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EU Intellectual Property Office Produces Dumbest Propaganda Film Ever, Pretending Without IP There Is No Creativity

Published: June 26, 2019
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Intellectual property law professor Sarah Burstein tweeted over the weekend correctly mocking a truly ridiculous tweet from the European Intellectual Property Office, hyping up a film it created that purports to show a drab, creativeless world without any intellectual property.

The tweet actually just shows a 16 second clip from what appears to be a nearly 10 minute "film" that the EU IPO actually released back in April. You can view the whole thing here, though I warn you that it is 10 minutes of your life that you will not get back, and it is so dumb that you'll really wish you could get them back (I, at least, watched it on double speed). The film, called "IPIDENTICAL: Imagine a world without creativity" is supposed to be an example of what the world would look like without intellectual property. In this world, everything is the same. There is one song in the world, called "The Song" and that's it. There is one movie, "The Movie." There is one car in one color. Everyone wears the same clothes. All products on store shelves are identical. See? How dystopian.

 

The "tension" in the movie is that the main character has brief nostalgic memories of her dad maybe singing a different song when she was a little girl. That song -- called "The Ultimate Song" -- is lost to history since there is only "The Song." However, in a record shop one day (why are there even record shops? Who the fuck knows?) she sees at the bottom of a stack of "The Song" singles, one sleeve that looks different. OH MY GOD! It's "The Ultimate Song." She grabs it, and rushes home, excited to hear that song from her childhood. That song is exciting and full of life and you can dance to it, rather than "The Song" of this world, which apparently was composed on an organ grinder. Except... she puts The Ultimate Song on her record player... and the organ grinder plays instead of what she expected.

Isn't copyright great?

The film is a wee bit heavy handed. It's also ridiculous. It's also... apparently paid for and promoted by EU bureaucrats, which raises a shit ton of questions.

First off, anyone with even the slightest familiarity with history knows it's bullshit. I mean, there was pretty widespread creativity prior to there being intellectual property laws. William Shakespeare wrote everything he wrote without copyright. He didn't just write "The Play" and be done with it. Indeed, evidence suggests that the lack of copyright was partly responsible for him writing so much since he had to keep producing new works to satiate his audience. And you don't even need to look at history. There have been lots of studies of creative arenas today that don't rely on intellectual property, from fashion to comedy to magic to cooking -- and they've pretty much all found that categories without intellectual property protections actually generate more output and more creativity because you have to keep creating, rather than rest on your laurels. We've written about some of that in the past, but if you're looking for sources, The Knockoff Economy book by Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman is a good start, as is Creativity Without Law, which is a collection of case studies about creativity outside of intellectual property.

And, look, I get it: it's the EU Intellectual Property Office. Of course, they're going to think the world revolves around copyright, patents and trademarks. But is it really that big a deal to expect that government bureaucrats should at least be partially reality based? And is it too much to expect that a government agency shouldn't be spending taxpayer dollars on blatantly false propaganda that is so laughable as to only serve to lead more people to lose respect for intellectual property?

But, perhaps the most damning of all: copyright wasn't necessary to make this bit of insane propaganda. Notice that the EU IPO posted the film for free to YouTube, and they're tweeting out clips of it. The reason they made this film is for propaganda (which some might refer to as "educational") purposes, and they want as many people as possible to see it. There is no need for copyright on the film. They're not selling it or licensing it to anyone. The incentive to create it was wholly separate from copyright -- as is true of nearly all content created today. It was created not because they had an exclusive right, but because they wanted people to see it.

Someone in the EU should really ask the IPO how much money was spent on this bit of propaganda. For what it's worth, it doesn't seem to be having its intended effect. I've found tons of tweets mocking the EU IPO, but none in support so far.

No wonder "comments are disabled" on the YouTube video...

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