Ernest Adam’s The End Of Copyright on Gamasutra focuses on a very touchy subject. I don’t know if I agree that copyright will end completely, but I do like that Adam’s actually did what most people seem to be afraid to do: he looked at different possible business models. He also appreciates that copyright is not the inalienable right that some people make it out to be.
Obviously the traditional business model of selling a single copy to each player isn’t the only one that exists. MMO games, even before Everquest, show that subscriptions work just as well. Some people will pay for better features, improved items, or just faster servers. Some people would pay for the privilege of having a better quality experience. Imagine if a Mickey Mouse movie came out that wasn’t by Disney but was 100 times better than anything Disney ever produced? Sure, if there wasn’t any copyright, anyone could then redistribute it, but I’m sure you could make some decent money by charging for the privilege of seeing it when it is only released in a select few theaters that you control, right?
I don’t think copyright should go away, but even if it did, I don’t think it would be the end of innovation and science. People will still want to create. They will still want to design. They will still work. I really don’t see everyone falling on their knees and crying out “What do we do now without the protection of copyright?!?” Oh, I don’t know, you could just make money by being the sole provider of an original work?
Of course, without copyright you won’t even have open source software to blame for your inability to profit from your work. If people didn’t want to give away the source code, they could keep it a secret. People do so now, anyway, but without copyright there would be no legal recourse to get access to the source. Open source and proprietary software both benefit from copyright law, contrary to what some would report as fact.
Anyway, it is good that a big name is actually taking a look at the industry and saying, “Hey, you don’t HAVE to do things the way everyone else is!” The idea that the most popular business model isn’t necessary is still a “crazy” one to a lot of people.