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'Copyright Abolitionists' Fight for Freedom-Based Distribution of Artistic Work

The latest proof that I do not get out enough comes via this post yesterday on the Against Monopoly blog, which discusses an entire movement within the law that I did not know existed: the "copyright abolitionists."

The Against Monopoly post links to the work of Nina Paley, an animator who is also the "artist-in-residence" at and a self-professed copyright abolitionist. In this post on, Paley argues that while all creative work is derivative, copyright control nonetheless extends not just to verbatim copies, but to "derivative works." She says that this has led to censorship on a grand scale, such as when "the seminal German silent film 'Nosferatu' was deemed a derivative work of 'Dracula' and courts ordered all copies destroyed."

Paley argues that "the whole history of human culture evolves through copying, making tiny transformations (sometimes called 'errors') with each replication. Copying is the engine of cultural progress. It is not 'stealing.'" To demonstrate this point, Paley has created the interesting video below (and the "Jesus Loop" to the right) showing how sculptures have evolved through the years by building on what came before:

Paley adds that "copyright maximalists" (the group that I now understand to be the arch-enemy of the copyright abolitionists) are "working for the day when all works are copyrighted, and all culture is property. No longer shall anyone be able to build on works from the past, be it 5 minutes or 5 millennia ago."

For those who are interested in learning more about the arguments against copyright restrictions, published another excellent post this week by Danny Colligan entitled "What We Lose When We Embrace Copyright," which analyzes and explains the basic issues very well.

Posted by Bruce Carton on February 16, 2010 at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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