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Frictionless Copying

Another important development is that of frictionless copying. That is; copying has become free and perfect. Copies can be fully equivalent to the original, and can be made without marginal costs. Never before has this been so easy. The printing press for example, still required substantial investments. Not just for its initial purchase, but also for type-setting, the paper used, and distribution of the copies.

The internet automates all this. It is to the press, what the press was to writing. To speak with McLuhan: The internet carries the press, like the press carried writing, and writing carried speech. Because of this, the internet has the power to make publishers obsolete as the middle men between the author and the public. This does not mean that the other roles that publishers have fulfilled, such as those of gate-keepers, editors, managers and marketers are now foregone, but their historically main functions of printing and distribution can be provided by the internet now.

In addition, with frictionless copying the deadweight loss for things like music, movies and books has become much larger than it was in the time of the press. Copying still brings some marginal costs (like 0.10$ dollars for a gigabyte, or one movie, 200 songs, or 3,000 books, transferred across the globe) but they are tiny, and still falling (and practically never billed to internet-users directly). Thus while everyone, including those living in third world countries, could have free access to all existing books and culture in the world, copyright is currently preventing this. Therefore, if pareto optimality is an argument for intellectual property in the labour desert theory, then similarly it can be made an argument for all those copies made in the deadweight loss zone.

Namely as follows: If only copies are made that would not have been purchases, then no author is worse off (nothing physical is taken away or used up, and no sales are lost), while the copying public is better off. We thus can argue that the current situation is not pareto optimal compared to what is possible with a different copyright system in which authors would get the same profits as they do now, and people can freely copy. Additionally, given the non-rivalousness of virtual goods, creating deadweight losses is a case of wasting, and thus a violation of Locke's waste prohibition: Creation alone does not give a right to absolute property. The labour desert theory importantly includes the requirement that one uses what one has appropriated, and that one doesn't waste it. Just discovering or clearing it is not enough.

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avatar by: Anonymous ...

This could not psoisbly have been more helpful!

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