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Imagine There's No Copyright and No Cultural Conglomerates Too ...

By Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schijndel
Theory on Demand no. 4, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2009, 80 pp., ISBN: 978-90-78146-09-4

Brazenly abolishing copyright. That's what Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schijndel do in this essay. But not without reason. Why should we continue offering cultural conglomerates protection for their investments in blockbuster films, bestseller books and pop stars? After all, that's what copyright does. Let's stop dreaming that copyright will enable most artists to earn a comfortable living. It's just not true.

And what about those blockbusters, bestsellers and stars? Either you like them or you don't, but that's not the point. Have you ever thought about the damage they do to our cultural democracy and how they undermine cultural diversity and variety? Isn't the essence of democracy that many different opinions can be heard and contested? And so it is with films, novels, theatre, music, design and the visual arts, in particular.

One therefore leads to the other. Not only do we have to liberate ourselves from copyright - and with the floodtide breakthrough of digitalisation this legal tool is already succumbing - we also have to stop tolerating a few cultural conglomerates controlling our cultural communication. We are therefore going to cut them into numerous slices by means of strict application of competition law.

The result is a normal cultural market: a level playing field for the many artists who are now still being pushed out of the pubic eye and ear by the cultural conglomerate' aggressive marketing. The good news is therefore: for the first time all those artists will be able to earn a decent living from their work.

If these fundamental reforms of cultural markets are not already explosive enough, then wait for the bombshells in the concluding chapter of Imagine there's no Copyright and no Cultural Conglomerates too . It turns out to be hard to justify other intellectual property rights, too. Do we, for example, need to patent medicines? The authors have good grounds to assume this is harmful to public health.

Prof. dr. Joost Smiers is a political scientist and a research fellow in the Research Group Arts & Economics in the Utrecht School of the Arts, the Netherlands. He lives in Amsterdam. E-mail: joost.smiers@planet.nl

Marieke van Schijndel MA MBA is a cultural scientist and independent business scholar. She works in the cultural field in the Netherlands. This book is written à titre personnel. She lives in Utrecht.

The publication has been published as an e-book (printable on demand) by the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, and may be downloaded freely (PDF, 1.2 MB).