Glorified Piracy

Commenting in Spiked on the Lessig School of digital piracy enablement, Andrew Orlowski traces the odd course of progressive thought on creativity:

In polite company, sympathy for copyright is in short supply, while for politicians, the ‘creative economy’ is little more than a platitude. Such attitudes are most deeply held amongst people who consider themselves liberal, forward thinking or progressive.

Which is deeply odd, because for 150 years liberals and progressives have embraced the artistic creator as both an ally and a pathfinder. From William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement, to the many schemes devised by postwar social democratic governments, the creator was an aesthetic rebel, a political ally and a visionary, an ethos that owed much to Shelley’s view of the poet as the ‘unacknowledged legislator’. What many of these initiatives had in common was a creator’s economic independence, typically supported through the mechanism of copyright.

The progressive’s support of creator’s rights expressed an optimistic view of society and human nature. But ever since digital utopianism swept through the chattering classes in the early 1990s, this positive view has been replaced by one of misanthropy and paranoia.

At some point you’d hope these expropriators would realize that derivative works of pseudo-creativity can’t flourish without some original material to plagiarize.

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7 Responses to Glorified Piracy

  1. Progressives are for creators.

    They are not for big business.

    Now, let us not rant endlessly that this is not completely resolvable – GOT IT! HEARD IT! KNOW IT! There’s no cleverness in pointing out that point, it is *understood*.

    The copyright increases in recent times have been almost entirely for big business, not creators. That’s just a fact. The creators are often *long dead*.

    People trying to find solutions favoring creators have no money behind them, hence don’t get a lot of attention.

  2. Creators who happen to work for Big Business benefit from these pro-business moves, don’t they? So this is another one of them “false dichotomy” things.

  3. Brett Glass says:

    Does any of the benefit trickle down to creators who work for big business?

  4. Richard, I specifically, tediously, noted the issue you brought up:

    “Now, let us not rant endlessly that this is not completely resolvable – GOT IT! HEARD IT! KNOW IT! There’s no cleverness in pointing out that point, it is *understood*.”

    So, sigh, what do you do? Bring it up. (“So this is another one of them “false dichotomy” things”). It’s not false, but it’s not perfect. Life is full of things which are mostly true in a complex sense but not in a simple sense.

    The progressive thought that tries to engage this approaches it in a way that rejects the simplistic favoring of big business with a feast because they’ll throw a crumb at creators. Even the abolish-copyright crowd does it, in a trivial way – their argument is basically the number of people getting paid directly is such peanuts compared to the overall social costs that the whole system is not worth it.

    The 1990’s driver is not digital utopianism, but the DMCA and other laws which have make the copyright regime much more harsh and restrictive than it was previously. That’s not just theorizing, it’s literally criminal.

  5. OK, let’s leave big business and copyright extension out of the equation altogether. What’s left is copyright enforcement in the digital age, which is important if we think artists are entitled to decide for themselves what they sell and what they give away. Tools like the DMCA are necessary to serve the interests and protect the rights of that small group of insignificant people, who have largely been abandoned by the left because they don’t represent a large voting bloc and also, I believe, because they have elite skills. They’re the people Mao sent to the countryside to work with the peasants in the rice fields.

    Creative people dutifully support the Democratic Party and get nothing in return. Saying they all have to abandon recording and get on with the live performances doesn’t cut it for me, I’d like to see them get sensible protections against the large-scale theft of their work we see on the Internet today.

  6. Andrew Orlowski says:

    “Progressives are for creators. They are not for big business.”

    Seth, I addressed this in the essay.

    ” … the DMCA and other laws which have make the copyright regime much more harsh and restrictive than it was previously.”

    And that bogeyman, too.

  7. Andrew Orlowski says:

    Richard: “Tools like the DMCA are necessary to serve the interests and protect the rights of that small group of insignificant people…”

    Actually, the DMCA permits the ordinary, amateur creator (such a parent who has posted a picture of their child on the internet) to seek redress without hiring an expensive lawyer. All they need do is fill out a simple form. Panic stations ensue at the publisher and their ISPs.

    Of course that means it’s a blunt tool, too. It’s royal pain for publishers like us (with international syndication agreements) to deal with a vexatious complaint some guy in his basement has filed in a few seconds. But I can entirely see the rationale: it protects the little guy against copyright infringement. And if you’re in the business of publishing to a mass audience, you should take a bit of care and respect author’s rights. That’s cool.

    I’ve investigated complaints from parents and am amazed people don’t know more about the DMCA could do for them.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/02/google_orkut_dmca/

    Note the weasel language from Google.

    Now the DMCA can and has been abused, and Seth is one of the few people to challenge these abuses practically and constructively. It has been deployed to prevent legitimate research and investigation – we can all cite the cases.

    But thanks to the propaganda of the anti-creator lobby in the US very few people realise what the DMCA can do for them.

    In the age when we’re told “everyone is a creator”, it’s funny how creator’s rights are considered to be supernumary.

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