Crosbie Fitch: Without copyright, an author must sell their labour instead

Copyright is not a means of enabling authors to be paid for their work, but a means of enabling the press to become extremely wealthy (and a means of enabling the state to control the press) – at the cost of suspending the people’s cultural liberty (to share and build upon published works).

Authors may be paid for the state granted monopoly that arises in their work, or they may be paid for their work (their labour in writing it), but be careful not to confuse the two.

An author is born with the exclusive right to their writing (as the US Constitution recognises), but they are not born with a right to prevent others copying their published works (a state granted monopoly). By nature, human beings have the power to prevent burglars copying their work, but no power to prevent their customers making copies of what they buy from them (for that they need a grant of such power from the state).

Without copyright, an author must sell their work instead of the state granted monopoly that arises in it. If an author has a thousand enthusiastic readers (their customers – formerly customers of the press) then it is those thousand enthusiastic readers the author will sell their work to, e.g. by inviting them to commission further work (a commission of $10 each from 1,000 provides $10,000). Obviously, with the author having sold their writing, there is a free market for any printer to print and sell as many copies as they like (or for any reader to fileshare), but at free market prices, not monopoly inflated prices.

Printers do not want a free market in printing copies because it dramatically reduces their profits (they therefore don’t want authors being paid directly by their readers).

But yes, novelists will have to get day jobs until commission from their readers is sufficient to pay the bills. That means writing short stories first, before spending ten years on ‘War & Peace’.

  • Crosbie Fitch