The legal term copyright refers to the rights a creator or an author has over their work. The rights give them the power to dictate how people can use their works such as movies, websites, books, songs, and pictures. Elsewhere, free expression is the person’s rights to express their opinions and ideas without any restriction. In other words, while a person has the freedom to express him or herself without restriction, copyright acts to protect the ideas they share. Copyright is a controversial topic as many fail to agree on the things it protects. Copyright may not protect a person’s ideas adequately, but it may safeguard the original work (Torremans 2009, p. 43).
There have been arguments as to whether copyright facilitates free expression or not. The rights can provide an economic incentive to an individual’s work hence promoting freedom of speech. On the other hand, it may act as an obstacle to free expression when permission from the original owner is necessary or when a person has to pay the owner of the work a license fee before using their work. Historically copyright was referred to as a free speech engine; therefore, it is crucial for us to confirm whether it is still an engine or an obstacle to freedom of speech.
Copyright facilitates free speech in that it allows the original owners to sell their intellectual products because they have the right to ownership. Coming up with intellectual products is not an easy task, people who invent their original work go through many struggles before coming up with the work (Netanel 2008, p. 7) The authors and producers have to forego some of the things they like doing, and at times they have sleepless nights for their dreams to come true. The struggle these people go through makes it necessary for them to sell their intellectual products like any other physical product. The difference between animals and human beings is intelligence. The superintelligence in human beings gives them the power to be innovative and so rewarding them is essential. Nevertheless, if no reward comes with creativity, many people may shy away from coming up with new ideas. The authors, producers, and publishers also spend money before coming up with the original work. Reimbursing them before using their work is necessary because they had to spend before producing the work. Furthermore, the copyright law gives authors monopoly over their work in several ways and not just copying. The rights are essential even though people do not realize them. A person has a right over a photo taken, and they have the authority to report those who trespass by using their photo somewhere else or for their purposes.
Ultimately, coming up with a book, a movie, a documentary, music composition, painting or even a television program requires a commitment of money and time. The full-time commitment is a big sacrifice that should never be taken for granted. Innovative work is too expensive, it also consumes time; hence, it must be adequately rewarded. Some of the innovators who believe in quality work have to go the extra mile of using their finances to produce the best quality work (Geiger 2010, p. 10). The musicians have to pay the studio fees, their directors, and even the video production fees before the release of their songs. That effort is far too much that when taken for granted they may stop being creative and producing new music. With copyright, the citizens are encouraged to create and to disseminate innovative work. The creation of new work and innovation encourages freedom of speech in several ways. Moreover, copyright reinforces understanding and values of the things that can make us committed to the freedom of speech (Rothman 2009, p. 463). Similarly, copyright makes artwork desirable as the creative people are recognized and appreciated for their work. Devaluing a person’s efforts discourages them and interferes with their freedom of speech.
Moreover, copyright is the engine of free speech because it supports authors and producers who depend on the market for their financial sustenance. Most authors do not depend on the government’s patronage, they use their finances, and the market returns to keep their work moving (Geiger and Izyumenkom 2014, p. 320). Supporting them encourages free expression as they get the morale to come up with more work that is original. Reinforcement is essential in every aspect of human life. Positive reinforcement encourages people to work harder and to be more creative. Because of this reason, people must appreciate the intellectual work of others in order to motivate the artist’s culture. Nevertheless, the authors gain independence from the influence of the government when the people support them. The government’s support may mean that they come up with work, which considers the government’s interests. For the sake of creativity and originality, they need to consider the people’s support as it proves to be more vital. The qualitative aspect of copyright also ensures that authors come up with original and creative work. Encouraging creativity facilitates freedom of speech as the authors are compelled to come up with new creative work. Intellectual work is very vital, and hence each country must recognize its importance because it facilitates freedom of speech.
Elsewhere, copyright reinforces people’s political and social importance in society; hence, promoting freedom of speech. The rights encourage people to express themselves freely without fear of condemnation. Original contributions of people to public discourse require protection as it encourages them to contribute more. According to Fitzgerald (2008 p.43), intellectual privacy conservation is essential as it ensures that people’s original work is free from theft. Furthermore, copyright encourages people to contribute more to society’s well-being. People who get benefit out of their original ideas and opinions are likely to hunt for more fresh ideas. No person can look for new ideas if the public ignored and failed to appreciate their previous ideas. On the other hand, recognizing the value of people’s opinion is a valuable tool when it comes to inventing new ideas. People demonstrate and speak their ideas publicly if society is likely to appreciate them by protecting their original ideas. Nonetheless, society contributes highly to the growth of ideas in people when they recognize the person’s contribution. Recognizing people’s political opinions is also essential because it gives them the freedom to be more creative for them to come up with new ideas. The freedom to expression allows people to speak out their minds openly. Therefore, complementing copyrights together with the rights to free expression gives people the energy to become more innovative and to bring out fresh ideas.
Nevertheless, copyright may not always be the engine to free expressions. The reason behind this argument is because people still express themselves even without copyrights. As a matter of fact, there are occasions where it may act as an obstacle to free speech. An excellent example to support this statement is the internet. The internet contains the original expression of peoples work. Most intellectually smart people innovate ideas and share them on the internet without claiming the copyright. The original owners distribute their work generously without the fear of people stealing their ideas. The innovators in most cases fail to prevent people from accessing their work, as they believe in sharing their knowledge. Moreover, most of the publishers on the internet are volunteers who happily enjoy sharing ideas and expressing their opinions freely. According to Dutton (2011 p. 17), the publishers do not concentrate on the monetary returns, and this does not stop their freedom of speech. The fact that people can gain from their work motivates them, and they still come up with more work to share with the people. Ultimately, others share their ideas or thoughts to motivate and educate people while others do so to gain fame. Some of the people give information when selling related products and even to create a good reputation among the users. Copyright may not be the essential element to free expression as people still express their opinions even without copyright. For some intellectuals sharing information freely is in itself fulfilling, and they feel encouraged to produce more when people access their previous work. Such people may provide their work for people to access with the hope that they will gain from the people’s feedback.
Elsewhere, before one confirms that copyright is the engine to free speech, one must consider its incremental value. It is wise to reward the original producer of specific work but rewarding them does not mean that they will not come up with more. Some people produce their work because of passion, and they may not depend on the rewards for them to produce more. Human beings are naturally innovative; they still come up with new ideas even without copyright. They do so because they cannot repress their inner urge to invent. Creativity comes naturally, and even if the copyright law is removed, people will still come up with original work. Subsequently, copyright creates a monopoly in free expression. A person holding copyright may prohibit others from accessing his or her work as a result. The private monopoly limits people as the protected information could have helped others in building more information (Balkin 2008, p.427). The need for people to pay for the license fee before using ones work fails to consider the people who cannot afford the fee. Some creative and innovative individuals may not be in a position to afford the license fee due to one reason or another. Denying them the accessibility to the original work tampers with their rights to innovation as they may fail to access the required information. Copyright is vital in promoting the freedom of speech, but the arguments of copyright being an obstacle to free expression should be put into consideration.
Freedom of expression and copyright are connected entities. Copyright is the main engine in the vehicle freedom of speech. The absence of copyright laws (engine) may mean that the vehicle (freedom of speech) is unable to move. Copyright encourages people to be more innovative because of the rewards associated. The production of original work is not smooth; it requires time together with monetary commitment. The original producers of work have to go through several struggles before completing their work. Further, the benefits associated with copyright motivate them to come up with new work. The failure to recognize the people’s effort discourages them, and they may not have the morale to produce more work. On the other hand, the opponents of this argument suggest that copyright may act as a barrier to free speech. To them, people still express themselves even in the absence of copyright. They give the example of internet scriptwriters who produce and share their original work without considering the returns. Therefore, as much as the copyright is the engine to free expression, the counter-arguments should be put into consideration.
- Balkin, J.M., 2008. The future of free expression in a digital age. Pepp. L. Rev., 36, p.427.
- Dutton, W.H., 2011. Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet. UNESCO.
- Fitzgerald, B.F., 2008. Copyright 2010: the future of copyright. European Intellectual Property Review, 2008(30), p.43.
- Geiger, C. and Izyumenko, E., 2014. Copyright on the human rights’ trial: redefining the boundaries of exclusivity through freedom of expression. IIC-international review of intellectual property and competition law, 45(3), pp.316-342.
- Geiger, C., 2010. The future of copyright in Europe: striking a fair balance between protection and access to information. Intellectual Property Quarterly, 1, pp.1-14.
- Netanel, N.W., 2008. Copyright’s paradox. Oxford University Press.
- Rothman, J.E., 2009. Liberating Copyright: Thinking Beyond Free Speech. Cornell L. Rev., 95, p.463.
- Torremans, P. ed., 2009. Copyright law: a handbook of contemporary research. Edward Elgar Publishing.