Fri, 30 Sep 2005

Copyright Natural Law

I think that everyone is aware of the battle currently being waged over the distribution of music in digital form. This is currently being done by P2P (Peer to Peer) file sharing. People can share their digital music collection at the same time that they download other people's music files. Clearly this is a violation of copyright law.

Copyright law has two expressions, however: the state's law (the written-down law backed up by the power of the state) and the natural law (the way things work in the absence of state law). Many people don't understand natural law. They think that law can exist in only one fashion: through the action of the legislature in enacting a law, the action of the executive in enforcing the law, and the action of the judiciary in interpreting the law.

Natural law exists, however, and those who break it, do so at their own peril. For example, there are the three natural laws of thermodynamics, or the speed limit of sound in air, or light in transparent media. I hear people objecting to these as mere physical facts of the universe. And yet is not human nature not also a physical fact of the universe? The typical person wants to live and will do nearly anything short of killing themselves to do so. Thus there is a natural law against murder. People will take steps to ensure that they are not murdered, or if they are, then their murderer will be killed. State law has nothing to do with these natural laws, although it is one possible way of expressing natural laws.

State law cannot change natural laws.

The RIAA as breaking the the natural copyright law. They've managed to ensure that copyright never expires. The natural copyright law is a bargain between the publishers of copyrighted works and the recipients of copyrighted works. The publishers promise to eventually put the work into the public domain, and the recipients promise not to copy. Clearly, the RIAA has violated the law, and is suffering the consequences of doing so.

Whenever state law doesn't match natural law, you see massive disrespect for state law. Can you think of some examples of this?

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