Louigi Verona's Workshop


Debunking the famous "incentive argument"

The ultimate argument for copyright restrictions is that without it authors will have little incentive to create.

All other arguments seem to fade in comparison with this one and many copyright proponents use it as their only one. I firmly believe that endless discussion of particularities is a waste of time and one needs a fundamental refutation.

Such a refutation becomes feasible if one looks at the premise of the incentive argument - that intellectual labour in human society is a whim, a sort of caprice that humanity can well live without and which thus requires artificial stimulation.

This premise, simply speaking, is false. To show this, let us briefly look at several areas of intellectual labor.

Invention is an important sphere of human thought. Can we say that it is simply a whim? No, we cannot. On the contrary, invention is the result of requiring solutions to specific problems and it is often impossible to achieve the desired end, which prompts people to look for solutions.

Applied sciences are similar to invention - they aim to solve concrete problems by performing scientific research and using discovered laws of the physical world to attain ends.

Theoretical sciences also aim to solve a problem, that is the natural necessity of man to learn and the natural desire to have as much understanding about his environment as possible. Additionally, close link between theoretical sciences and applied sciences makes theoretical research an important future investment.

Arts are based on man's natural need for self-expression on part of the authors and the need for entertainment on part of the audiences and can also serve as an important social life element. Because the need for self-expression and entertainment is not an artificial construction, it does not call for any artificial stimulation.

In general, one does not need to stimulate intellectual labour because each and every form of it is grounded in necessity rather than luxury.

Necessary things get funded, just as we fund cooking, house construction, medical services and so forth. Thus there is no special case for intellectual labour in this regard and no reason to say that authors will not get funded in one way or another to write books - unless people find books unnecessary. In which case why then impose a costly restriction on society only to make sure that it gets more of unnecessary things?