Tag Archives: Peter Gibbons

What can Latvia and the USSR teach us about copyright?

As I was working on scouring a piracy site today I noticed the host was in Latvia.  It’s not all that common to find piracy sites hosted in Latvia.  Admittedly the only thing I knew that came outta Latvia was Golden State Warrior Andris Biedriņš.  So I decided to look up how Latvia views copyright.  While the Latvian view of copyright has changed over the years, I did find this official Latvian government website detailing the history of Latvian copyright.

http://www.km.gov.lv/en/eu/member/copyright_history.html

Here’s a key excerpt:

“During the Soviet Union time in Latvia the Universal or Geneva Copyright Convention was in force. Nevertheless, authors had a very rare chance to control the use of their works. Usually there was no permission requested from author for use of the work, there was no private enterprises or state authority to administer the rights of authors. Even though after the WW II in Latvia functioned department of USSR Copyright organization the main opinion was that “art belongs to nations” therefore everyone could free and without any restrictions use works without paying remuneration. As USSR had not joined the Berne Convention the rights of foreign authors were not observed as well.”

So it turns out the Soviets were big on the freeloading bandwagon too.  There’s a great role model for the copyright-abolitionists of the world.

Doing a little research on what kind of economy the USSR built upon stances like this turned up this website:

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/sovietcollapse.htm

Choice excerpts:

There were many economic problems for the Soviet Stalinist system. One very general problem was the the lack of incentives for productivity. As anonymous Soviet citizen said

They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.

Lack of incentives for productivity.  Since the purpose of copyright is to create incentives for creators to create, I think the copyright abolitionists of the world might want to take heed.

The Russian economist, Grigory Yavlinsky, who ultimately became an important advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev, became convinced to the need for reform when he investigated the low productivity in the Soviet mines. He found the miners were not working because they had no incentives to work. Said Yavlinsky:

The Soviet system is not working because the workers are not working.

It’s a pretty simple concept.  Since the world works on a system where we have currencies, currencies that you can exchange for goods and currencies that you can acquire more of by doing more or creating more, any system that dis-incentivizes productivity is doomed to fail.

Or as Peter put it in Office Space:

It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation?

The copyright abolitionists who feel that everyone else should provide for them are going down the same road that the Soviets went down.  It just doesn’t work.  It would be great if we could have everything provided for us, but we live in a world with a finite supply of natural resources.  If you want a world without money then you absolutely have to do one of these two things:

1.  Replace oil, and replace it entirely.  Remember that oil is used in the manufacturing of nearly everything.  It’s not just gas in your car.  It’s the plastic in your keyboard, the rubber in your tires and it’s probably a key ingredient in the McRib.  And you must replace it with an energy source that costs absolutely nothing to produce, harness, distribute and implement.  There can be absolutely no cost involved.  Or…

2.  Convince the oil-rich countries to just give it to us for free.  Which will never happen.  And even if it does, we’d be so gluttonous with it that we’d be out of oil by the middle of next week.  If it didn’t cost anything to gas up you might as well drive a Sandcrawler.  I hear Hummer is working on it.

So for the “culture should be free” crowd who, not surprisingly, seem to advocate for the nanny state, I ask thee:  If all of the services and entertainment should be provided to you by the state, who’s tax dollars are funding this?  If there is no incentive to work or produce, how do you fund your little Utopia?  Do you really want your economy hinging on a bunch of Peter Gibbons’?  Ask the USSR how that worked out while they were getting their ass kicked by the capitalist swine of America.