Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Alternative Scheme Supports Creative Artists Through Refundable Tax

The institution of copyrights has its origins in the feudal guild system.

Copyrights provide an incentive for creative or artistic work by providing a state-enforced monopoly. Like any other monopoly, this system leads to enormous inefficiencies, and creates substantial enforcement problems.

The size of these inefficiencies and the extent of the enforcement problems have increased dramatically in the Internet Age, as digital technology allows for the costless reproduction of written material, and recorded music and video material.

The artistic freedom voucher (AFV) is an alternative mechanism for supporting creative and artistic work. It is designed to maximize the extent of individual choice, while taking full advantage of the potential created by new technology.

The AFV would allow each individual to contribute a refundable tax credit of approximately $100 to a creative worker of their choice, or to an intermediary who passes funds along to creative workers.

Recipients of the AFV (creative workers and intermediaries) would be required to register with the government in the same way that religious or charitable organizations must now register for tax-exempt status.

This registration is only for the purpose of preventing fraud - it does not involve any evaluation of the quality of the work being produced.

In exchange for receiving AFV support, creative workers would be ineligible for copyright protection for a significant period of time (e.g. five years). Copyrights and the AFV are alternative ways in which the government supports creative workers.



Creative workers are entitled to be compensated once for their work, not twice.

The AFV would not affect a creative workers ability to receive money for concerts or other live performances.

The AFV would create a vast amount of uncopyrighted material. A $100 per adult voucher would be sufficient to pay 500,000 writers, musicians, singers, actors, or other creative workers $40,000 a year. All of the material produced by these workers would be placed in the public domain where it could be freely reproduced.

Under plausible assumptions, the savings from reduced expenditures on copyrighted material would vastly exceed the cost of the AFV. Much of this savings would be the direct result of individuals' decisions to use AFV supported music, movies, writings and other creative work in place of copyright-protected work.

A second source of savings would be the result of lower advertising costs, since much of the material used in advertising supported media would be in the public domain.

In contrast to copyright protection, which requires restrictions on the use of digital technology, the AFV would allow for the full potential of this technology to be realized.

Creative workers would benefit most when their material was as widely distributed as possible.

They would therefore have incentives to promote technologies that allow for recorded music, video, and written material to be transferred as easily as possible.

By contrast, copyright enforcement is demanding ever greater levels of repression (e.g. restriction on publishing software codes, tracking computer use, and getting records from Internet service providers) in order to prevent the unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material.

The police crackdowns on unauthorized copying by college students, and even elementary school kids, would be completely unnecessary for work supported by the AFV.

Full paper: The Artistic Freedom Voucher: Internet Age Alternative to Copyrights by Dan Baker, November 5 2003

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posted by Robin Good on Thursday, November 27 2003, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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