- Geof Cox's Blog
- The dark side of the social enterprise boom...
- What would a social enterprise economy look like?
- Social Enterprise Law in South Eastern Europe
- Where does social enterprise fit in postcapitalism?
- Can social enterprise save public services?
- Greece, France - making enterprise more social...
- Small is the new big!
- Social impact is no longer an option for big brands
- What on earth is Social Enterprise UK doing?
- Asset Based Strategy Matrix
- Copyright infringement is NOT theft
- Impact2 Social Enterprise Conference
- Not So Grim Up North
- CASE's 30th Birthday
- Guardian Blog
- The Senscot Bulletin
- The Performance of Socially Responsible Investment
- Social Investment – or the Emperor's New Clothes
- Such a definitions mess that NOBODY can now clear it up?
- Social Enterprise Mark... or Social Enterprise Brand?
- Why social enterprise needs its own approach to intellectual property rights
- Does the social enterprise movement lack leadership?
- Business models based on greed and exploitation
- Not many jokes...
- NHS Social Enterprise Spin-outs - the real story
- Will tendering ever work for social enterprise?
- Learning from the Open Source Movement
- The Guardian & Social Enterprise
- The focus on a few kinds of social enterprise is blinding us to a bigger picture
- What do social enterprise and chocolate have in common?
- From Albania Again
- Guardian Social Enterprise Summit
- A conflict common to many co-operatives...
- Social Enterprise in Albania
- 2010 social enterprise visit to Russia - 1
- Day 2 in Rybinsk: -18°c
- Post 3 from Russia - Back to Moscow
- A typical question...
- Sounding like David Cameron...
- Do structures stymie social enterprise?
- 'Right to Request' tender collapses
- The number of 'social enterprises' just doesn't add up
- Social Firms Conference
- What is it, exactly, we’re doing with Social Firms?
- Social Firms UK Annual Conference
- Social Firms and the CIC Consultation
- What is social enterprise?
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 1 - Moscow, Schekino and Kaluga
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Rybinsk
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 2 - Vyshniy Volochek & Ostashkov
- Social Enterprise in Russia – Week 3 - Moscow & Aleksin
- Ostashkov Conference, October 2008
- Selected old blog entries
- Public Service Transformation
- Organisational structures - and restructuring
- Doing social enterprise
- Knowledge should be free
- Associates and trusted partners
- Джеф Кокс, информация на русском языке
Copyright infringement is NOT theft
It's great to see mainstream economists like Ha-Joon Chang exposing the doubtful utility of big business approaches to intellectual property.
'Patent monopoly creates a lot of problems. It allows the patentee to charge the maximum to consumers. This ... can violate basic human rights if it involves things such as life-saving drugs. Patent monopoly also blocks technological progress... as other people cannot use the patented technologies in developing other technologies.'
Chang also points out that what big business likes to present as the natural state of things is in fact a very recent imposition – in some developed economies in the 1990s - and never fully accepted in countries like India. Far from being based firmly in natural justice, these big business approaches to intellectual property are in fact paradoxically associated with free-market ideology (paradoxically, because intellectual property rights are themselves a form of market regulation)
There is now of course broad and growing resistance to these approaches to intellectual property.
For these reasons, I was shocked to see Nick Cohen in another Guardian piece swallow whole all that big business propaganda about file sharing internet sites 'stealing' music, films, books etc. - and artists, musicians, writers and film-makers unable to earn a living 'because thieves steal their copyright'.
Let's be clear: copyright infringement is NOT theft. There is no moral equivalence between copying and theft. If I take your loaf of bread, or your book, or your CD, you don't have it any more. That's theft. If I merely borrow your CD – even if I copy it before giving it back - that's nothing like theft. Indeed it is a kind of sharing most people are very happy to engage in. It's a very natural and welcome aspect of human social life. People have always shared books and records in this way. Nor is this kind of sharing anything to to do with plagiarism (which is clearly against natural justice) – nobody here is pretending they are the author of the shared work.
Nor is there any question here of artists not being able to earn a living. Much intellectual property law, as Chang pointed out, is actually very recent. The ability of artists to make a living from mechanical reproductions of their work was a brief off-shoot of a very long history, only ever affecting a tiny minority. Realistically, it's not a question of artists losing a living – the biggest losers are likely to be the celebrity artists who, many believe, earn far too much anyway.
This is not a question of morals at all, but of business models: artists need new ones – or to go back to those that made many good livings throughout history. In fact, the vast majority of musicians and makers still earn in the same old ways – they make things and sell them, people come to see them – and the internet is not a threat either to their art or their living – it is one of their best friends.
It is the business models of multinational media giants that are really threatened. Is that a bad thing?
Nick Cohen ends his piece with the pessimistic conclusion that 'since the crash, we have known that our old way of doing business is over... we have to rebalance the economy and reorder society... the trouble is we don't know how to do it.' Social Enterprise is entirely missing from Cohen's perspective – not surprisingly, since he seems to be looking only through the distorting lens of big business morality.