The author argues for a form of intellectual property protection that allows free publication of intellectual property as long as the work is attributed to the proper creator.
CULTURE VS. COPYRIGHT is a work based on a philosophical discussion between the author and five young children, purportedly first-graders. They discuss the nature of creativity and culture, and how creative works can best be distributed to the profit of the author and society. The author regularly summarizes his discussions with the children, addressing points they make and creating a clear thesis from their arguments. In the end, he concludes that the best possible form of intellectual property protection is a form that protects not distribution, but attribution – the publisher would no longer have monopoly rights on any given publication, but all works copied and distributed would be required to be attributed to the given author.
Volynets’ arguments are logically and sensibly made, given his starting assumptions, and are clearly presented with a minimum of difficult language or jargon. He does address, with attribution, other forms of licenses that resemble the ones he wishes to promote, and gives a clear summary with the advantages and disadvantages of each – these include the Licence Art Libre (French), the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Open Audio License, the GNU General Public License, the Open Publication License, and the Creative Commons Licenses.The first-graders he quotes use suspiciously sophisticated language and discussion topics for such young children – seven-year-olds generally do not casually reference the musical Chicago or use phrases like, “Why is it that ‘cultural satisfaction’ increases desire?” .
The author also rather too casually glosses over the importance of paying the creators for their work – while having one’s work distributed widely and one’s reputation increased is certainly important, it does not pay the bills or put food on the table. His suggestion that publishers might “sponsor” an author or pay for exclusive rights to a work until publication is somewhat dubious – it is often difficult to get people to pay for what they can easily get for free. While this may not matter, for example, to a salaried college professor seeking to get research results widely released and to improve his or her reputation, it does matter to the author seeking to make a living through writing or the artist tired of being asked to work for free for the sake of “exposure.”
CULTURE VS. COPYRIGHT is an intelligent, thoughtful and lively discussion of intellectual property rights and their purpose in the larger society. It is at very least a useful contribution to a vigorous public conversation about creativity and its rewards in a free society.