Explaining The Copyright Bubble… And Why Big Corporations Want To Keep ACTA Secret
from the indeed dept
Shane Chambers was the first of a few of you to send in this fantastic Slashdot comment by someone going by the name girlintraining, that encapsulates very clearly the nature of the copyright “wars” today and why the industry wants to keep ACTA quiet. The whole thing is worth a read, but to get you into it, here’s the beginning:
I used to read stuff like this and get upset. But then I realized that my entire generation knows it’s baloney. They can’t explain it intellectually. They have no real understanding of the subtleties of the law, or arguments about artists’ rights or any of that. All they really understand is there are large corporations charging private citizens tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, for downloading a few songs here and there. And it’s intuitively obvious that it can’t possibly be worth that.
An entire generation has disregarded copyright law. It doesn’t matter whether copyright is useful or not anymore. They could release attack dogs and black helicopters and it wouldn’t really change people’s attitudes. It won’t matter how many websites they shut down or how many lives they ruin, they’ve already lost the culture war because they pushed too hard and alienated people wholesale. The only thing these corporations can do now is shift the costs to the government and other corporations under color of law in a desperate bid for relevance. And that’s exactly what they’re doing.
What does this mean for the average person? It means that we google and float around to an ever-changing landscape of sites. We communicate by word of mouth via e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking sites where the latest fix of free movies, music, and games are. If you don’t make enough money to participate in the artificial marketplace of entertainment goods — you don’t exclude yourself from it, you go to the grey market instead. All the technological, legal, and philosophical barriers in the world amount to nothing. There is a small core of people that understand the implications of what these interests are doing and continually search for ways to liberate their goods and services for “sale” on the grey market. It is (economically and politically) identical to the Prohibition except that instead of smuggling liquor we are smuggling digital files.
Billions have been spent combating a singularily simple idea that was spawned thirty years ago by a bunch of socially-inept disaffected teenagers working out of their garages: Information wants to be free. Except information has no wants — it’s the people who want to be free. And while we can change attitudes about smoking with aggressive media campaigns, or convince them to cast their votes for a certain candidate, selling people on goods and services they don’t really need, what we cannot change is the foundations upon which a generation has built a new society out of.
But, still, they will try, and the way they try to do it is in backrooms and convincing governments that they must be right, and increased protectionism really is better for everyone — even though it’s really only better for a select group of middlemen.
Later on, she discusses how we’ve reached a “copyright bubble”:
Copyright won’t end anytime soon, but I’m suggesting we look at the fundamentals here: it is an artificial construct within the digital environment. It’s something we built extraneous to it, and in fact, is antagonistic to it. The exchange of information is fundamental to the existence of the internet. Copyright is not. Copyright is an institution, like marriage, the church, the government, etc. Like those things, it has a maintenance cost. It is a coping mechanism. That’s not a judgment on its sustainability nor its justification for existence (or lack thereof).
Copyright is an institution and like all social institutions remain in existence only for as long as its members continue to support it. There is a substantial and growing number of digital identities (people, organizations, projects, etc.) that exist outside of that institution. Why? Because information is very, very cheap to replicate. Production of that information however can vary in cost. Everybody agrees that there must be some compensatory mechanism, however artificial, to reimburse people for the effort invested in the production of the goods and services that copyright protects. If there is no protection at all, many staples of modern life cease to exist. This is the loci of why copyright exists.
The cost to society now outweighs the benefits and we exist within a market bubble right now: A copyright bubble. Large corporations and governments alike have bought into it and driven up its cost. Like any market-driven force however, it will eventually return to equilibrium. We had the dot com bubble, and the housing bubble, but that’s nothing compared to what’s going on right now — we lost billions when that one burst. We stand to lose trillions when this one does. And, ironically, it will be burst by the very forces that businesses are embracing right now — labor capital in the third world.
Well-written and thought-provoking. While not all that different than similar pieces we’ve discussed in the past, it does present it in a very clear manner that makes it worth reading in its entirety.