06 November 2008

Cory Doctorow: Why I Copyfight

from Locus Magazine, November 2008


Why does all this copyright reform stuff matter, anyway? What's at stake?

Everything.

Until a very short time ago, copyright was an industrial regulation. If you fell under copyright's domain, it meant that you were using a piece of extraordinary industrial apparatus — a printing press, a motion-picture camera, a record press. The cost of this apparatus was significant, so adding a couple hundred bucks for the services of a skilled copyright attorney to the deal wasn't much of a hardship. It merely tacked a couple percentage points of overhead onto the cost of doing business.

When non-industrial entities (e.g., people, schools, church groups, etc.) interacted with copyrighted works, they did things that copyright law didn't have anything to say about: they read books, they listened to music, they sang around the piano or went to the movies. They discussed this stuff. They sang it in the shower. Retold it (with variations) to the kids at bedtime. Quoted it. Painted murals for the kids' room based on it.

Then came the early days of the copyfight: the analog period, when VCRs, double-cassette-decks, photocopiers, and other proto-copying technology came along. Now it was possible to do things that rose to the realm of copyright's regulated activities (copying, performing, displaying, adapting) with stuff lying around the house. Dealer rooms at cons sometimes sported crudely bound fanfic "novels," teenagers courted each other with mix tapes, you could bring some HBO over to the neighbors' on VHS cassette and have a movie party.

And yet, there was comparatively little danger in this process. Although these activities were of dubious legality (certainly, the big rightsholder groups considered them technological suitcase nukes, comparing the VCR to the Boston Strangler and promising that "home taping is killing music"), the cost of enforcement was very high. Publishers and record labels and studios couldn't watch what you did at home and work and parties and cons, not without an expensive network of paid snitches whose salaries would exceed any losses they were experiencing.

Enter the Internet and the personal computer. These two technologies represent a perfect storm for bringing ordinary peoples' ordinary activity into the realm of copyright: every household has the apparatus to commit mass acts of infringement (the PC) and those infringements take place over a public conduit (the Internet) that can be cheaply monitored, allowing for low-cost enforcement against ordinary people by the thousand.

What's more, Internet transactions are more apt to commit a copyright offense than their offline equivalents. That's because every transaction on the Internet involves copies. The Internet is a system for efficiently making copies between computers. Whereas a conversation in your kitchen involves mere perturbations of air by noise, the same conversation on the net involves making thousands of copies. Every time you press a key, the keypress is copied several times on your computer, then copied into your modem, then copied onto a series of routers, thence (often) to a server, which may make hundreds of copies both ephemeral and long-term, and then to the other party(ies) to the conversation, where dozens more copies might be made.

Copyright law valorizes copying as a rare and noteworthy event. On the Internet, copying is automatic, massive, instantaneous, free, and constant. Clip a Dilbert cartoon and stick it on your office door and you're not violating copyright. Take a picture of your office door and put it on your homepage so that the same co-workers can see it, and you've violated copyright law, and since copyright law treats copying as such a rarified activity, it assesses penalties that run to the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each act of infringement.

There's a word for all the stuff we do with creative works — all the conversing, retelling, singing, acting out, drawing, and thinking: we call it culture.

Culture's old. It's older than copyright.

The existence of culture is why copyright is valuable. The fact that we have a bottomless appetite for songs to sing together, for stories to share, for art to see and add to our visual vocabulary is the reason that people will pay money for these things.

Let me say that again: the reason copyright exists is because culture creates a market for creative works. If there was no market for creative works, there'd be no reason to care about copyright.

Content isn't king: culture is. The reason we go to the movies is to have something to talk about. If I sent you to a desert island and told you to choose between your records and your friends, you'd be a sociopath if you chose the music.

Culture's imperative is to share information: culture is shared information. Science fiction readers know this: the guy across from you on the subway with a gaudy SF novel in his hands is part of your group. You two have almost certainly read some of the same books, you've got some shared cultural referents, some things to talk about.

When you hear a song you love, you play it for the people in your tribe. When you read a book you love, you shove it into the hands of your friends to encourage them to read it too. When you see a great show, you get your friends to watch it too — or you seek out the people who've already watched it and strike up a conversation with them.

So the natural inclination of anyone who is struck by a piece of creative work is to share it. And since "sharing" on the Internet is the same as "copying," this puts you square in copyright's crosshairs. Everyone copies. Dan Glickman, the ex-Congressman who now heads up the Motion Picture Association of America (as pure a copyright maximalist as you could hope to meet) admitted to copying Kirby Dick's documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated (a scorching critique of the MPAA's rating system) but excused it because the copy was "in [his] vault." To pretend that you do not copy is to adopt the twisted hypocrisy of the Victorians who swore that they never, ever masturbated. Everyone knows that they themselves are lying, and a large number of us know that everyone else is lying too.

But copyright's problem is that most of the copyists cheerfully admit that they copy. The majority of American Internet users engage in infringing file-sharing. If file-sharing were stamped out tomorrow, they'd swap the same files — and more — by trading hard drives, or thumb drives, or memory cards (and more data would change hands, albeit more slowly).

Copyists either know that they infringe but don't care, or they believe that the law can't possibly criminalize what they're doing and assume that it punishes more egregious forms of copying, such as selling pirate DVDs in the street. In fact, copyright law penalizes selling DVDs at a much lower level than sharing the same movies over the Internet for free, and the risk of buying one of these DVDs is much lower (thanks to the high costs of enforcement against people making transactions in the real world) than the risk of downloading them online.

Indeed, copyists are busily building an elaborate ethos of what can and can't be shared, and with whom, and under what circumstances. They join private sharing circles, argue norms among themselves, and in word and deed create a plethora of "para-copyrights" that reflect a cultural understanding of what they're meant to be doing.

The tragedy is that these para-copyrights have almost nothing in common with actual copyright law. No matter how hard you adhere to them, you're probably breaking the law — so if you're in making anime music videos (videos for pop music made by cleverly splicing together clips of anime movies — google for "amv" to see examples), you can abide by all the rules of your group about not showing them to outsiders and only using certain sources for music and video, but you're still committing millions of dollars' worth of infringement every time you sit down to your keyboard.

It's not surprising that para-copyright and copyright don't have much to say to one another. After all, copyright regulates what giant companies do with each other. Para-copyright regulates what individuals do with each other in a cultural settings. Why be surprised that these rulesets are so disjointed?

It's entirely possible that there's a detente to be reached between the copyists and the copyright holders: a set of rules that only try to encompass "culture" and not "industry." But the only way to bring copyists to the table is to stop insisting that all unauthorized copying is theft and a crime and wrong. People who know that copying is simple, good, and beneficial hear that and assume that you're either talking nonsense or that you're talking about someone else.

Because if copying on the Internet were ended tomorrow, it would be the end of culture on the Internet too. YouTube would vanish without its storehouse of infringing clips; LiveJournal would be dead without all those interesting little user-icons and those fascinating pastebombs from books, news-stories and blogs; Flickr would dry up and blow away without all those photos of copyrighted, trademarked and otherwise protected objects, works, and scenes.

These conversations are why we want the things we're conversing about. Fanfic is written by people who love books. YouTube clips are made by people who want you to watch the shows they're taken from and discuss them. LJ icons demonstrate affinity for works.

If culture loses the copyright wars, the reason for copyright dies with it.


Cory Doctorow's website is Craphound.com, and he is co-editor of Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things.

Cory Doctorow is one of a dozen Locus columnists and reviewers. Every issue, we review dozens of books and magazines, most before they appear in print. A subscription will get you all those as well as the rest of the magazine -- news, People & Publishing, commentary, reports on events, and a list of all books and magazines published that month.



Previous Cory Doctorow columns posted on Locus Online:

Comments are welcome, but are moderated.

65 Comments:

At Friday, November 07, 2008 7:58:00 PM, Blogger Arthur Hansen said...

What a great insight and provocative way to state things simply.

It's too bad that the *IAAs are all too busy racketeering to listen.

 
At Friday, November 07, 2008 8:01:00 PM, Blogger Church said...

And, in the end, 4chan would define culture.

 
At Friday, November 07, 2008 8:46:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

I'd think the difference between taping a comic strip on a door and putting the same comic strip online via a picture of the door would be obvious. Illegal distribution is damaging according to scale. The internet allows a scale of distribution previously unheard of. that's why pirating one physical copy of a film is less egregious than uploading one film. In the first instance you're making the film available to one person. In the second you are making the film available to a limitless number.

So why compare the two actions?

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 12:02:00 AM, Blogger James Ravenscroft said...

I couldn't summarize my beliefs in a comment, so I decided to write my own post about it here: http://james-ravenscroft.com/2008/11/08/the-copyfight-response-to-cory-doctorow/

I appreciate my views are a little extreme (not explicit, just highly political) but freedom of speech and all that!

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 12:38:00 AM, Blogger cyberroadie said...

To memyself: it's about the potential scale and intended audience. If I put that Dilbert door picture up on flickr for my friends to watch it's the same as putting that Dilbert comic on my door at work. However if that flickr picture suddenly becomes viral it indeed becomes massive, the difficult question here is where do we draw the line?

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 3:42:00 AM, Blogger Philip said...

Illegal distribution is NOT damaging according to scale. It is damaging to the extent that it cuts into sales.
The Dilbert cartoon on the door is unlikely to adversely affect sales of Dilbert books or newspapers in which Dilbert is syndicated. In fact it may have a positive effect. You can't assume that a copyright infringement has caused harm to the degree that the penalties would suggest.

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 4:24:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memyself: you are missing the point.

The point is that the intent of the action is the same: sharing a great comic with friends (or with the internet society), without intending harm. Hence it seems far from ideal to punish the latter with egregious fines. Even more so as without sharing, the value of the content diminishes spectacularly (just ask all the new bands on myspace that only allow 30s clips because they are scared their music gets "stolen": do you think they will ever get famous by doing that?).

You call it "illegal distribution", but that just shows the point doctorow is trying to make: there is a difference between what copyright law considers wrong and what people consider wrong. Now, what should laws reflect, the opinion of companies or the opinion of the people?

Also, uploading a movie is not directly comparable to taking a picture of a door, which happens to have a cartoon on it, as the intents clearly differ.

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 9:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Consider the following scenario:

You buy a painting and hang it on the wall in your living room. One day, some memorable event occurs there that you want to take a picture of. You take the picture, and post it to the internet to share with friends and family. Unfortunately, the painting that you bought and hung on the wall is visible in the picture. It's not important to the picture, but you didn't bother to cover it up before taking the picture, nor edit it out afterwards. You're now guilty of copyright infringement.

Or even more indirect (this one based on a true story, see this story in Wired magazine):

You're a programmer and a university student, and you notice that your computer's operating system (Microsoft Windows) allows you to view listings of files that other people's computers are sharing on the network. It also allows you to directly copy those files to your computer. However, you don't think the interface is very nice, so you write a web application that creates a web-page by querying the operating system, and printing out the resulting listing. Additionally, visitors to the page that are on the same private network can simply click on the filenames in the listing to connect to the machine that is sharing that particular file and download it. Note that you are just putting a new interface on a pre-existing service, as the operating system is doing all the work. However, some users on the network have copyrighted material available, and the owners of the copyrights see the web application on your personal website. They threaten you with a lawsuit with over a million dollars in contributory damages, just for making a pre-existing service easier to use. They don't go after the people sharing the files, as it (was) too hard to attach names to network addresses. They don't go after the company that actually made the operating system and included such functionality, as they have significant legal resources with which to fight back. They look for an easy scapegoat, and found you.

The basic problem with copyright highlighted here is that if any new work is created that contains any existing works (with a few exceptions), the owners of the existing works gain control over the new work. In many cases, this is desirable to prevent competitors from simply stealing the original author's works.

However, I think the point this article is trying to make is that the owners of the original works are being granted too much control over works that aren't competing with them, and further, that our collective culture is being hurt by copyright owners abusing that unnecessary control for private gain.

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 11:41:00 AM, Anonymous P Crowley said...

I don't think "intent" has much to do with it the way you are thinking of it. I know a great number of people that believe very strongly the only way to get rid of the problems with copyright is to remove revenue from the equation.

If I share a song with one person, it has no real impact on the revenue gathered by the band or other rightsholder. However, when I put it up on the Internet and advertise that I have done so, nobody "in the know" will buy it any longer. Same thing with books, movies, software, or anything else in digital form. The goal of copying by the truely evangelical is to stamp out any possibility for people to ever again pay for digital goods. This can clearly happen and in a short period of time.

We have raised a generation that believes in the goodness of copying and sharing. It is unlikely they will ever be deterred from this course. Culture or not, the idea that authors or musicians can be paid for mass distribution of their work is going to be disappearing. Soon.

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 2:04:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Phillip: "Illegal distribution is NOT damaging according to scale. It is damaging to the extent that it cuts into sales."

What exactly do you think "scale" means in this context? Something that cuts into sales to a larger extant is cutting into sales on a larger scale.

Phillip: "The Dilbert cartoon on the door is unlikely to adversely affect sales of Dilbert books or newspapers in which Dilbert is syndicated. In fact it may have a positive effect. You can't assume that a copyright infringement has caused harm to the degree that the penalties would suggest."

Harm is very difficult to measure. That's why we look at scale as a means to determine penalties.

Anonymous: "The point is that the intent of the action is the same: sharing a great comic with friends (or with the internet society), without intending harm."

That doesn't matter. If you distribute something to 30,000 people, you've distributed to 30,000 people, regardless of your intent to cause harm.

Anonymous: "Even more so as without sharing, the value of the content diminishes spectacularly (just ask all the new bands on myspace that only allow 30s clips because they are scared their music gets "stolen": do you think they will ever get famous by doing that?)."

Value is a matter of perception. If a band/artist/writer/programmer want to share their work, that should be their choice. If the choice they make fails the expansion of their careers, that's also thie choice to make.

Anonymous: "You call it "illegal distribution", but that just shows the point doctorow is trying to make: there is a difference between what copyright law considers wrong and what people consider wrong. Now, what should laws reflect, the opinion of companies or the opinion of the people?"

I hate to burst your bubble here, but anyone who claims to know the universal opinion of the "people" is wrong. People are greatly divided on this subject. Furthermore, companies are made up of people. People who have developed products and entertainment based on an existing business model. Now, maybe that business model should change. That's something to push for. But not by bypassing existing laws and calling it something it is not. The law absolutely SHOULD protect a musician whose choices on how to distribute their work is taken out of their hands. The law SHOULD protect the author who sees their work distributed without permission. These are people. Why should their endeavors not be protected by the law?

 
At Saturday, November 08, 2008 9:23:00 PM, Blogger FrancesGrimble said...

1. Discussing a work does not require copying it.

2. Why can't those bloggers, website owners, etc. contribute to "culture" by creating their own work instead of copying other peoples'?

3. The scale of copying does matter a great deal, in terms of harming sales.

4. Most copyrights are owned by individual writers, artists, and composers, not huge corporations. Just because a publisher produces and distributes an author's work, does not usually mean the publisher owns the rights.

5. Google, Yahoo groups, UTube, etc. are huge, profit-making corporations, not the family kitchen table. They make a great deal of money selling ads near material people have posted, illegally or legally.

6. Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money? No one is giving them free rent or groceries in return for their contributions to "culture." Why do people who earn comfortable livings demand, even as a right, that creators of works slave for them for free?

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 3:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memyself

It never stops with companies. You give them an inch they take 20 billion dollers.

Next they will nly release digital media on a read/write device then that media will disapeir after 30 days. Then you have to purchase it again. These Idiots and morons always find more ways to cheat you out of money then there are fish in the ocean.

There is a time when you have to stand up and tell these little cry babys to put up or shut up. The ones that file sharing hurt the most in the industry of music is the record lables. It has been proven.

I have seen independs give away their music and do shows and make money off of just doing shows.

What these companies are doing is brain washing atleast 75% of the people out there that they have on their side. 20% is bought, makes money, owns shares. Or works for them. The other 5% are confused about the whole thing.

Personaly I dont care if my works get distrubited. I design websites for CMS's I would say that my works get distubuted without my knowledge. But you know what, I would be a complete idiot to try and push for lawsuits. Then guess what everyone thinks of me as an a-hole and know one buys anything from me ever again. Hmmmmm. I wonder what my best choice would be.

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 9:18:00 AM, Blogger josh g. said...

Why does this article make absolutely no mention of fair use / fair dealing, and then go on to claim that copyright law has no concessions for "paracopyright" or culturally-fair copying? Isn't that exactly what fair dealing exceptions are there for?

If the current fair use law has fallen behind the times, let's update it. But speaking out about copyright law as if fair use doesn't even exist is only adding to the public disinformation about their existing rights.

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 11:03:00 AM, Blogger Joshua Rothhaas said...

memyself: you are right, but things can go wrong, and be totally innocent at scale.

example. A mother puts a 20 second clip of her baby dancing/bouncing to a pop song so her family who lives all over the world. This is against the law and punishable by up to 150,000 dollars in fines.

I don't know "the peoples" opinion, or yours, but to quite a few of us this is absurd.

Also, coming into the debate are remix debates. I dont know if you have heard "Girl Talk" but his songs are entirely composed of samples from other artist (over 200 actually) but the songs are clearly something entirely new and unique. Should he have to pay a royalty for his samples? if so, how much? also, current copyright laws limit the fact that even if you can afford to pay for the royalties, you still need explicit permission. So there is a wildly popular song out that that is enjoyed buy all, is now apart of culture, but according to copyright law can only be used in ways the original artist deems fit (which obviously would not include criticism, or parodies) thereby stifling freedom of speech.

Copyright is not inherently evil, but it has become stifling. In its current state it limits the amateur culture and freedom of cultural expression.

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 11:32:00 AM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

Image what life would be like if the Wright bother heirs were allowed to hold patents on airplanes for 170 years. Or other similar inventions were patented for long periods. We'd have no science.

This is exactly the same thing that is going on with copyrights. We're going to have no culture - it will all be owned and licensed.

Progress happened, the Internet caused the value of recorded music to fall to close to zero. It happened and there's no putting the genie back in the bottle.

Or should we let the Wright brothers heirs set the price of all plane tickets at $25,000 a seat? Wouldn't the world be a different place?

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 3:30:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Anonymous: "It never stops with companies. You give them an inch they take 20 billion dollers."

You're not required to give them an inch. If you don't like their policies, don't purchase their wares. But don't take them for free either. You disagree with how a company legally chooses to do business, fine. But why should then get their product without paying?

Anonymous: "Next they will nly release digital media on a read/write device then that media will disapeir after 30 days. Then you have to purchase it again. These Idiots and morons always find more ways to cheat you out of money then there are fish in the ocean."

You don't "have" to purchase anything. There is no way for a company to "cheat" you if you don't participate. There are many, many forms of legally free entertainment out there.

Anonymous: "There is a time when you have to stand up and tell these little cry babys to put up or shut up. The ones that file sharing hurt the most in the industry of music is the record lables. It has been proven."

No, it has not been proven. For one, file sharing extends a great deal beyond the music industry. the comic industry, for example, has seen sales decline dramatically in recent years. Can you show that the decline in sales does not correlate to the rise in pirated comic books?

Anonymous: "I have seen independs give away their music and do shows and make money off of just doing shows."

So what? We're talking about the economy of the entire entertainment industry. The case examples of a few independent bands does not weigh in particularly heavily.

Anonymous: "What these companies are doing is brain washing atleast 75% of the people out there that they have on their side. 20% is bought, makes money, owns shares. Or works for them. The other 5% are confused about the whole thing."

There is certainly a great deal of confusion involved. Don't be so sure that you're the one who knows all the answers.

Anonymous: "Personaly I dont care if my works get distrubited. I design websites for CMS's I would say that my works get distubuted without my knowledge. But you know what, I would be a complete idiot to try and push for lawsuits. Then guess what everyone thinks of me as an a-hole and know one buys anything from me ever again. Hmmmmm. I wonder what my best choice would be."

So you're saying that people should not utilize their legal right to protect their property because of possible retaliation?

Joshua Rothhaas: "example. A mother puts a 20 second clip of her baby dancing/bouncing to a pop song so her family who lives all over the world. This is against the law and punishable by up to 150,000 dollars in fines."

Which is where we get into the discussion of scale. Yes, that sort of fine is excessive.

Jon Smirl: "Image what life would be like if the Wright bother heirs were allowed to hold patents on airplanes for 170 years. Or other similar inventions were patented for long periods. We'd have no science."

But they weren't. The laws in question are not as restrictive as that. Which kinda makes a point in favor of copyright law.

Jon Smirl: "This is exactly the same thing that is going on with copyrights. We're going to have no culture - it will all be owned and licensed."

Hardly. Copyright law only covers artitic endeavors that the owners choose to copyright. If your idea of culture is limited to copying, sure. But copying IS NOT equal to culture. I mean, we we so deprived of culture before copying was possible? Really?

Jon Smirl: "Or should we let the Wright brothers heirs set the price of all plane tickets at $25,000 a seat? Wouldn't the world be a different place?"

False argument. Existing laws were not prohibitive in the manner you suggest. Which gives weight to the argument that progress is not being stifled in any such manner.

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 8:01:00 PM, Blogger Alan Moore said...

Once upon a time I was a recording artist. My economy revolved around selling "copies" of creative works. The whole industry, in fact, revolved around copies. I got paid based on how many copies. Clauses in my contract got activated depending on how many copies. My ability to negotiate a better contract and hire better employees depended on how many copies.

So I can appreciate why the RIAA is so scared of file sharing. It isn't merely a question of lost revenue, it turns the whole music industry on its ear.

150 years ago there was no recorded music industry. Then technology appeared that made it possible to record sound, and an industry was born. That industry was based solely on the fact that it cost a lot of money to record sound and make copies of it. So a copy was worth something, because not just anybody could make a copy. Scarcity contributed to the value.

Now, technology is killing the industry it birthed. Copying is trivial and costs next to nothing, so that aspect of the economic equation is gone. Charging per copy is a bad business model; trying to use law to make it viable only makes lawyers rich.

I am not advocating copyright infringement, and I am not excusing it. But I think people should realize two things:
- We had music before we had a recording industry. We'll have music after we have a recording industry.
- People will always pay for entertainment. There will always be ways to make money from music, movies, and other arts. But it may not be a question of "selling copies".

 
At Sunday, November 09, 2008 11:35:00 PM, Anonymous Daniel Cecil said...

I've been reading Boing Boing for a short while, and wondering what Cory was going on about copyright for, and so often. This clears it all up. A very insightful piece. I've been considering Creative Commons for my book. I wonder if now is the right time, or if copy fighting will mature even further before it is the right time?

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 1:13:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it appears that the companies want to force their way of usage and distribution onto the consumers in an uncompromising way.
and the consumers reply to that in form of copyright-infrigement. they rather risk to be caught than take any of the possible offers.

i remember a discussion i had with my father when i was a child. we argued about wether it's wrong for me to use public transportation without paying. my point was that short-trains and busses would drive if i pay or not. so i thought i wouldn't hurt anybody by using it for free. my father saw i completly differently: he pointed out that i was using a service and did not pay for it which was unfair or even stealing.

i think the main problem is that the companies do not make compromise. they don't want to acknowledge the existence of the internet and its possebilities. instead they fight their own customers. the solution is neither allowing everyone to share freely nor trying to criminalize the people.

in my opinion the solution lies within creating offers that are more appealing but acceptable enough against using p2p and risking an infrigement.

with the internet it gets escpecially harder to persuade people to go to expensive cinemas, buying dvds you will most likely only watch once or watch movies online which is almost always more expensive then your local videostore.

the companies should offer a way of access to their contents which is not drm-tainted or to expensive.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 5:31:00 AM, Blogger joshyMinor said...

Fight on Brotha, Fight on!

Jess
www.anolite.echoz.com

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 6:01:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"6. Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?"

If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 7:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a picture of your office door and put it on your homepage so that the same co-workers can see it, and you've violated copyright law, and since copyright law treats copying as such a rarified activity, it assesses penalties that run to the hundreds of thousands of dollars for each act of infringement.

Because this straw man argument about fair use will happen[/sarcasm]... just forget for a minute that said comic can probably be found online at comics.com and then linked to or embedded for all to see without violating copyright or infringing on anyone's rights, and lets also forget that the only thing that allows us to distribute our code and content under FSF approved licenses and CC licenses is the very copyright law you are arguing against.

With these facts conveniently forgotten your argument becomes very compelling, as it stands there is nothing wrong with copyright law that can't be fixed with a clarification like what exactly is a fair use and when is your DRM violating my rights.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 7:40:00 AM, Blogger tylr said...

Good article. Sounds like something Larry Lessig would write.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 8:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good post. Yet I actually want to comment some of the comments...many arguments is in fact rather silly.

It is simply not true that modern technology has reduced the value of music to close to zero. Artists that I think is good will get a record purchase since I am fan. The same apply to movies.

What is true is that modern technology has reduced the value for bad music and bad movies to zero. Why should I support an artist that makes something that I don't like?

File sharing is actually driving real sales instead of suppressing sales. The cost to make a fraction of the population interested in buying a CD using ordinary channels is huge. File sharing on the other hand uses the resources of the customers and uses the customers own social network to do the promotion.

The artist it is better off having a million fans and every third of them buying the CD than a few thousand buyers that stumbled over the CD by chance.

The only one that might perhaps have anything to loose on the file sharing is the recording companies that potentially could make themselves useless if they fail to embrace the cheap promotion channel that file sharing is. On the other hand nothing stops the recording company to make use of file sharing also....avoiding the cheapest promotion channel and harassing fans is not they way to maximize profit.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the industry is doing is fighting a battle it cannot win, but it is more than willing to throw millions of dollars at it.

Like the comment above states: "there's no putting the genie back in the bottle". The industry wants to go back to the way things were, and they are doing this by imposing ridiculous fines and wasteful litigation. They can put out all the commercials they want comparing downloading music or movies to stealing a car, but it's not going to change the minds of the masses. They are pitting themselves against the ingenuity of millions of internet users and computer nerds, and they will lose.

What they need to do is compromise, and show some ingenuity of their own. The industry as a whole needs to move with the changing times, because fighting against the change is futile. They need to do this in a way that consumers are comfortable with. DRM laden music has already been dropped by a number of providers because they people showed them they weren't going to buy it, and I know I'll never purchase a movie or song if it's going to have an expiration date.

A great example of changing with the times is the band Mudvayne. I haven't purchased a CD in years, but I pre-ordered their new CD the day they started their new promotion. Their offer was that if you pre-ordered the new CD, you also got access to a pre-sale for tickets to their new tour, and a free one year membership to their fan club (they also later announced that fans who bought pre-order tickets were eligible to go to a meet-and-greet with the band, but this was not available to the majority of people).

That kind of innovation is what the industry needs to show in order to survive the modern age.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 11:20:00 AM, Blogger Tuba Terry said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...

"6. Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?"

If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand."

Amen. Somebody hasn't heard of open source, or jam bands, or anything of that nature. Creative people don't need money to be creative. Granted, getting money from that creativity may free up time and effort from other things in order to be more creative, but it is most definitely not the reason for creation in the first place.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 11:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole problem with copyright versus patents is that patents are designed with a relatively short lifetime compared to copyrights (20 years vs. life + 75 years). The absurdity of the length of a copyright is that it leaves no room for creative growth. Only comparitively ancient works are freely available for reinterpretation; for why else has Disney mainly used very old folk tales and legends as the themes of its creative content. Note the large blow-ups that resulted with their abusive relationships with the A.A. Milne estate and the "Winny The Pooh" flims and programs.

We need to move copyright back the duration of the terms at the dawn of the United States: 14 years and another 14 years if the registration is renewed. Otherwise, copyright holds are being allowed to hoard their contributions long past their useful "shelf life". At this point, most current authors' works won't be available for reinterpreation until the twenty-second century. That sort a duration is absurd.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Patrick said...

This was an interesting, if somewhat biased, discussion of the history of reproduction and creators' rights until the very end, where things seemed to go very wrong. If copying on the Internet were ended tomorrow, it would be the end of culture on the Internet? Do you mean the inability to copy anything? Well, then there would be no Internet period. Do you mean the end of copyright infringement? Well, you'd still have lots of free works, such as true UGC on YouTube, many photos on Flickr, countless free music tracks on bands' MySpace pages, and yes, commercial works such as videos on Hulu, and many more works available at modest cost. How can you go from saying the Internet gives you the ability to copy easily to an argument that elimination of copyright infringement online eliminates culture there?

There is much to be said for a detente in this debate; I've been hoping for one for a decade. But there needs to be some movement by all parties (it's not a bipolar conflict, rather a multipolar one, not the detente Kissinger sought with the Soviet Union but the one sought by about seven different nations now with North Korea over its weaponry; let's not argue who is N. Korea or the Soviet Union in this debate, we can begin by saying that is unproductive). Perhaps you could acknowledge that the culture exists in creative works and creative works are made by creators, and thus creators should have some say in how their works are used.

Suggesting that after centuries of ever-more efficient copying technology, a new uber-efficient technology means that any further enforcement of creators' rights means that culture is destroyed is not constructive, not helpful, and simply not true.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 1:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

P Crowley:

"nobody "in the know" will buy it any longer."

This is untrue. Flat untrue.

"The goal of copying by the truely evangelical is to stamp out any possibility for people to ever again pay for digital goods."

and this is laughable. You don't think that Cory Doctorow is truly evangelical? You don't think he wants to make a living off his writing? (and is doing so fine?) P Crowley you're fighting against strawmen. Please take a look at the *reality* (of Cory Doctorow, Eric Flint, Nine Inch Nails and many others,) and be re-assured.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 1:23:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

anonymous: "If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand."

If you don't actually explain it, your opinion in regards to this discussion is irrelevant. Relying on condescension and passive aggressive terminology is a poor discussion tactic.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 7:01:00 PM, Blogger Jon Smirl said...

Equal rights for scientists! Extend patents to life plus 70 years. Give the Einstein, Ford, Bell, and Wright heirs back what was stolen from them!

Why is a scientist's creative expression only worth 20 years and a musician's worth 170 years?

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 9:14:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Jon Smirl: "Equal rights for scientists! Extend patents to life plus 70 years. Give the Einstein, Ford, Bell, and Wright heirs back what was stolen from them!

Why is a scientist's creative expression only worth 20 years and a musician's worth 170 years?"

Conflating scientific discovery with artistic expression is a false argument, as the two are not synonymous. Frankly, if you're seriously holding a patent on the only possible cure for a terrible disease equal to the copyright on a Britney Spears song, you've already lost the debate.

 
At Monday, November 10, 2008 10:10:00 PM, Anonymous Sharon Krossa said...

copyright regulates what giant companies do with each other. Para-copyright regulates what individuals do with each other in a cultural settings

This simply isn't true. Copyright regulates not only what giant companies do with each other, but also what giant companies do (and can't do) to individuals (e.g., to authors). Copyright also prevents one individual from building a company (giant or otherwise) by stealing the intellectual work of another individual.

Note also that copyright isn't just about money. It is also about control. Copyright gives an author some protection against a giant company --or an individual-- using their intellectual work in an objectionable manner or for offensive purposes. It also allows an author to keep/remove from (further) circulation incorrect, inaccurate, or inferior versions of their work. And so on.

I don't think current copyright law is perfect (I agree that the term should be shorter, and for a set number of years regardless of the life of the author, and most of the recent changes dealing with digital copyright should be drop-kicked), but the underlying principle is sound. The work product of the mind is as worthy of protecting as the work product of the hands. And if you think the giant companies are screwing over the individual now, this is nothing compared to what they'd be able to do without copyright law protecting individuals and their right to control copying of their own work.

 
At Tuesday, November 11, 2008 7:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I teach writing in China and have lived here for going on two years.

Copyright? In China? Ha.

I saw Indy 4 on DVD for sale on the street the day after it was released in the US theaters.

I also lived in Paraguay a few years ago and taught there. Copyright? In Paraguay? No.

 
At Tuesday, November 11, 2008 10:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Memyself said...

Jon Smirl: "Equal rights for scientists! Extend patents to life plus 70 years. Give the Einstein, Ford, Bell, and Wright heirs back what was stolen from them!

Why is a scientist's creative expression only worth 20 years and a musician's worth 170 years?"

Conflating scientific discovery with artistic expression is a false argument, as the two are not synonymous. Frankly, if you're seriously holding a patent on the only possible cure for a terrible disease equal to the copyright on a Britney Spears song, you've already lost the debate."

As an **AA shill you've just lost the debate. Because the patent on the only cure for a terrible disease will expire long before the copyright on anything by Britney Spears, which highlights beautifully the ludicrousness of the copyright time extensions that have been bought by some of the major entertainment corporations, such as Disney, Sony, Vivendi etc. in recent years for the sole purpose of lining their pockets - after they have lined the pockets of the politicians who voted for it.

How can anyone seriously support a system where the copyright on a Britney Spears album extends for decades beyond the patents on AIDS anti-retrovirals, life saving statins or ground breaking technology such as MRI's?

Frankly if you're supporting the position that copyright on a Britney Spears song is more important than the only possible cure for a terrible disease then you have not only lost the debate, you also show yourself as a truly worthless human being!

 
At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

@Anonymous

It's inevitable that someone accuses a person who is in favor of copyright as a shill. A rather worthless direction to take the argument in, and a tragically familiar one.

And you missed the point. Conflating medical research with a Britney Spears album is a failed analogy because the two are not analogous. I hardly stated that this equates to the album being more important than the important medical research, and in fact was rather directly implying the opposite. It is more important to keep medical developments open than it is to leave Britney Spears album free of copy protection.

And for the record, I am absolutely against copyright extensions. But the majority of materials pirated have not even passed the the older, much shorter period of time copyright was designed to protect, so the argument that extensions are prohibitive ignores the larger picture.

Anyway, do please take the time and try to follow what is being said, rather relying upon your prepackaged "us versus them" cliche nonsense.

 
At Thursday, November 13, 2008 7:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I found the article very interesting, I was aggrivated by the comment about being a sociopath to choose music over friends.

Not everyone is a social butterfly and while there is constant pressure on everyone to make tons of friends and be as popular as possible, there are perfectly normal people who prefer very small groups or being alone as an alternative to tons of people all the time.

This doesn't make them psychotic or insane, it makes them introverts or private people. To say if you don't want other people around you all the time makes one a sociopath is incredibly insulting and uncalled for.

 
At Thursday, November 13, 2008 9:06:00 PM, Blogger Cram Speaking said...

One point that many copyfighters ignore is how Big Business will exploit new creative people in the absence of copyright, especially movie studios who won't be obliged to pay authors a dime or musicians for using their songs in a soundtrack.

 
At Friday, November 14, 2008 10:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Memyself said: "And you missed the point. Conflating medical research with a Britney Spears album is a failed analogy because the two are not analogous."

Yet you do not provide a reason as to why they are not analogous... You can consider a patent analogous to records, if you view each as a set of instructions, that is, a patent is a blueprint to construct some physical thing (e.g. a vaccine), a record contains a blueprint to construct a sound wave. Incidentally, they are even both called forms of "intellectual property", so saying they have no meaningful comparisons is silly.

"I hardly stated that this equates to the album being more important than the important medical research, and in fact was rather directly implying the opposite. It is more important to keep medical developments open than it is to leave Britney Spears album free of copy protection."

So the more valuable something is, the less anyone has a right to own it? That certainly opens a can of worms.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous Wildfire said...

Very interesting debate. Couple points to add...
1. "Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?"
I know its already been expanded upon, but ummm... I don't know, maybe for the same reason they did before money was involved, or the same reason artists all over the world do it for free still...a$$ hat. Reznor and NIN are bitch slapping Interscope right now, pay attention. It is marvelous seeing him MAKE MILLIONS BY GIVING HIS MUSIC AWAY FOR FREE. EFF METALLICA AND THEIR 'DEATH MAGNETIC' (TM, (C), R) Please do keep all rights to the dumbest, most rediculous combination of english words ever. EVER.
2. That said, times have changed since people were creating in the absence of USD profits. I think this is the point Doctorow is trying to raise - that people today are too caught up in zietgiest to think of what it means to create for human culture, primarily because so much of our western culture is based on capitalism and profiteering //with no tones of skepticism, merely noting fact. He is trying to bring up a notion of what is fair and unfair 'copying' in the grander scope of history and time that exists outside our own insignificant lives (and balance sheets), and begging that it be applied to the laws which are beginning to (already have?) infringe on this much larger, more important picture of culture.
3. "We had music before we had a recording industry. We'll have music after we have a recording industry"
WORD.
4. There is a lot of argument over the finer points of the laws, to the effect of 'there can still be culture without copying, as defined by the law NOW'. I think Doctorow is worried about where this is going, not where it is. He is worried about the other side's lack of understanding of culture in historocity, as opposed to culture as a product to sell in our lifetime. I think the overall point that a lot are missing is, culture belongs to everyone, even those who are dead. Aren't all of our ideas founded in a basis formed from some other idea that was there before us (sorry non-philosophers)? There is plenty of credit due, but who decides how to divy up the profits?
Record industries have made a business out of selling music, something that was previously not considered a good. Granted I do not know first hand, 500 yrs ago you could not have traded an original song for any good (such as gold or meat). It was entertainment used to lighten the mood from hunting and mining (and other BS that I don't know anything about). This is an idea which A) has been around way longer than any industry, B) is not at the fore-front of any industry's intentions, and C) is in danger of being stifled out (or at least regulated to the point of being unrecognizable as culture, as we know it today or yesteryear) by these same industries. Doctorow is saying be careful about regulating something that is not a good (if you look outside your measley 100yr life-span) as a good, with the people selling it in charge.
5. There are a lot of comments to the effect of 'if there were no copyright laws, then the artists would get screwed'. Artists get screwed left and right already, not by people sharing their work, but by greedy corporations who manage their 'business'. Labels will create deals which put the artist in debt if they don't sell enough. Mark my words, the industry will screw over the artist any chance they get if it means $$$. Do not be naive and say the industry actually cares about the rights of the artist. They care about a product, assuming they can sell it. If they can't, they don't care. Culture does.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 1:26:00 PM, Anonymous NelC said...

6. Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?

I don't know. Why don't we ask an artist who does make their work available for free online? If only there was one handy to ask. Maybe the author of the article above knows someone like this?

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 5:05:00 PM, Anonymous Wildfire said...

I do, and I mentioned it - for those that read the forum to which they post.

"Reznor and NIN are bitch slapping Interscope right now, pay attention. It is marvelous seeing him MAKE MILLIONS BY GIVING HIS MUSIC AWAY FOR FREE."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ5iHaV0dP4

Enjoy. For free.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 5:44:00 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

NelC:

Well, Cory himself does, you know.

EASTERN STANDARD TRIBE free download:
http://craphound.com/est/download.php

A PLACE SO FOREIGN free download:
http://craphound.com/place/download.php

DOWN AND OUT IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM free download:
http://craphound.com/down/download.php

Physical editions are available for sale as well, of course.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 8:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a professional comics creator, may I say that the current structure of copyright does not primarily protect artists. It protects the "copyright owner" - which as often as not is a corporation or publisher, who are quite likely making far more money from an artist's work than the artist themselves.

That's why the people really frightened by digital copying and the internet are those whose only role in the current art-economy is in publishing and distributing. That's who the *IAAs represent - not the artists.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 8:51:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Anonymous: "Yet you do not provide a reason as to why they are not analogous..."

I didn't think it needed to be pointed out that medical research is used to save lives, and that a medical breakthrough cure is likely a unique resource. The same cannot be said for Britney Spears. Again, the two are not analogous in any way other than the most simplistic. Which is why conflating the two is a foolish thing to do.

Wildfire: "I don't know, maybe for the same reason they did before money was involved, or the same reason artists all over the world do it for free still...a$$ hat."

This is another false argument. The amount of art created before money became so intertwined was comparatively insignificant, and art was considered one of the lowest professions in many cultures. Additionally, the great volume of copyright protected artwork arguably stimulates our culture, thus encouraging many unpaid artists to pursue their own projects. This is the true reason copyright exists. Not to line pockets. I'm not saying copyright law isn't used ot line pockets, and I'm not saying it doesn't need reform. But we cannot point to "how things were before" as a positive example to support the abolishment of copyright and we also cannot point to the volume of artists creating art when they have been raised in a world where copyright has stimulated artistic growth.

And another false example: NIN. Making your fame in a copyright based system and then shrugging off said system disqualifies you from standing as an example to the success of the free distribution system. Anything Reznor or NIN does is irrelevant to the discussion.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 8:55:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Anonymous: "As a professional comics creator..."

I'm a professional comics creator as well, and I'm going to have to disagree with you. I'm paid through a royalty system and I receive payments in perpetuity of my distribution. I also retain a certain portion of credit and ownership for all my creations, in perpetuity. Copyright law protects me, as an artist. Yes, it also protects other entities. But artists are not excluded, unless you really mismanaged your contract negotiations.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 9:50:00 PM, Blogger Felipe Budinich said...

"One point that many copy fighters ignore is how Big Business will exploit new creative people in the absence of copyright, especially movie studios who won't be obliged to pay authors a dime or musicians for using their songs in a soundtrack."

That's the point of Creative Commons, and General Public License;

1.- I, the artist, created the content for you, my fans, go ahead and show it to all your friends, neighbors, family members, enemies, ex-girlfriends, etc...

2.- If you want to sell stuff created by me, THEN and ONLY THEN you pay me (Of course this second statement is not true under a General Public License).

I've really considered releasing my stuff under a new kind of agreement, along the lines of "if you make under 1000 dollars a month, you are allowed to sell my stuff and pay me zilch, zero, nada" As a way to contribute to the local economies of poor countries, it wouldn't be a bad idea.

"We had music before we had a recording industry. We'll have music after we have a recording industry"

We will have BETTER music once the record industry implodes.

I really hope the cultural dominance of the US collapses under it's own idiocy.

A free world will only be possible once the self imposed economic resistance the "western" world renders itself unable to move and innovate.

And this goes way beyond music, patents on Medicine, Seeds, Genes. They only stifle innovation.

Ranting aside.. haven't you noticed that the ones complaining the louder are the ones that create the shittiest content?

Create something worthwhile and people will buy it, even if the medium is absurd (I've bought CDs and DVDs the past 5 years, AFTER I saw the movie or heard the music, as a way to show my support to the creators, If I've had a way to contribute with the creators of "Funny HAHA", "Machuca", or "Noialbinoi" i would have done so, even if I did not get a piece of plastic in exchange)

Free yourself, open up to new forms of media, and you will realize that they've been spoon feeding you shit all these years.

 
At Monday, November 17, 2008 11:35:00 PM, Anonymous PO8 said...

"If I sent you to a desert island and told you to choose between your records and your friends, you'd be a sociopath if you chose the music."

There's also an argument to be made that you'd be a sociopath if you chose to condemn your friends to a desert island just to have them around. :-)

But I get the point.

(Anonymous found this sentence "incredibly insulting and uncalled for." I find this a huge overreaction. People forced to live for years in complete isolation from others almost inevitably go insane in an unhappy way. Humans are apparently built to need a certain minimum amount of social contact. You may not be a sociopath if you choose the records, but you are at least uninformed, and will probably end up with serious mental illness if you don't have it already.)

 
At Tuesday, November 18, 2008 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Wildfire said...

Memyself: "This is another false argument. The amount of art created before money became so intertwined was comparatively insignificant, and art was considered one of the lowest professions in many cultures. Additionally, the great volume of copyright protected artwork arguably stimulates our culture, thus encouraging many unpaid artists to pursue their own projects. This is the true reason copyright exists."

There is nothing false about that statement. The question was why an artist would create without making money. The answer is literally the reason they did before money was involved - passion, culture, etc. End of story.

AND...ARE YOU SERIOUSLY CALLING DA VINCI INSIGNIFICANT? Money was involved, yes, but not to the degree that it is today. Do you think Da Vinci had copyrights on his art? Maybe patents, but its already been discussed how rediculously disproportionate the patent system is vs. the copyright system. This is the time I was referring to with my quite truthful statement.

And yes, Reznor used to be part of the system, and got sick of the direction it was moving in. Maybe he was Interscope's lapdog for a while but he realized this (before it was too late) and made significant changes to the way he was doing business. He should be a rolemodel for all artists - use the system to get you name out, and then end your contract and give the good stuff away for free. He feels genuinely bad for letting his company treat his fans so poorly, and has vowed to amend it.

It's understandable that artists should have some motivation to create for a living, and that is where the creative commons comes in. The artist does not need the copyright laws to make a living, the distribution and recording companies do. And these laws are in a state of flux; the concern is what they will become, not what they are.

 
At Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous CAL HOON said...

As much copyrighted info as there is these days, very little of it is as well written nor as insightful as this article. Thank you for the great read.

 
At Wednesday, November 19, 2008 11:32:00 AM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Wildfire: "There is nothing false about that statement. The question was why an artist would create without making money. The answer is literally the reason they did before money was involved - passion, culture, etc. End of story."

Strangely enough, saying "end of story" does not actually end the discussion or make fiction into fact. Yup, some artists will continue to produce. But as you are pointing out a specific bit of history for comparison, we have to look at that moment in history in it's entirety. Yes, people produced art. At nowhere near the same capacity as they did after producing said artwork became profitable. We can look at the artistic output of society before and after the current system came into being. During the time of strict laws regulating ownership and distribution, output has spiked dramatically. That is relevant and cannot be dismissed with the simple hopes and dreams echoed throughout the internet of reinventing the system.

Wildfire: "AND...ARE YOU SERIOUSLY CALLING DA VINCI INSIGNIFICANT? Money was involved, yes, but not to the degree that it is today. Do you think Da Vinci had copyrights on his art? Maybe patents, but its already been discussed how rediculously disproportionate the patent system is vs. the copyright system. This is the time I was referring to with my quite truthful statement."

Please pay attention to what I am actually saying. One Da Vinci is statistically insignificant. There will always be artists, yes. But that does not mean there will always be the same volume of artists. How many musicians of financial success was there during the time of Mozart? Artistic diversity is a good thing. A proliferation of material is a good thing. Art stimulates growth in many of sectors of society. It is an important part of culture. And it has been shown that a stronger guarantee of economic success leads to a larger output of art.

People are so quick to dismiss copyright. Well guess what, history shows that copyright has encouraged artistic growth. Not discouraged.

Wildfire: "And yes, Reznor used to be part of the system, and got sick of the direction it was moving in. Maybe he was Interscope's lapdog for a while but he realized this (before it was too late) and made significant changes to the way he was doing business. He should be a rolemodel for all artists - use the system to get you name out, and then end your contract and give the good stuff away for free. He feels genuinely bad for letting his company treat his fans so poorly, and has vowed to amend it."

It doesn't matter. If we're looking for examples of success, he's a bad name to bring up. Any success he has with free distribution is impossible to gauge as it does not exist in a vacuum. He built his success on a copyright laden brick and mortar system. His success proves only that those who are supported by the copyright system can be successful. But we already know this.

So bring up Reznor. Bring up Radiohead. Bring up these names that support the positive effects of copyright. Is copyright so prohibitive and horrible here? Two examples where those involved reaped enormous rewards and made careers out of their art? Two examples where those involved can now give their art away without needing compensation? How could this happen if copyright is so evil or damaging? Copyright created this scenario and now our culture benefits from the investment.

Any artist can refuse to work with copyright. Copyright only protects those that want protection. If I release a book for free, it's free. But if I want to charge money for it, I'm protected by law. Copyright does NOT prohibit free distribution. Not at all. Copyright does NOT inhibit artistic growth. Nope. So what exactly is the problem here?

Actually, I know what the problem is. People want things for free. Not the ones available for free though. No. Because right now, you could get plenty of music/books/comics/games/ect without spending a penny. And you could do this legally. But that's not what it's about, is it? It's about the latest summer blockbuster or newest chart topping band.

Sometimes things cost money. And there is nothing wrong with that.

 
At Wednesday, November 19, 2008 1:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet if I copied this essay, posted it on my website, or sold it to others, Mr. Doctorow would be a little pissed! Yet that is exactly the kind of behavior he is encouraging. I believe the word we've coined for this behavior is "hypocrite."

 
At Thursday, November 20, 2008 3:00:00 PM, Anonymous Wildfire said...

Memyself: "Strangely enough, saying "end of story" does not actually end the discussion or make fiction into fact. Yup, some artists will continue to produce. But as you are pointing out a specific bit of history for comparison, we have to look at that moment in history in it's entirety. Yes, people produced art. At nowhere near the same capacity as they did after producing said artwork became profitable. We can look at the artistic output of society before and after the current system came into being. During the time of strict laws regulating ownership and distribution, output has spiked dramatically. That is relevant and cannot be dismissed with the simple hopes and dreams echoed throughout the internet of reinventing the system."

Memyself, the question was why an artist would produce without monetary compensation, not what is the trend of quantity vs time. Apparently, there is no 'end of story' as long as you can rant about unrelated issues. I was trying to say you are going above and beyond what was asked in a simple question, to the point of being off-subtopic. It's fine to talk about it, but to tell me that something was false based on subsequent unrelated rantings is ludicrous.

We all understand that money is the driving motive behind most artists today. I will bet you that if I offered money for eating something nasty like slugs, you would see a spike in volume of people who eat slugs. A lot of us wish that wasn't the case with music (and other art). Just because there is more output does not mean it is worth-while; it is the classic quality vs quantity argument. What Doctorow is referring to as culture is a paradigm born of passion. What Da Vinci did for near free is genuine culture. What Brittany Spears does is so that she can shop. God help us if the only thing driving our culture in the future is money.

"Actually, I know what the problem is. People want things for free. Not the ones available for free though. No. Because right now, you could get plenty of music/books/comics/games/ect without spending a penny. And you could do this legally. But that's not what it's about, is it?"

No. it's about pulling the blinders off everyone's eyes so that they can realize what we're all so capitalist-ically engrossed in is NOT true culture, it is culture as a business where we are the customer. This is a modern model of culture formed by the sellers in the market, with the copyright laws a a constitution, so to speak. Something official to make it seem like this is the beginning of culture, instead of what it actually is, the beginning of the end of culture. It is regulated by the sellers; anything that they deem unworthy, doesn't make it. It does not flow freely as true culture does. And they do control what makes it to the public by dilluting true art with bullshit brittany spears tunes every 5min on the radio and TV. You can say, 'have your true culture all you want, copyright doesn't stop free trade...' but the fact remains that they rest their business squarely on top of what true culture is, not only hiding it from the masses, but dilluting the idea of truly empassioned art.

And dude, I don't know where you came up with the requisites for what constitutes an example of success, but it certainly wasn't anywhere in this forum. I understand that you resent the fact that these people have jumped the fence, but they are on this side regardless. All I am saying is that Reznor spent time and money (surely made off copyright) to produce something that was freely distributed. And then he made it back in a tour that still is not ending (as he doubles back over ground he has already covered). I will be seeing him for a 3rd time on this same tour, because I support the fact that he gives me new music online for free, and encourages me to remix and give away again. I can't imagine anyone who is "an example of success" in your opinion, if it requires making millions on free music in the face of an industry that stands against that. "Success" as an artist, in my opinion, means creating something that touches millions of people in diffent ways, and not only adds to the wealth of creative works in humanity (culture), but inspires new direction and movement which would not have previously been achieved. All in an unregulated, natural way. I believe our different views reflect success in culture, vs success in business.

Really, I just don't like the idea of having money so directly intertwined as the primary motive for adding to culture. And now that there is such a significant system built up around it, it is impossible to really make an impression unless you're part of it. If the record companies weren't in bed with all the radio stations, we would hear more than the same 5 songs over and over again. I understand your point that there is business to be had, and I believe it is fair game. But there are ways of making money without so wrecklessly regulating creative works which should be shared (see question 2). When this business treads on top of something older and much more important in the scope of all time, when it creates honest questions of "why should I contribute to culture if I don't get paid?", well then we have a serious developing problem. Anyone who is a true artist and/or advocate of culture should be very upset over that question (it's the only reason I got involved here in the first place). It's people like Trent Reznor and Corey Doctorow that are trying to wake up people everywhere, and instill a sense of what we are really dealing with - not a business, a dying paradigm of our ancestors. Yes, they use the flawed system to get their voice out, because that's all that is left.

I have two direct questions for you, Memyself (and anyone else), and I would appreciate direct, relevant answers...
1. Have you ever contributed to culture for a reason other than money?
2. Why not advocate for creative commons lisencing rather than the c-circle?

 
At Thursday, November 20, 2008 5:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. "Why, pray, should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?"
Wilfire: "I know its already been expanded upon, but ummm... I don't know, maybe for the same reason they did before money was involved, or the same reason artists all over the world do it for free still...a$$ hat."

What a weak comeback. What do you want Wildfire? You apparently decided that the artists will keep making art if you don't pay them - therefore, screw them, let them starve, we can keep getting their stuff without paying a dime for their work. You're an incredibly selfish and self-centered person.

 
At Friday, November 21, 2008 12:18:00 AM, Anonymous Peeter said...

Re: 'I bet if I copied this essay, posted it on my website, or sold it to others, Mr. Doctorow would be a little pissed! Yet that is exactly the kind of behavior he is encouraging. I believe the word we've coined for this behavior is "hypocrite."'

It is a bit odd that there's no mention on this site of the licensing of this essay. On Cory's own site craphound.com most stuff is licensed under some kind of CC license - e.g. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd-nc/1.0
I assume that this essay is meant to be licensed under some similar license, but that Locus maybe doesn't use CC licenses. Or something.

 
At Friday, November 21, 2008 12:19:00 AM, Anonymous Peeter said...

Found it - on the main Locus site it says:
"© 2008 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved."
I assume that covers this essay as well, unless Cory has negotiated different rights.

 
At Friday, November 21, 2008 3:57:00 AM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Wildfire: "A lot of us wish that wasn't the case with music (and other art)."

Yet this material is often the most pirated. That suggests that most people want this material over anything you might consider superior. "Culture" is driven by the consumers of culture. That's the way it will always be. Purposefully working to limit the amount of choices so that one sides perspective on what is unacceptable will fail is wrong for many reasons.

Wildfire: "Memyself, the question was why an artist would produce without monetary compensation, not what is the trend of quantity vs time."

No Wildfire. The question was "why should authors, composers, artists, etc. bother creating work if they don't make any money?" Note the plural. I have been addressing this question as it was originally asked. You are purposefully attempting to limit the question to the singular, which was NOT how the question was framed.

Again, what one artist may or may not do is not statistically significant. In the time since copyright has been adopted, artistic output has increased tremendously. You cannot dismiss this with an appeal to quality, as quality is subjective. Furthermore, such an argument ignores the probability that an artistically rich culture promotes further artistic endeavors.

Wildfire: "And dude, I don't know where you came up with the requisites for what constitutes an example of success"

The prerequisite for what constitutes an example of successful example is dictated by basic logic. To prove that copyright free distribution is viable, you have to point to something that is successful independent of the current copyright system. This isn't the case with the examples you have given.

Wildfire: "I understand that you resent the fact that these people have jumped the fence"

For the record, I have worked closely with many artists and publishers to embrace free distribution. But free distribution by choice is not the same as shrugging off the entire copyright system. So please spare me the "us versus them" argument.

Wildfire: "they rest their business squarely on top of what true culture is, not only hiding it from the masses, but dilluting the idea of truly empassioned art."

Copyright has stifled the existence or acceptance of "truly empassioned art"? That assessment is reliant upon your subjective perception of quality. I would argue that a great deal of true art has been nurtured through our current system. Yes, there will always be a certain opiate for the masses. Let's not pretend that will ever go away. But the volume of what most informed people consider art being produced is vast.

Wildfire: "Have you ever contributed to culture for a reason other than money?"

I have. But I have contributed much more because I am able to support myself off my art. Not a massive amount of money. I make about 18k a year as a full time writer. I would have had to quit a decade ago if I wasn't making this small income.

Wildfire: "Why not advocate for creative commons lisencing rather than the c-circle?"

I have yet to hear a single argument that realistically challenges the benefits of copyright. Copyright is not something that is automatically enforced. Artists can choose whether or not their work is available for free, or protected. That choice should NEVER be taken away from the artists. You've already pointed to examples of artists giving away their work for free. So copyright isn't exactly stifling the free distribution or production of art. In fact, in both your examples the current business model allowed these people to reach a massive audience, and then create work and distribute it for free. There is nothing about broken in those scenarios. So what is it about copyright that isn't working? Why do we need a change? Because you think that most of the material marketed to the public is not worth selling?

 
At Friday, November 21, 2008 9:38:00 AM, OpenID billectric said...

I was under the impression that if you make money by copying stuff, you can get in trouble. Otherwise, there really isn't much anyone can do to you except ask you to stop. Am I wrong?

 
At Friday, November 21, 2008 4:13:00 PM, Anonymous Wildfire said...

Anonymous: "What a weak comeback. What do you want Wildfire?"

What I want is for people to realize there are other obvious motives to art beside money. This question literally offended me, as a free-lance artist. That is all. I am not saying they should want to or have to, dude. Why is it so hard for people (at least on this thread) to believe that there could actually be a worthy cause in this world beside money? It's frankly appalling.

Memyself: "Note the plural. I have been addressing this question as it was originally asked."

Very well, memyself. Plural. Still...intent, not output. You can answer this question without even mentioning what or how much. The question is WHY they produce, not how much of what do they produce. But for the record, I will concede and say that your comments about increased probability of quality/progression with larger quantity are quite true. But, it's still not the question I was addressing ;)

Memyself: "...prove that copyright free distribution is viable..."

Who said anything about this? I didn't anyway, and it wasn't what I was speaking of when I said 'success'. It's not about wiping out the whole system (which I think might have been a worthwhile clarification earlier in the discussion), its about limiting the amount of shit the RIAA can hurl at the common consumer. It's about uniting the two sides on a common ground between culture and business, not making a business out of culture - which is the concern.

Memyself: "I have yet to hear a single argument that realistically challenges the benefits of copyright."

How many artists are involved in the law-making process? How many lawyers? How many managers? How many businessmen in general vs. actual artists in general? I hate to be all doomsday-ish, but are you seriously not worried about it getting out of hand and you not having any say in it?

The problem is, I believe there should be some basic system (I think CC is a good one, actually controlled by the artist, or more so anyway...) but it would be eclipsed by the idustry standard. If there is a primary system that is making the execs money, they will fight tooth and nail to be sure that is the only one available for the cultural 'consumer'. It will compete in a visciously business-oriented way with any other system that tries...and will level them, and maintain control. This is why I think NIN and Radiohead are valid examples (for my point, maybe not yours). You need to read what they have to say, they are feeling like they have no say in their business anymore, so the only way to have a say is to give it away for free. I don't necessarily agree, but given the alternative, it seems to be the only choice for them. And I think it is commendable, because they could have just thought, I don't care about the consumer as long as I am still making money. But they didn't. That is a validating feeling as a fan.

Hearing that you are yourself an artist is refreshing. I was starting to worry that you were the sleazy exec. I think we certainly have a common ground, as it seems your dedication to true culture is genuine. I think where we are diverging is in the sub-industries: writing vs. music. I honestly am not that in tune with the writing industry, but I feel the music industry has been screwing artists, as well as consumers. This sentiment is shared by many, both consumer and artist. I think magazines have it right, they practically DO give their product away for free! The money is in the advertising. It is in music, too, but that is not enough. And there is no real choice in the matter. It is actually scary. I shred on the guitar, I don't know how to tear it up in court. Yet that is where the decisions are being made. And as long as there is a monopoly on the system which 'protects the artist' it will be the only one. Again, this is about the music industry, as I believe the writing industry is much more humble than the music industry. We have rockstars, not writingstars. I can see how you find copyright valuable in your profession, and I would agree. Shouldn't educational reading and writing be more valuable than recreational music? It probably would be if culture had been kept out of the hands of big business. Again, I am not lobbying for the abolishment of all copyright. The music industry is out of control and the reigns are not in the artist's (or consumer's) hands. People are worried this is close to the end of our say in the matter, and no one is paying attn (obviously preaching to the choir on that one...) These are good debates which should be much more prominent in main-stream media, but the RIAA does not want the consumers or artists to have a say.

I hope I have moved a little more in your direction, because I respect your view and do think I understand it, especially now that I know you're in writing. I would urge you to look at the music industry and be active in making sure the writing industry does not reach that level of business machine-ism.

Do you own the rights to your material, memyself, or does your boss? Realize that many record deals are only offered with the latter, the alternative being to not produce for money. There is little room for the artist to negotiate, which creates an ultimatum. If the RIAA doesn't think you are 'marketable' they'll offer to screw you, and if you say no then they just move on to the next project. Notice the driving force here isn't what different people think is quality, but what the RIAA deems 'in', which I would argue is about as far away from quality as you can get (subjective, yes). But the point is the majority of what I percieve as culture is chosen for me, based on focus groups and shit, and the rest is hidden from view, and called 'indy'. I have a different name for it: authentic.

Let me be clear. There should absolutely be avenues to make money(even alot if you're good) for what artists have to offer. It should not be controlled by the business managers. Artists should have exclusive rights to the product they create. A re-design of (at least) the music industry's copyright system is needed if they ever expect to limit pirating.

And one more thing - you should try to compile some of these blogs and make a book about the debate. Sort of like a documentary on the copywars - online perspective. I'm sure its been done, but it would be really interesting to hear some of the better arguments and present it to the great unwashed. I would, but you're the writer ;) And, hey, you can use all of my writings as much as you like! That's what I want.

 
At Saturday, November 22, 2008 8:41:00 AM, Anonymous TransDutch said...

There's another good reason to choose your friends over your music to bring to the deserted island.

You can't eat your music.

Does this make me a sociopath?

 
At Saturday, November 22, 2008 1:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous: "What a weak comeback. What do you want Wildfire?"

What I want is for people to realize there are other obvious motives to art beside money. This question literally offended me, as a free-lance artist. That is all. I am not saying they should want to or have to, dude. Why is it so hard for people (at least on this thread) to believe that there could actually be a worthy cause in this world beside money? It's frankly appalling.


As a self-employed software developer, I resent the idea that it's some sort of binary either-or. Either I do it for the money, or I love what I do. I do love what I do, but I certainly would stop doing it if I couldn't make any money. Saying that artists/creators should do it purely for the art reminds me of the corporate American claim that managers say - programmers do it for the challenge. True, we do love the challenge, but whenever I hear a manager say that, my immediate reaction is "No, no, no, you cannot use that as a justification for low-balling my pay." I find that appalling.

 
At Saturday, November 22, 2008 4:08:00 PM, Anonymous Memyself said...

Wildfire: "The question is WHY they produce"

Well, I think that IS answered by the nebulous "need". Money encourages production, but it's not the heart of the drive. I will concede that fact. The truth, most copyright holders make very little money. So yes, if it were all about money, why would anyone bother? I know I could make alot more money as a garbage man. I don't do this because I make just enough on my art. But if I made nothing? My output would probably be about as close to zero now as you can get. Not that I don't have a passion or a drive for my art, but at near 40 years old, passion and drive just isn't enough. I need to pay my rent as well.

Wildfire: "I hate to be all doomsday-ish, but are you seriously not worried about it getting out of hand and you not having any say in it?"

Well... no. I'm not. I don't work with any lawyers or agents. Most of my peers do. That's their choice. And some of them have been nickled and dimed out of work. But I handle all my own contract negotiations, so the room for such a thing to happen is slim. I have sold away some ownership rights when I have felt comfortable doing so. But never without sufficient clauses including reversion of rights, full credit, creative control, first rights of refusal, reasonable royalties and the like. In close to two decades of my work, I do not feel I have ever once been taken advantage of.

Wildfire: "but I feel the music industry has been screwing artists, as well as consumers."

I'm not going to say that you're wrong. But I can't fully agree either. No one can force anyone to sign a contract. No one has to give all their rights away. 9 times out of 10, the artist screwed themselves. Either out of short sightedness or out of desperation or out of greed or maybe just out of a dice roll that things will work out in the end. Perhaps what we need isn't copyright reform, but better education so that more artists understand how to interpret and negotiate their own contracts.

As for consumers. No one has to buy anything. Consumers make their own choices. I happily encourage people to not buy things that are overpriced or simply low quality. But I absolutely discourage using these things as justification for piracy. Not that I'm saying you are advocating any such thing. I'm just making a general clarification.

Wildfire: "The money is in the advertising."

In the 90's I worked closely with a fairly widely distributed free music magazine and dealt with this business model first hand. The problem with advertising based revenue is that it is a very limited pool. If only a few people dip their cup into it to drink, no problem. But when everyone turns to it desperate from thirst, well you probably see where my tortured analogy is going.

Wildfire: "I don't know how to tear it up in court"

Honestly, it's not that different than debating on the internet. Contracts are pretty easy to understand once you decipher the language. That's really the main thing. It's basically written in code. You can find most info you need online for hot button contract issues, and if you're really 100% stumped you seek out a lawyer that comes well reviewed. But looking at your ability to formulate your thoughts here, I suspect you can get through the basics of a contract without to much difficulty.

Wildfire: "Do you own the rights to your material, memyself, or does your boss?"

Generally speaking, I don't have bosses (more like business partners). I either produce creator owned work that publishers release for an agreed upon profit cut, or I produce work for hire. When I produce work for hire, I enter into the scenario with an understanding that I don't fully own the work. Though I do receive royalties in perpetuity. It really depends on the contractor in question, as what different publishers offer varies. This non-ownership thing is different than what it is in music, as it involves working on derivative concepts rather than creating something wholly original.

Wildfire: "Realize that many record deals are only offered with the latter, the alternative being to not produce for money. There is little room for the artist to negotiate, which creates an ultimatum."

I think that can be the case. But it's certainly not always the case. There are myriad small labels out there for musicians to work with.

Yeah, I think every artistic venue can (and often does) involve some form of the artist being taken advantage of. On the other hand, so does every other type of work I have ever been involved with. Considering that working in music or what not is usually a dream come true, some of these costs are minimal. I've not always supported myself through my art. I also worked in demolition for awhile. any people in this country spend their days in horribly grueling conditions. And they do it for a fraction of the pay any of the abused rock stars receive.

It's work. It isn't always pleasant and it's certainly not perfect. But the world famous rock star with the worst contract is still in a better position than most anyone else in this world.

Wildfire: "you should try to compile some of these blogs and make a book about the debate. Sort of like a documentary on the copywars - online perspective."

That would make a cool book.

Anyway, I don't mean to pick and choose which parts of your post I respond to. I'm just a bit short on time, as I've been neglecting my work these last few days. Though honestly, it's more because I foolishly created a facebook page than the time spent debating here.

 
At Wednesday, November 26, 2008 1:03:00 PM, Anonymous w1L|)F1|2e said...

First off, that's right. I'm going L337.

Anonymous: "I resent the idea that it's some sort of binary either-or. Either I do it for the money, or I love what I do. I do love what I do, but I certainly would stop doing it if I couldn't make any money."

I did not mean to imply this at all. Unless... the thought process could be boiled down to some sort of universal turing machine! JK. I think we agree, in that I do not believe money could be the exclusive binary condition. I do personally feel that the motive for creation should be a higher percentage of passion than capital gain, whatever the slices of pie are.

Memyself: "Perhaps what we need isn't copyright reform, but better education so that more artists understand how to interpret and negotiate their own contracts."

Absolutely. Well, at least with regard to the education. I think that making things more clear in the terms of contract should be worked on as well, which I would consider reform, but to the same end.

Memyself: "But looking at your ability to formulate your thoughts here, I suspect you can get through the basics of a contract without to much difficulty."

Well I'm happy to hear I am not coming off as a total DB! Yes, I beleive I have the skills to survive in, and learn more about, the court system, but I said "tear it up", not survive. And, I don't have the same passion for it that the lawyers do, which I think is an important aspect of one's ability to 'tear it up' (obviously ;). As an analog, I would say the copyright wars are being fought on the lawyer's home-court, while I believe they should be on the artist's home-court (I don't really know what that would be), so really at least a more neutral location, which in my mind seems like reforming some of the more red-taped aspects of the negotiations, for a start. More involvement from the public, rather than hiding it from them, would be a good thing, too. That's Doctorow's point, not abolishment of copyright, but bringing the issue of copyright reform where it belongs - in the public's eye. Whether we see it or not, it is in the process of changing; reform is already taking place.
Doctorow: "Culture's old. It's older than copyright." And it belongs to everyone, so shouldn't we all have a say in a neutral setting?

Always enlightening, but I too have work piled up from a recent Vegas vacation, and must return to it (though I found myself looking forward to checking the blog before I even returned). So happy to see there is the possibility for such professional, worthwhile online debate.

 
At Wednesday, December 03, 2008 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Matthew said...

I think we've established pretty well the value of artists making a buck off their work. Hooray!

The base issue that Cory brings up, however, remains: The internet is for copying. It does it quickly, inexpensively, and easily. This is a boon, and the RIAA does not recognize this. This is not justification to start stealing intellectual property, but it is an oppertunity to start supporting business ventures that reflect the unique qualities of the internet-venture like Rhapsody. Rhapsody pays the recording company (unless artists start buying their own recording equipment and sound engineers, the record company is still important) for access to the song, and users pay an access fee for all-you-can-consume music. Cory has postulated several awesome distribution methods...the base point here is businesses are in the business of making money, show them that there is a worthwhile alternative to the $20 CD, and they'll follow it, or they will fail. Use your power as a consumer, a technophile, and culture creator, not as a theif, to affect that change.

 
At Monday, December 08, 2008 4:26:00 PM, Anonymous Obscillesk said...

The internet with all its glory and horror, is here to stay in some form or another until our species annihilates itself, or it becomes unnecessary because of some new innovation. Fighting it isn't possible, you're fighting against the connected members of humanity itself. Trying to enforce laws to limit its effects won't work, it is everywhere and increasingly in every thing. If you cannot see how far-reaching everything about the internet is, you cannot properly debate the effects of it in the first place. This goes far beyond copyright law, government regulation, anything that tries to constrain it. We have created a subconscious for our species, fighting it will do no good.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home