[by Richard Kelly]
The purpose of copyright is, “to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
This is how we as commercial photographers profit from our photographs. However, if we read these words from a broader perspective, as far as copyright law is concerned, profit is really secondary to the primary purpose of encouraging new works of art and ultimately that knowledge into the public domain, where it can become part of our collective and cultural heritage.
The question I keep thinking about: Is copyright doing either of these things well?
If the only motivation that artists required to create new works were financial incentives, there would be a lot less creative activity. I am not so sure that having a monopoly for 70 years past the author’s death does as much to encourage new creative work, as it does to give a false sense of value for the archives that we leave to our children’s children.
I think an argument could be made that a society that wants to encourage creative expression, especially for a professional creative class needs a better system for compensating independent creative artists.
When controlling copies and, therefore, controlling commerce, was the role of copyright the business model seemed to work well. In a global, digitally connected economy, though, controlling copies for commerce seems so 20th century.
For the past few years, I have been searching for digital solutions that will offer fair compensation to the independent creative. Part of that quest is having academic conversations that push and expand our thinking of copyright, compensation and creativity.
What if Copyright no longer existed? How would Artists make a living?
Richard Dale Kelly teaches his students the value of copyright and licensing; He spends way too much time reading and thinking about business strategy and is optimistic that the tools artists need to manage their copyrights and images are on the near horizon. An early supporter of the PLUS Registry, he encourages you to sign up today at www.plusregistry.org.
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