Re: Hmmmmm

Subject: Re: Hmmmmm
From: Steven Naylor (
Date: Mon May 24 1999 - 22:55:21 EDT

For me, the issues at the root of any kind of appropriation are property
and power (as articulated earlier largely by Dennis Bathory-Kitsz).

>From the perspective of either art or commerce (to use an overly simplistic
duality), the appropriation question always seems to come down to who can
actually 'get away' with what (intentionally or

I'm not by any means suggesting that the power/property balance is always
'correct', but even the most high-minded ethical principles seem to be only
reliably present when supported by some kind of power-rebalancing, such as
copyright law, peer judgments, conscience, community censure/approval etc.

One solution for simplifying things is certainly to dismiss all related
notions of property and declare the world a cultural/intellectual 'free
trade' zone. The obvious flaw in this is the tendency to cultural
homogeneity, or the loss of artistic diversity; a similar drop in
inventiveness would certainly take place in the physical sciences.

Some kind of 'protectionism', however flawed it may be in practice, seems
to me to be necessary simply to provide the incentive to keep on creating
individual and unique work.

The parallel, I think, is patent law. Patent laws exist, at least in
theory, to provide an incentive to scientists and inventors to expend the
effort (time, money) to come up with innovations which might ultimately
benefit society. Copyright laws provide the same incentive to creators.
In both cases, the protection (or 'property' right) is time-limited.

And while, in both cases, there is lots of room for improvement and
updating of the laws, I think the time-limited protection is necessary to
nurture scientific and artistic 'progress' in some form (assuming that
'progress' is in fact a worthy goal - a perspective subject to debate).

I'm not suggesting that, in the absence of copyright law, we would all be
producing the same work (you might copy Trini Lopez, while I copy Tiny
Tim........), but even with its many drawbacks, protection certainly
provides a climate which stimulates at least our awareness of inventiveness
and originality.


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