My reasons for releasing all my poetry into the public domain, without retaining any copyright, have been posted on this site for a while. I’ve always thought that society would need to change if creative people are to make a living with or without the protection of copyright, and so I’ve been watching the emergence of the idea of a living wage, where the government provides a basic unconditional monthly income, with a lot of interest. Although it was voted down this time, I am really surprised at how quickly it seems to have become a viable idea.
To recap on the basic premise: Copyright is an invented right. Creative people have lived and worked without the faux protection of copyright for a long time. And in fact, most of the time the ‘protection’ of copyright is used either to remove a right which a creative person has – such as when their song rights are sold on to another artist – or to strangle the creativity of others, who fear breaching copyright on similar work – even though copying others’ work is as old and integral as creativity itself. The one benefit which copyright promises to creatives, that of a decent stream of income, is now withering away, as the dispersal of created material cannot be controlled by the internet, and what money is clawed back is kept by those who have the legal power – large publishers and corporations like Disney – not artists themselves.
This is not surprising because copyright was designed to protect the rights of publishers first. In the old days, the interests of publishers usually aligned with writers who needed their help to disburse their work. But in the internet age, creative output can easily be disbursed directly by the creator.
Most creative people don’t pursue their work in order to make money anyway. They do need their needs to be met though, and money is the means to that end. If those needs were met by a society that guaranteed food and shelter to all its members, then artists and writers and musicians could get on with the business of creating without concern for copyright and the money it promises (but rarely delivers).
There is a different currency already at work, which is of more interest to creative people. It is the currency of prestige – and those who are have it are those who have given meaning and understanding to the lives of others, those who are reliable, truthful, compassionate. This prestige cannot be traded or copyrighted or bought – and it is more valuable than money.