A fantastic, subtle essay at Cato Unbound on copyright from Rasmus Fleischer, Swedish historian and impresario of sharing site The Pirate Bay. If you're like me, you really don't know what to think about copyright law. It's obviously broken, but is there anything about it that can be salvaged for the digital realm?
Fleischer reconfigures the issue thusly:
The real dispute is not between proponents and opponents of copyright as a whole. It is between believers and non-believers. Believers in copyright keep dreaming about building a digital simulation of a 20th-century copyright economy, based on scarcity and with distinct limits between broadcasting and unit sales. I don't believe such a stabilization will ever occur, but I fear that this vision of copyright utopia is triggering an escalation of technology regulations running out of control and ruining civil liberties. Accepting a laissez-faire attitude regarding software development and communication infrastructure can prevent such an escalation.
One more reason the believers can't ever win: Remember that old bit of jargon, the sneakernet? You're part of the sneakernet (a subset of the darknet[PDF]) when you store stuff on a CD or a flash drive and then put it in your pocket and walk it over to a friend. Portable storage capacity is booming, which leads to this question, from Swedish filesharing researcher Daniel Johansson: "When music fans can say, 'I have all the music from 1950-2010, do you want a copy?', [something they will probably be able to do in a scant few years] what kind of business models will be viable in such a reality?"
It's dense, but worth it. Read the whole thing.