Reviewing Aberree, part 3/7

Alphia Hart had a powerful and unique view of copyrights:

Copyrighting everything you write is a confession that you have little faith in your ability to continue producing salable stuff — and that there may come a time when you’ll have to fall back on your own, protected material to make a living. When we can’t produce new copy for The ABERREE, The ABERREE ceases to exist, because we’re certain no one wants to read tomorrow what we said yesterday and today.

Alphia practiced what he preached, and specified in each issue that his work was NOT to be copyrighted.

I reached a similar conclusion a long time ago in making courseware. The restrictions of ‘digital rights’ get stricter and more tangled every year, but they don’t bother me because I have CONFIDENCE in my own ability to produce new images and animations.

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Here’s a corollary which isn’t quite obvious:

If you want to leave a legacy, don’t copyright your work.

Despite his probably fake modesty, Hart did leave a legacy. His work is still eminently worth reading 60 years later.

BUT: If he had copyrighted his work, or even failed to EXPLICITLY turn off the copyright, his legacy would be GONE.

Thanks to recent anti-Hubbard types who found the collection and scanned and uploaded it, all of Hart’s work is readable. If he hadn’t made a point of turning off the copyright, those blessed preservers couldn’t have done their job, and his work would be lost.

A similar situation exists in the recordings of old-time radio. The obscure syndicated shows are better preserved and more available than the big network shows. Why? Because the networks still exist, so a copyright could be enforced. This makes it possible for one of the OTR vendors to play copyright troll games, forcing the other vendors and the free service at to delete items it wants to sell. Even though the one trollish vendor has no inheritance rights to the recordings, the potential of a copyright makes the big network shows harder to find and hear. And because they’re less widely distributed, they’re likely to disappear when that one trollish vendor goes out of business.

A much more important application of this principle was already operating at the time when those radio shows were made. Local stations and small syndicates and small civic orchestras were able to play live music as long as it was classical. Modern copyrighted music could only be played by networks who had enough money to pay the royalties. THEREFORE: Classical music has been performed and enjoyed and remembered much more widely than modern copyrighted music.

We have a dense and constantly performed legacy from composers who worked before copyright laws. Similarly with literature and visual art.

Not everything is great, but some work that was considered trash when written has been appreciated later because it was PRESERVED in some form. PRESERVED work can be revived and re-judged.

When the work is copyrighted, it has much less chance of being preserved and reprinted or replayed, no matter how good or mediocre it is.

Natural law and Sharia law agree: Use it or lose it. Everything in nature is meant to be useful, meant to serve. Copyright prevents use, so copyright guarantees loss.

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From personal experience: When a publisher owns exclusive copyright, the publisher may go bankrupt or merge, or it may simply decide to stop selling the item. At that point there’s no automatic procedure to revert the item to public domain, or to return it to the author’s possession. Sometimes a revert contract is written, but big corporations don’t obey laws. They can and will prevent ANYONE from using the material, even though they’re not using the material either. Total and permanent loss.

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Note for clarity: Before Disney bought the law in 1996, the US copyright law was less monopolistic. There was no ‘intrinsic’ copyright. You had to register an item specifically if you wanted to claim protection, and the protection was officially turned off when you stopped paying for renewals. There was a solid fence between protected and public domain, so there was less room for monopolistic lawyering.