Censorship Vs. Copyright

They're totally different!

What distinguishes
Copyright from Censorship?

The profit motive.

There’s one more day to back the Mimi & Eunice’s Intellectual Pooperty minibook project! The above comic won’t be in it, alas, since I just drew it yesterday and the book is already at the printer. But there will be 40 other fine selections from the IP category, in full color.

Update: Mataparda uploaded this Spanish version on flickr:

20 comments to Censorship Vs. Copyright

  • suede

    omg. genius.
    IP laws are so often a censorship of the freedom of ideas (or mind-speech) and their expression/implementation.

  • When you have been granted a monopoly by government, you can seek profit without worrying about the harm you cause.

  • Barry Solow

    I’m thinking of getting this done as a tattoo on my forehead. I have a feeling that I could get into a lot of interesting conversations that way.

  • Fox

    Except the copyright holder doesn’t actually have to show that they make more money by their censorship. Derivative works could enhance the market value of the originals, and the IP holder still has the right to burn them. (Yes, I imagine that there’s an implied “ostensibly” in there, but wanted to raise the point.)

  • […] Nina Paley wrote this strip today, and like most her strips it is both ironic and amusing. // […]

  • elustran

    Just to stir up a little debate, I’d like to present a sample scenario. With the understanding that it’s just a sample scenario, I’d like to discuss this scenario before adding caveats or altering its premise. Later, I’d like to see how you would adjust the scenario or change its operative paradigm.

    A piece of information, ‘x’, has been created by Alice after a year of arduous work for which Alice would like to be compensated, but ‘x’ later gets copied by Bob instantly and effortlessly, and Bob makes money from it, detracting from the audience pool and thus compensation Alice receives for her work.

    Now, that piece of information ‘x’ is already out in the open and readily procurable, so it’s not really ‘censored’. If Bob is prevented from publishing ‘x’, the only thing that is getting censored in any appreciable way is Bob’s false claim of being the creator of ‘x’. Nothing prevents him from saying that he likes or agrees with ‘x’.

    If Alice is going to be a content creator, how can she earn a living if her content can be copied freely without compensation? Is Bob really getting censored if the information he is copying is already out in the open; how is this not conflating two separate things?

    Now, notice that my scenario is operating under a ‘copyright’ paradigm – can you rewrite this scenario in a way that allows Alice to receive similar compensation for her work, based on some construed market value and audience size, while both allowing for free flow of information and preventing others from profiting from her work?

  • yonemoto

    well. Bob’s false claim of being the creator is just fraud.

    The fallacy of your argument is that Alice has a right to a living by being a content creator. Alice has a right to *try*, and there is not necessarily any reason why we should be subsidizing people to do so. Indeed, there are 1) many people who do make a living without operating in a copyright regime, so it’s demonstrably possible, 2) one wonders if the rent-seeking on the part of being able to claim copyright floods the infosphere with crummy work by lesser “content creators” who wouldn’t be able to stand on their own without the “incentive” of a monopoly backed by force.

    Here’s a counter scenario. I am a biochemist so it rings truer to me (so bear with the patent vs copyright differences). I am working really hard in my basement lab to make a wonderful drug that cures 6 types of cancer. Unbeknownst to me, (and he not knowing about me) Reza is in New York, in his warehouse in Brooklyn, working in parallel to finish the very same drug. It’s a race! The two of us finish on the same day, fill out the paperwork and head to the patent office. Unfortunately, the roads in San Diego are bad and my car hits a giant pothole on the way to the office and my muffler gets knocked loose, and I have to go to the mechanic. Because of the delay, Reza’s patent gets filed and I am shut out from making any sort of profit on the drug.

    Is this any kind of justice? Why not have the two of us compete also on the playing field of who can deliver the drug at a cheaper cost to the patient – from day one? Wouldn’t this greatly benefit society? Let me be clear on something – as a biochemist, I would gladly, gladly, gladly, make a drug that cures hundreds of thousands of people’s maladies, even if it meant, gasp, I make a few million dollars less.

  • Jose

    I humbly thank your link to this imperfect Spanish version. Is extremely difficult to translate this highly condensed, poetic texts.
    Need I to say I’m a fan of M&E?

    Best regards. Jose (Mataparda)

  • Elustran,

    «A piece of information, ‘x’, has been created by Alice after a year of arduous work for which Alice would like to be compensated […] If Alice is going to be a content creator, how can she earn a living if her content can be copied freely without compensation?»

    If Alice wants financial compensation for her work then she needs to make an agreement with those who will compensate her. That’s how professionals work. First the parties involved agree on a price and the service to be provided, then they carry out that agreement. See, for example, the Mimi & Eunice’s Intellectual Pooperty minibook.

    «can you rewrite this scenario in a way that allows Alice to receive similar compensation»

    Sure. That is trivial: Alice says “I want $10 000 or I won’t produce piece ‘x’ of information”. Then 1000 people say “Sure, Alice, I’ll give you $10 for that work”. Of course, Alice may not find 1000 people willing to pay her $10 each for that work. But that, I say, is Alice’s problem, and not something for which we can blame the system.

    The main point, and the biggest source of confusion in this issue, is that remuneration is not due simply because someone worked. Remuneration is only due if there is a voluntary agreement to remunerate. It stems from a contract, formal or informal. If collection is coercive and payment automatic we should call it taxation and subsidy.

  • suede


    I dont know which fantasy world you live in, but in the current world :

    A piece of information, ‘x’, has been created by Alice after a year of arduous work. Then a company makes a claim on a portion of ‘x’ which is similar to their patent-protected ‘y’ and blocks Alice from doing anything with ‘x’. Alice had no idea that ‘y’ exists, and now she just gives up on creating because its a minefield out there. ideas die out.

  • elustran


    How do you protect against Bob’s claim of being content creator without having some intellectual property law that makes him financially liable for doing so?

    In regards to your scenario, I have to wonder if we can’t have specific legislation that puts more medical treatments out into the public domain or at least restricts licensing costs. The issue is that MediCorp isn’t going to invest $10 million into researching a drug if they can’t make that money back and earn a profit on top of it, so how do you drive private research if you remove or greatly reduce the ability to patent a product? Do you just pump more money into public research? Do you subsidize private research more?


    The Kickstarter method seems to have some validity when you need, well, a kick-start, but what about the issue of information consumers not wanting to take the risk to pay for a product in its entirety prior to release, owing to questions of how good it will eventually be. It seems like a solid component for helping small-time content creators earn an income, but its usually currently done with the intent of producing a final product for retail.


    I understand that can sometimes happen, but the justice of it seems to vary greatly depending on the specifics of IP law. Alice can make a car, even if MegaAutoCorp has a patent on a car, so long as Alice’s car is slightly different. Alice can’t take MegaAutoCorp’s blueprints and legally make knock-offs of the same car. Ideas didn’t die out in this case because Alice was still able to make her own car.


    I’d like to see other people suggest alternatives. For example, one of the best alternative pricing schemes that I’ve seen that has successfully made some income has been ‘pay-as-you-like’, most notably (for me, at least) with the Humble Indie Bundle. A pricing scheme like that does a lot to counter the theoretical financial impact of piracy, thus reducing the impetus for draconian IP law.

  • Katya

    Hi, I am doing a magazine for my AP english class about freedom of speech and your cartoons have made it so much better!!
    I also included the Copyheart wherever I could and my main article is called “Copy-wrong” 🙂
    Thank you so much for doing what you do!

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  • […] profit motive.~*~This is a syndicated post, which originally appeared at Mimi and Eunice » IP. View original post. Nina Paley is a creative artist and anti-copyright innovator. She is the creator of the animated […]

  • Renee Marie Jones

    I love this comic. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that everyone I work with and know actually believes what the strip says, that the “profit motive” makes things right. It’s hard to get through to people who have been brainwashed to believe that profit *defines* right and wrong.

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