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Discussing copyright and scarcity

iseoni wrote:

If the person had the money for the base game, and had the money to find a printer, paper, ink, scissors and card sleeves, they simply had different priorities.

Sure, in this particular case maybe they could’ve afforded the expansion if they hadn’t gotten suckered in to buying the base game. Although that would be pretty useless.

iseoni wrote:

No one is saying “BE POOR HAVE NO FUN” but that some forms of entertainment may be out of reach. That’s priority.

Copyright is artificial scarcity.

That sucks. That comes at a huge cost. Articifical scarcity enables poverty.

Copyright proponents say that it’s worth it, that it promotes innovation in the board game industry, and rewards designers.
That the lacuna created by this articial scarcity is worth it because of the overall wealth it creates. And I’ll listen to those arguments.

There’s also the line of argument that there’s some sort of moral right afforded to the creator of a published work to set monopolies on the creation of copies of that work. And I’ll hear them out down that particular metaphysical rabbit-hole, too. That’s fine.

But it’s not OK to deny the costs it has. All the people that could’ve been having fun for free with this game idea, but copyright yanks the dice right out of their hands. That cost is always overlooked and denied by copyright’s proponent’s, and that isn’t just. Again—acknowledging it but saying it’s worth it because copyright “is good, actually”: that, I’d hear. That might be legitimately so. But to just ignore it isn’t OK.

We live in a world where some have three acres, some instead go skiing. Others have both while others still have neither. Poverty isn’t just something you can prioritize your way out of. Many do succumb, and are crushed.

There’s also a question more important than personal economics:
It’s ridonk that the ideas expressed on these cards should come legally mandatedly stapled to actual fossil oil-derived plastic shipped in huge boxes a couple of trips around the world instead of just being downloaded in three seconds on a bad modem.

isoeni wrote:

If you can take my idea and not pay for it…I’m going to find a way to do things that I’m paid for.

Why should you benefit for free for my hard work? Why should you be able to take art that I’ve worked for hours and even years for and decide that you should get to play it with no compensation? Because you have access to the internet?

I’ll ask you a question. I’ve had cute art (like my avatar) stolen and used to make teeshirts. In the end I prevailed and got all the revenue because my art was stolen. Do you really think that people should be entitled to take something I worked on and do with it what they will because they “want” to sell a tee shirt?

The latest thing I’ve been working on is re-skinning a deck of 52 cards with my class. In this class they add art, rules and learn many skills. These kids have worked for almost a semester. Countless hours. They are preparing print and plays to SELL along with offers for print on demand. Do you really, truly believe you should be able to get their game for free because you simply want it? Or can you allow a 12yo to make $3.99 off of a digital download? Is that really too much to ask?

So you asked me seven questions while not even acknowledging the one thing I asked you to consider: the costs of articifial scarcity.

I’ll listen to arguments that copyright is (somehow) worth the drawbacks of introducing artificial scarcity, for larger economic reasons.

And/or I’ll listen to arguments that there’s (somehow) a metaphysical or moral “right” for someone to monopolize creation of copies of something they made. Emotional arguments, like “they’re twelve”, belong in this vein.

That’s fine. I will hear you out.

I’m not saying copyright proponents don’t have any arguments, but I’m asking for them to not completely ignore the costs of artificial scarcity, to at least acknowledge it. The economics of mittens and socks.

Teaching kids to take something that belongs to the world—the classic 4 by 13 deck of cards—and put up a fence around it and make it theirs and only theirs, is a complex issue with some pros and some serious cons.

Arguably, you can teach a lot of the pros without emphasizing copyright:

Even the business acumen of selling digital downloads, which is also possible with a commons or public domain license.

I wouldn’t even insist on them making the game with a creative commons license (maybe I, since I’m weird about copyright, would mention it as an option for them)—we do live in the reality that copyright exists (as does piracy). I just wouldn’t make the entrepreneurial, copyright-centric, “I own this” the main focus.

Most of my game design work these days is on the RPG side, where mixing and matching and using open licenses has become part of the lifeblood of the creativity going on over there.

edjamer wrote (and don’t be too harsh on them, they end up making some good points downthread):

Maybe I misunderstand, but it sounds like you are arguing that copyright for a specific game can prevent people from gaming entirely.

That is a complete misunderstanding of what I’m saying, yes.

edjamer wrote:

you just might need to use those dice to play some other game

This is what I’m arguing against. This is the cost of artificial scarcity.

edjamer wrote:

It is a wonderful idea that creators should just be able to create freely, at their own expense, and allow everyone to freely benefit from that effort. It’s also a very naïve idea that doesn’t appear to be rooted in reality based on my experience.

While not common in board games (anymore—although that’s how all the “traditional card games” came about), there are fields (like TRPGs, computer programs, and even some music, art and writing) where commons licensing happens often. Wikipedia itself is probably the most well-known example.

edjamer wrote:

Greed is a powerful part of human nature, and if you entrust compensation solely to the goodwill of people, then many creators won’t survive.

An argument along the “copyright is (somehow) worth the drawbacks of introducing artificial scarcity, for larger economic reasons” lines. I’ll hear it out, but, you’re really downplaying the costs of artificial scarcity. “They can just play a different game.”

Without copyright, my friends can get copies of records and games I buy, and I can get copies of records and games they buy. With copyright, all of those copies are essentially “destroyed” (or prevented).

(I then pasted a story from “My current stance on copyright”):

This story is going to sound stupid, but I’m going somewhere with it: Let’s say we’re music consumers and all I have is $10 and all you have is $10. If I buy a copy of a Lady Gaga record for $10 and you buy a copy of a Bach record for $10, and we then make copies of each other’s purchases, the record store now has our $20 and we have two records each. We both have Bach and Lady Gaga.

However, if we’re prevented from making those copies, the record store won’t have any more money but two albums will have been destroyed from the earth. I’ll only have Lady Gaga and you’ll only have Bach.

Growing up in a world were copyright and other forms of IP is normalized, we’ve grown so used to this “destruction” that we no longer see it.

edjamer wrote:

Ecology is a totally separate discussion.

It’s relevant here when someone wants to download copies of cards and not waste resources on minis and shipping.
We live in a world of short runs and failed attempts and landfills and plastic garbage patches and big empty boxes fighting for shelf space. Sometimes I kinda want out.

Thunkd wrote:

In that scenario, you apparently don’t really want Bach very much. Not enough to spend $10 on it at least. It’s hard to argue that this is humongous loss for you. If it was that important to you, then you’d probably be willing to buy that $10 copy. The fact that you won’t suggests that it’s not something that you really want… unlike the Lady Gaga album you were willing to spend money on.

In the scenario, which is a model, one where financial resources are limited, all me and the friend have for records is $10 each. And we can have one record each—make it Bach if that’s what you think is best—or we can have two. That’s not something we can prioritize our way out of.

The fact that copyright makes us only have one record instead of two is a cost to us.

Copyright comes at a huge cost to consumers as a group.

Thunkd wrote:

If we extend your example further, and you share Lady Gaga with not only with just one person, but with everyone, then the scenario is even better in your estimation… the music store has the same amount of money, but now thousands of people are able to have Lady Gaga records for free!

Yes! This is the cornucopia of treasures that copyright snuffs out. It’s more than one single record that’s being “destroyed”; it’s millions.

Thunkd wrote:

Of course, that also means that a lot of people who might have otherwise paid for an album won’t bother. So the music store probably goes out of business. And that also means that Lady Gaga wouldn’t make nearly as much money. And if taken to the extreme, she might not be able to make a career out of music and would have to do something else. Then all the future Lady Gaga albums would be “destroyed from the earth”.

Yes. An argument along the lines of “copyright is worth the drawbacks of introducing artificial scarcity, for larger economic reasons”. An argument I will hear, and consider legitimate, as long as the cost of artificial scarcity is really acknowledged.

I’m all for all kinds of reasoning and analyses and studies when both those issues (artificial scarcity on existing Lady Gaga albums vs disincentivization of future albums) are considered.

Ultimately, markets use price (sweet spot of supply and demand) as a rough estimate or proxy for both cost (resources to make something) and value (benefit or use of something). There are many circumstances where this doesn’t work very well, such as albums. Expensive to record, cheap to replicate. The solution we grew up with, and this started in the age of the printing press when consumers couldn’t make copies very practically anyway, was to introduce an externally imposed monopoly on production of copies so that the original publisher could introduce artificial scarcity to drive prices up to justify the original investment of recording the album.

Now that copying is much easier than it was in the age of lead typesetting, the larger societal cost of prohibiting copies is much larger and it might be time to reconsider this arrangement.

Maybe we’ll decide that the current system of using copyright to create artificial scarcity is worth it after all (and that’s fine, but, that’s why I ask everyone who advocates for “copyright is incentivizing creators and that’s good” to truly acknowledge the cost, the tradeoff, that this means in terms of artificial scarcity).

Maybe we’ll think outside of the box completely and look beyond quid-pro-quo market economics.

Or maybe there’s a solution with the system of capitalism (such as crowdfunding—Lady Gaga can raise money, with a threshold goal, to record and release a new album. Subscription economics like Patreon or some streaming services are also an option).

edjamer wrote:

You say I’ve misunderstood, but it sounds like I’ve understood your argument and just disagree with what you are saying.

You asked if you were misunderstanding when it sounded to you that I was arguing that copyright for a specific game can prevent people from gaming entirely. And the answer is yes, that isn’t and wasn’t not my position. I was not under the mistaken impression that people can’t play craps with their dice if they’re prohibited to play Yahtzee. In the figurative “yank-dice-from-hand” scenario, the copyright cop would’ve been saying “hey kids! Not Yahtzee for you!” This has been misread by several posters as “No dice games at all for you”, I apparently was unclear so I want to clarify that yes, if that’s what you thought I would say, you did misunderstand.

(Additionally, while I know that copyright covers specific works and expressions (it’d have to be patents to cover a more general idea), the case at hand is someone who wants cards for an expansion and not have to waste a bunch of minis and it’s copyright that’s preventing straight forward transmission and proxying of those cards.)

It’s part of humanity’s double-think around copyright that “of course there are hundreds of public domain games these kids could play!” while simultaneously implying that “without copyright there wouldn’t be any games invented”. And, I don’t blame them! I grew up in the same copyright-normalized mindset, too. To even dare question the overall benefits of copyright is weird, it’s out there, it’s the realm of pirates and crooks, of selfish thieves. That’s what I used to believe.

edjamer wrote:

I’m quite familiar with commons licensing. The creators in that case made an informed choice, and typically have specific reasons for making their choice. However, the fact that commons licensing exists doesn’t mean that creators should lose their ability to choose other options or have no control over the content they have created.

You are quite correct that the existence of commons doesn’t mean copyright doesn’t also exist (“dogs exist, therefore no cats exist”). That’s not what I was trying to imply.

I brought up commons as a specific rebuttal to you saying that creators allowing everyone to freely benefit from their efforts is a naïve idea that doesn’t appear to be rooted in reality. Commons is a counterpoint to that, specifically. (“Dogs are a naïve idea. But apparently not that naïve since they do exist.”)

Edjamer, that’s twice now that you’ve assumed that I was saying something that would’ve been very dumb to say.

“it sounds like you are arguing that copyright for a specific game can prevent people from gaming entirely” and “However, the fact that commons licensing exists doesn’t mean that creators should lose their ability to choose other options or have no control over the content they have created”.

Please do not straw doll.

edjamer wrote:

If you buy Bach and I buy Lady Gaga, that doesn’t prevent us from hearing the music we didn’t buy.

That’s good. And hopefully people won’t mind sharing the ideas expressed on some cards in a board game, either. Unfortunately, there is legislation around playing music publically, like in restaurants.

edjamer wrote:

Lady Gaga is very successful and not really representative of the average content creator, who will never see the fame or fortune she’s earned

Yes. Copyright economics often falls into these pyramid schemes where the rich gets richer while struggling artists go under. Back when CDs where still a thing, here in Sweden recordable CDs were taxed and the profits distributed proportionately among artists according to their past success (but only if they had signed up to be part of the organization that was lobbying for fees like this and for copyright legislation in general—the whole “anti-filesharing” lobby was funded by them (“Antipiratbyrån”, for example, for any of you Swedes reading this, was one of their efforts). And members were disallowed to release music with commons licensing.)

So a li’l garage band, when selling homemade CDs at conserts, was helping to fund the biggest and most successful bands, and also funding the organization that was lobbying for all this to happen. While the li’l garage band wouldn’t see a dime from it since they couldn’t sign up if they also wanted to release commons music.

Used to be possible to be a village troubadour but now musicians are competing with the entire world. It’s pretty cruel. Salary isn’t based on how many hours of work you put in but instead of how much of a pop star you are. And, to tie it back to the $10 model scenario, if they can only have one record each and not share, they’d be more likely to get the record from the biggest star. Copyright amplifies stratification of success in the music business. Great point, thank you.

edjamer wrote:

From what I’ve seen, the margins in this hobby don’t appear to be so fat that designers, developers, artists, publishers or other potential gatekeepers are rolling in excess money.

That’s true.

edjamer wrote:

With that in mind, I still think that your argument that people should have the opportunity to enjoy everything doesn’t make any practical sense. Although I’m a huge supporter of public libraries, so maybe some of our disagreement is in the just semantics.

Another great point.

edjamer wrote:

We are more likely to agree about the harmful ecological effects of our hobby/society, but I maintain that it’s a very different discussion than piracy and copyright concerns. Selling a digital version of a creation is still (in my opinion) a perfectly valid way to create and distribute content. (Preferably without using blockchain, which is ridiculous and completely unnecessary for most things, despite many companies and creators trying to leverage the related hype… but I digress.)

I agree, but, I didn’t mean to come across as disagreeing that it’s a different discussion. It’s a relevant discussion to the specific example at hand, and also tangentially relevant since quid-pro-quo markets are wrapped up in the ecologics as well. Copyright, pollution, and waste are all market externalities (not to otherwise overstate the connection between them).

gversace wrote:

Yes, copyright imposes social and economic costs. I don’t think anyone is arguing against that.

People weren’t even acknowledging the costs. As I brought them, people kept replying for a while and still kept on ignoring and glossing over the costs. That was the situation when I entered the thread. To the extent that that’s changing, I’m glad.

gversace wrote:

But I would argue that the social and economic costs of you not being able to copy a boardgame someone else worked hard to create (or Lady Gaga’s music, for that matter), imposes such an infinitesimal cost on you as to be irrelevant

A small cost in a vacuum, but it’s multiplied with every consumer and every record and that way it becomes huge.

gversace wrote:

versus the very real cost to the designer of not being compensated for her work.

An argument along the lines of “the costs of artificial scarcity is worth for how it incentivizes creators”. Which I’ll hear. I am not opposed to society exploring that option, honestly weighing the pros and cons.

gversace wrote:

And to discuss “destroyed” copies - what about the games or music that never came into existence because creators weren’t incentivized to create it without compensation? Are those works not “destroyed” by the same definition?

Yes. Thunkd expressed something similar, and I won’t rehash my reply from earlier in this post.

gversace wrote:

If someone works to create something original, they deserve to be compensated by those who wish to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

An argument along metaphysical lines, which is fine and I’ll try my best to hear it out. Those arguments can get a little tough for me to follow. It’s unclear to me why the resources allocated to creators inalienably deserves to

  1. be proportional to the amount of people who think they’ll enjoy the result
  2. be funded directly by those people
  3. be tied to afford exclusive experiences by those people

I paint ugly and gross paintings that no-one wants to see. So obviously I also need a day job in this scheme. Which sucks because it’s not as if my paintings are any easier to make or require any less effort than actually appealing and pleasant paintings. Same goes for my depressing and heart-breaking poems. Not even Vogons wants to read them. But I still put in the same amount of time and care into them.

edjamer wrote:

@snth has some valid points - they just seem exaggerated to a level where I can’t really get behind them as stated.
I do strongly agree that there should be more open discussion and education around the matter. It seems like something that everyone would benefit from - either as a way to spark change or to at least improve awareness and meaningful discourse.

Thank you for this.♥

I’m not eager to impose my post-scarcity utopia on an unwilling population. If people want copyright, they can have it. I just want that decision to be an informed and deliberate one instead of something that just snuck up on us. Here in the EU, we are governed by the TRIPS agreement, which we had no say over and didn’t get to vote on. Copyright is an artifact from the era of film reel cans and hardback books. Now we have floppies and modems but are still living under the same © regime.

I additionally wanna thank everyone I’ve talked to in the thread for not conflating counterfeits with this, or creator credits. Like someone claiming that they’re Stanley Kubrick or whatever. I don’t argue for fraud.