Copyleft And Literary Genius

Moorcock’s Miscellany – View Single Post – BLACK PETALS

I had another child to support, but by then I was selling very well and
had royalties and foreign rights coming in This enabled me to devote
the kind of time I came to devote to the Pyat books which were
something my conscience demanded I write

One of the things that I try to do as a proponent of Free Culture is to come up with ways of alleviating any negative economic consequences for producers caused by the effective absence of copyright under copyleft. I’m quite happy that I have a good grasp of how this works for fine at, for film, for television, for computer games and for popular music. But books are another matter.

Michael Moorcock is a literary hero of mine. In the quote above he describes supporting both his family and his art on the basis of the economic exploitation of rights that copyleft removes; sales royalties and regional market/translation fees. Neither exists under copyleft. So would Moorcock not have been able to feed his children and create the art that he was driven to make without Cory Doctorow-style NonCommercial restrictions?

I will ignore the question of whether he should, for some ethical value of “should”, be able to or not. As far as I am concerned it would have been a loss to culture had the Cornelius and Pyat stories not have been produced. A loss of positive freedom (to use Berlin’s terminology) would have resulted as these amazing resources for the collective imagination would not have existed. I support this end, I’m just talking about the means.

No single solution can replicate the effects of copyright (no single application of copyright replicates the effects of copyright…) but I think that its benefits can be approximated. Can that approximation replace copyright economically speaking, and thereby generate a cultural superstructure of the kind that Moorcock’s copyright did and does?

I need to work on this.

Posted in Free Culture