March 31, 2003
Just Say No To Intellectual Property

Peter Bagge's latest at

Posted by Mary Hodder at March 31, 2003 07:09 AM

Nice link.

Just sent this email to the author (cleaned up a few typos though).


Saw your great work "Just say No to Intellectual Propery" at:

linked to from the Berkley ipBLog:

Amusing and thought provoking cartoon, but...

A. The US is one of the few wealthy developed countries without free health care... Perhaps this is one reason why free software and the arts are making more progress outside the US (i.e. Linux from Finland, Python from the Netherlands, KDE from Gemernay). But this health care issue is more a failure of US society in general than a problem with individuals being generous. Also, in general, the lack of social investment in mass transit, higher education, election reform, afforable housing, energy efficiency, and a meaningful social safety net means people who are outside the mainstream economic system in the US are at risk of their very lives in a very immediate way. So, your cartoon is in many ways very US-centric. It would be very unrealistic for, say, the Netherlands -- or even the less socially generous UK (where "Harry Potter" was written by J. K. Rowling when she was on the dole with free medical care and later a grant).

B. You ignore how that main artist character could freely draw from other works by artists who shared his ideals (to his benefit). Note: this is how Jazz emerged...

C. You ignore costs & benefits to society of his choice -- that is, you take the emerging society as independent of your character's decision. Clearly Linux and the free standards the internet is based on (Sendmail, HTTP, and that the CPU innovated at U of Iowa by Atanasoff-Berry was not patented)

proves that notion wrong -- free gifts are changing society. I am using them now to see you art and communicate with you. Perhaps if that artist has really lived, and had been any good, (including using art to try to prevent napalming of innocents in Vietnam), the world would be a better place today. Nobody lives for ever -- even the richest can die of choking on a cherry (see "The fifth element") -- and so who is to say if your artist had sold his art commercially he would have been better off -- maybe he would have married someone after his money who made his life hell or murdered him. Dharma is hard to predict.

D. You ignore that your character could do other things for employment -- including custom artwork for clients who agreed with his principles. Also, one would expect a creative and talented individual could find creative ways to express that throughout a variety of endeavors.

E. You ignore how many artists who don't share still lose out for one reason or another in a cutthroat business world. In fact, I'd guess 99% of the many tens of millions of people who are artistic in the US don't make money directly at it (and are called "amateurs") -- and they pay more for books and magazines then they get in returns for selling art. That is a whole subculture that loses out on the benefit of sharing with each other because they have been sold a fantasy of hitting it rich someday.

F. You ignore that there is a morality underlying human relationships that goes beyond the legality of them. What that person's friend did with the Franklin Mint deal as the artist lay dying from lack of medical care was immoral -- even if not illegal. A society without morality has deep, deep problems. And ultimately, you can't legislate morality -- otherwise you end up with messes like a million people in prison for non-violent drug crimes costing in the neighborhood of $100 billion dollars a year not going to schools and drug prevention / drug treatment.

G. Oh, and by the way, did you pay your royalties on each word you used, and each color, and each implied iconic image (Shaggy hair, TV, Armchair) etc? No, well, why not? Where do you draw the line on what you can take for free and what others have to pay for? Why shouldn't you be paying royalties on each of your thoughts and the alphabet? You as an artist draw from the winds of the muse that flow throughout creation and connect all creative people from the past into the future. You can draw a line somewhere and say -- this is mine -- but at least admit that sharp line around yourself is drawn arbitrarily, and could just as easily be a shaded gradient.

Some more comments on the topic (including PD ones by me):

A satire on this topic I wrote:

Anyway, all the best. Glad to see artists wrestling with this topic! Your cartoon certainly made me think more about the topic. :-)

Posted by: Paul Fernhout on April 19, 2003 11:10 AM

I'm just another great fan of your blog.

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