Mark Waid Explains: Culture Is More Important Than Copyright & It's Time To Look For Opportunities In Sharing

from the say-that-again dept

We recently wrote about comic book writer Mark Waid's supposedly controversial keynote speech at the Harvey Awards, where he talked about copyright, the public domain and learning to embrace file sharing. Beyond the general controversy, a lot of people apparently misinterpreted his talk to be anti-copyright and anti-making money (we get that a lot around here too). So he's now posted a written out version of his talk that seeks to clarify many of his points (thanks to Robert Ring for sending this in). It's a great read, and hits on many of the points that we normally talk about here. Specifically, copyright is supposed to benefit the public and that file sharing isn't going away, so you're better off embracing it and using it to your advantage, rather than whining about it. Nice to see more people recognizing this. It also has a great line:
culture is more important than copyright
I'm trying to understand anyone who would disagree with this statement, but so often we hear people say that they have to defend their copyrights "on principle," even if not defending them is better for culture. But the key point of his article is that fearing file sharing and attacking it doesn't help. It doesn't stop it from happening and it provides no real advantage to those doing the attacking. So he suggests it's time to figure out ways to turn it into an opportunity:
Like it or not, downloading is here. Torrents and filesharing are here. That's not going away. I'm not here to attack it or defend it--I'm not going to change anyone's mind either way, and everyone in America at this point has anecdotal evidence "proving" how it hurts or helps the medium--but I am here to say it isn't going away--and fear of it, fear of filesharing, fear of illegal downloading, fear of how the internet changes publishing in the 21st century, that's a legitimate fear, because we're all worried about putting food on the table and leaving a legacy for our children, but we're using our energy on something we can't stop, because filesharing is not going away.

And I'll tell you why. It's not because people "like stealing." It's because the greatest societal change in the last five years is that we are entering an era of sharing. Twitter and YouTube and Facebook--they're all about sharing. Sharing links, sharing photographs, sending some video of some cat doing something stupid--that's the era we're entering. And whether or not you're sharing things that technically aren't yours to share, whether or not you're angry because you see this as a "generation of entitlement," that's not the issue--the issue is, it's happening, and the internet's ability to reward sharing has reignited this concept that the public domain has cultural value. And I understand if you are morally outraged about it and you believe to your core that an entire generation is criminal and they're taking food off your table, I respect that.

But moral outrage is often how we deal with fear. It's a false sense of empowerment in the face of fear.
Great stuff. Definitely go read the whole thing. He also mentions that he's got some plans in place for how he's going to embrace things like BitTorrent and run some interesting experiments. He points out that they're experiments, and there's no guarantee they'll work, but he wants to step forward and at least try to embrace it. This is great to hear, and I look forward to seeing what kind of experiments he runs.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    chris (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 8:59am

    good to see that someone out there gets it

    my response to the "OMG it's STEEEELING" crowd has often been that it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, file sharing happens and it can't be stopped.

     

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    gregory, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 9:21am

    We are seeing how it can be stopped: apps and walled gardens.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 10:38am

      Re:

      Please explain how those stop file sharing (hint: "piracy" is alive and well on platforms that use those measures).

       

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        Nicolas Dufour (profile), Sep 7th, 2010 @ 4:49am

        Re: Re:

        Since when culture needs copyright to evolve and flourish?! Only the "occidental" world actually uses it. Have you seen culture being in peril elsewhere? Of course not.

        Copyright was created as an incentive to help creators for a period of time (originally 14 years). Then it goes into public domain. Nowadays, copyright is just a mafia way to racket people: 75 years after the death of the author is worse than feudal rights!

         

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      PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 4th, 2010 @ 8:55am

      Re:

      Do you have some data showing that apps and walled gardens have stopped file sharing? I mean, at best, walled gardens let you stop file sharing on one platform. But computers aren't walled gardens yet and file sharing still happens.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 9:31am

    culture is more important than copyright. Is it, in this society? Certainy it should be, but I believe our industrialized society has moved away from a people and social centric attitude and firmly entrenched in one of monetization and ownership (seemingly at all cost), the two not always being complimentary, in the short term with little long term vision (driven in large part by stock and commodities market expectations).

     

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      cc (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 9:41am

      Re:

      Of course it is. That the people we have entrusted to run the world have lost long-term vision is just another thing that is broken and needs to be fixed.

       

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    coldbrew, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 9:41am

    RE: public domain is understood by some artists, some of the time

    Even the recently-flogged-here John Mellencamp said something I think is relevant in an interview with Terry Gross (of Fresh Air):

    Mr. MELLENCAMP: Well you know, as I've matured as a songwriter, I realize that if it's out there, it's mine. You know, everything I see and hear, I don't care if Shakespeare wrote it, or Tennessee Williams wrote it, or if Bob Dylan wrote it, or I see it on a sitcom. If I hear words, they're mine.


    Whole transcript: http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=102517146

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 10:13am

    Yeah, but, without copyright culture wouldn't even exist!

     

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    Paul Clark, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 11:25am

    Re: Constitutional Challenge

    Has anyone ever tried a constitutional challenge to the copyright law in the US. The basis of it would be that one of the fundamental principles of Jewish/ Christian/ and Islamic religions is sharing. Any limitation of a practitioner's ability to share their goods or possessions is a limitation on their Freedom of Religion.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 11:30am

      Re: Re: Constitutional Challenge

      Without appealing to religion, we could simply go off the fact that digital content is all integers (Thought exercise: name one mp3 that is not an integer in base 2). How exactly can anyone own the number 10? You can own a picture of the number 10, but the number itself is an abstract concept that doesn't really exist.

       

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    Karl (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Culture vs. copyright

    It's good to finally see more content creators "get it" when it comes to the digital age.

    Culture is more important than copyright.

    Truer words were never spoken.

    It never ceases to amaze me when people who defend copyright believe that respecting copyright is the same as respecting art. I think the opposite is true.

    If you believe that art can elevate humanity - that it's "food for the soul" - then it's all the more important that everyone have access to it. Even if you believe art is produced for more selfish reasons - that it's "self-expression" - then you'll still want art to be shared, for that's the only way your expression will be heard.

    But when you defend copyright, you're defending the notion that art is a mere commodity, of no more cultural significance than cans of soda or hair gel.

    Now, economically speaking, you must treat everything as a commodity if you want to get paid, and there's nothing at all wrong with getting paid. But when you treat the commercial aspect as more important than the social aspect... That, to me, is devaluing art. (Even bad art.)

     

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      Greevar (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 12:44pm

      Re: Culture vs. copyright

      "Now, economically speaking, you must treat everything as a commodity if you want to get paid, and there's nothing at all wrong with getting paid. But when you treat the commercial aspect as more important than the social aspect... That, to me, is devaluing art. (Even bad art.)"


      The problem is that these people don't realize what they're really selling. It's not copies. They're selling their time and effort, which is a commodity, but the way they are doing it is essentially claiming that the single act of creation entitles them to perpetual payment as long that thing exists.

      If I told my boss that I want to be paid for any future use of the meeting notes I recorded, he'd laugh in my face. Nevertheless, I still was paid for the time I spent taking those meeting notes and that's how they should be structuring the new business model.

      I made a similar point in another post:
      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20100830/03352510818.shtml#c303

       

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    NAMELESS ONE, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 11:43am

    @2 YOU MEAN

    you wall up and you make lil ways to stop it and people and hackers and crackers and pirates just end run around you and you get cut off the news and eventually they stop going to your news paper at all , kinda like where would wiki leaks be if newspapers hadn't embedded themselves to govt and corporations?

    gone and no where cause a reporter would have got the leaked stuff and the entire world would

    the fre masons proved you can't suppress knowledge forever and even gaining near absolute power themselves and then trying to control it they too are failing.

    you could turn the net off i can still get one disc and copy it. YOU CANT stop that.

    The catholic church tried to kill people for knowledge for over 1000 years but it found a way to be free.

    and what is the penalty for doing all this now a fine or kicked off the net? This is why it continues and you cant go harder cause it truly is non violent and in fact i'd wager it keeps some kids out of trouble that would otherwise prolly get into a ton more out there then tax payers would pay for there holiday form society.

    how to get even on societies that give you fines
    dont pay them goto jail have tax payers foot the bill.
    think about it avg inmate/convict costs Canada about 90,000 a year to house. your 20000 anti lock fine will net you a maximum 7 years prison time

    630,000 $ per person PER infringement
    society will tire of that cost real quick.
    the money in there pocket is worth far more then a few thousand lazy musicians wanting to nickel and dime us all for 50 years in Canada and 150 in the USA.

     

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    NAMELESS ONE, Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 11:48am

    @2 YOU MEAN ( cont)

    also we have the charter of rights and freedoms and section 12 is about cruel and unusual punishment

    is a drunk driver who kills someone gets 3-4 year sin jail and a 5000$ fine

    is it then cruel and unusual to sentence someone to longer time and bigger fine when no hum,an has been physically harmed? The answer is no and as such the harper law when it is enacted if it ever is....will be unconstitutional and will get a challenge.

     

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    Eugene (profile), Sep 3rd, 2010 @ 6:17pm

    This makes sense coming from a comic book writer, considering there's a hugely growing subset of comics gaining ground, which exist entirely on the web. Webcomics are, for the most part, all almost entirely free. That's the point: if the reader can't see the content then he doesn't know anything, and if he can't see the archive (since most of them are continuous stories) then he has no reason to be interested. So paywalls are terribly counterproductive (indeed, there were plenty of attempts to use them anyway in the early 'oughts, but to no avail)

    And yet, amazingly, there are a great number of webcomic creators out there who not only make money, but make a *living* off it! Wouldn't ya know! Not just the big hitters either, like Sluggy Freelance or Penny Arcade. Webcomics you've never heard of, and never WILL hear of, are making money for their creators. The reason comes from the principle of "1000 dedicated fans", where the size of your audience is far less important than their loyalty (this idea, at least as it relates to webcomics, was put forward by a collective that included the creators of PvP and Girl Genius among others).

    This principle is the same reason why more musicians are starting find that they're better off working independently rather than through a label. Carpet-bombing someone into popularity is only of life-or-death importance to giant companies. To the individual creators, 1000 dedicated fans is the only necessity. Everything else is icing.

     

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    Ilya, Dec 19th, 2010 @ 12:52am

    Culture vs. Copyright

    Too many people associate "no copyright" with "no money" for some reason. My father wrote an excellent book "Culture vs. Copyright" about this. It has analysis of what copyright does to modern culture, and some ideas on how no-copyright economy in modern world might work. Read it, it's fun :)

     

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    Cheap Anime DVD, Apr 18th, 2012 @ 11:59am

    Mark Waid Explains: Culture Is More Important Than Copyright & It's Time To Look For Opportunities In Sharing

    of course culture is really important than copyright. culture is about the belief and traditional of the people in a certain place, so we need to value it.

     

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