October 18

COPYRIGHT OR COPYWRONG?

Karl Marx jpeg

Excellent discussion of copyright issues at Artful Writer. My only question – why bash the Marxists? Contemporary Marxists aren’t particularly anti-copyright. When it comes to art, they’re really more sort of pro-responsibility for the implications of your work. Getting paid is no longer a sin.




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Posted October 18, 2005 by TW in category "The Business

5 COMMENTS :

  1. By John Siguzi on

    NO,
    There is nothing wrong with getting paid. Just wanted to let you know about a great new website .

    [Editors note: link removed until this shmoe asks permission.]

  2. By TW (Post author) on

    That’s a terrible way to introduce it. Since you did, what does your website offer that Drews Script-o-rama, Daily Script and the others do not?

  3. By Lee on

    Marx advocated a “labor theory” for exchange value of a commodity. This leads to the following absurdity:

    Consider two screenplays. Screenplay A has taken twice the labor as Screenplay B. Screenplay A has also been judged inferior in quality to Screenplay B. But the Marxist would assert that Screenplay A holds twice the exchange value of Screenplay B.

    Aside from this simple thought experiment, Marxist theories of exchange value have been emperically refuted by many studies. Quite simply, the labor theory of value hypothesis can be dismissed as not explaining what we observe in the world. Therefore, why keep it?

    Another problem with Marxist economics is the identification of profit – surplus labor the Capitalist “exploits” – as an undesirable aspect of economic behavior. This view, however, misses the incentive role profit plays in risk taking activities: like screenwriting. Again, emperically speaking, economic vitality (GDP growth, standard of living, etc.) correlates strongly with strong private property rights. Which, in turn, rewards risk taking. Again, Marxist economics does not match what we observe in the world.

    Perhaps there are neo-Marxists – Contemporary Marxists as you call them – who are fine with “getting paid” for writing. But how do they determine the price their work is worth? If they accept a market based valuation of their work on use value, rather than labor value, then they are not Marxists. Moreover, they would be morally against any surplus value a copyright monopoly grants them. So what do Contemporary Marxists have to say that is of, well… value?

  4. By TW (Post author) on

    I’ll admit, I’m more familiar with Marxist critical theory than Marxist economics. I thought that kind of economic analysis had gone by the wayside a long time ago, but your comment sent me scurrying to some of the current Marxist websites from which I conclude it’s still out there. Some of the sites have a very old-fashioned naiveté about them – the workers will rise and all man will be equal, free and happy.

    Notwithstanding the Internet version, from a critical theory point of view, Marxism has come a long way. What the Marxist critics have to say of value – and I’m certainly no Marxist and no expert on it – is that in writing that is created by a system that rewards screenwriters heavily for popularity, the social values imbued in the writing tend to be a little…one-sided.

    Personally, I’m not saying I’m against that. I just think other points of view are worth considering. As writers, it helps if we understand the values implicit in our work. One way a screenplay can fail is that the writer just wasn’t aware of the core values he or she was creating. At the end of the day, the values inherent in the story must engage an audience. Marxist criticism is just another tool to look at it.

    If that sounds a little mercenary, remember, this is a writing website and I look at every tool from the standpoint of how it can serve the writer. Other aspects of Marxism are not too important on this blog.

  5. By Lee on

    TW (is this Jon?)

    Since Joosts’ argument was directed against Copyright law – a key incentive in a private property society for writers to take artistic risks because of the economic reward – I concluded you were discussing Marxist economics.

    I’d argue that the most relevant Mazin post, then, is his “Nietzche On Screenwriting” thread where I challenged the comercial constraints implied in his “Apollonian” structure. This is similar to your statement:

    “…is that in writing that is created by a system that rewards screenwriters heavily for popularity, the social values imbued in the writing tend to be a little…one-sided.”

    And Marx, of course, would phrase this as art reflecting the values inherent in the Mode of Production. So while I think there’s something to that at first blush, there are some interesting challenges to this position:

    1) Most art (including State sponsored art) exists within a patron/artist framework. Historically, it is almost impossible to divorce the social values of the patron from the work itself.

    2) How do we account for the “timeless” works of Shakespeare? His work was undeniably commercial. Same with many of Mozart’s Operas (Figaro, etc.). This ranges across medium (movie, book, music…) and time: each era is still capable of producing greatness.

    3) There are some creators (Moore, Parker, etc.) who actively attack the values of the direct (studio) patron. They are permitted to do so because of the profit motive.

    From here, we can contrast the values of Marxism and Capitalism. I have strong opinions on this comparison, but I am not sure this is the proper forum. I agree, however, it is an interesting topic to consider.

    Best,

    Lee

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