The birth of the continental European jurisprudence of “droit d’auteur” is based on the premise that authorship is some higher bond between the author and his work and that author’s rights (or copyright, if you will) are a natural right1.
But is it really?
Lately I started thinking about an interesting pheanomenon — namely that seldom (if ever) copyright or any other state-granted monopoly rights2 are mentioned in movies or literature. What’s more, I don’t recall ever hearing it in songs, stories or games. And I’m talking here about the full spectrum from ancient folk songs and children games that no-one remembers where they came from all the way to 3D movies and modern computer games.
If we concentrate e.g. on modern computer games, it appears that MMO players have some notion of “fairness” (e.g. cheating or (kill-)stealing is frowned upon), “equality” (an uneven deal is not fair) and even “personal integrity” (e.g. tea-bagging).
What in-game/in-character don’t do is demand copyright or patent (or not that I ever seen or heard about it).
The closest it gets is that people seem to apply the original idea of trademark for things they create and sell in-game — people like knowing if something is created by a certain player or NPC with special skills.
Occasionally players also call something their “trademark” move or sign or phrase — but that has more to do with one’s own personal identity then real trademarks.
I dare say that copyright, patents (and state-given monopolies in general) are far from being natural — they’re quite unnatural.
If it was, people would naturally think of it when creating their own worlds in stories, songs, films and games.
…oh, and there’s that small detail that before the 18th century we didn’t know either patents or copyright ;)
hook → sipping coffee late in the evening
- Natural rights have evolved from the idea that certain rights are God-given to all and therefore universal and unalianable in nature. ↩
- State granted monopoly is a lot more correct and descriptive term then “Intellectual property”, as it’s rarely the former, and in no way the latter. ↩