copyright is also a monopoly right: the copyright holder has the ability to prevent anyonefrom selling their work,creating derivative works, or using their work non-commercially. Thismonopoly right frequently extends for over a century before the work falls into the publicdomain. This is such a long time that many “orphan” works have fallen into disuse because it isno longer possible to determine who, if anyone, still owns the copyright. If the monopoly aspectof copyright could be removed but the authors were still paid as much or more for their work,then the result would be to open the floodgates to an outburst of new creativity and neweconomic activity.Trademark is intended to protect a corporation's name from false usage, so that I can'tsell my own cheap automobiles using the name of a famous luxury automaker. Unfortunately,itis also used to prevent innovation. For example,a movie maker can trademark the name of acharacter and prevent anyone else from writing any new works that contain the same character.This is one of many factors that together have a devastating effect on fan fiction. Once again,it's impossible to count the losses to the economy because you can't count missing innovationor missing creativity. By definition, you can’t count something when it’s not there. A recent study shows that the rapid economic growth in Germany in the 19th Centurymay be largely due to the absence of copyright:http://t.co/PZ1igMZw  At a TED Talk in 2010, Dr. Johanna Blakley made the point that some industries havebeen denied these intellectual property (IP) protections by the Supreme Court.Those sameindustries are actually earning more money than industries which rely heavily on IP protection.(http://www.ted.com/talks/johanna_blakley_lessons_from_fashion_s_free_culture.html).This outstanding talk has a lot to say about how open culture would work and whycreative people needn’t feel threatened by it. A critical diagram from the talk is shown below,and is used by permission of Dr. Blakley: 

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