A Look At 'Ownership' Society
from the it's-gotten-out-of-hand dept
We’re big fans here of the WNYC radio show On The Media which regularly covers a number of the same issues we cover here at Techdirt. So we were quite thrilled to hear that their latest episode was entirely devoted to one of our favorite topics: The Past, Present, and Future of Ownership, mostly as it relates to ownership of things that are non-rivalrous and non-excludable. There were lots of great segments:
- The Current State of Ownership: which covered the DRM Chair, and also talks to one of our favorite scholars on the subject, Professor James Boyle, about how the concept of “ownership” of culture has gone too far.
- Happy Birthday: which explored the history of the song and the claims that Warner Music owns it — even though all of the evidence suggests that Happy Birthday is 100% in the public domain. In the segment, producer PJ Vogt suggests that he wanted to test this by putting up a version of the song on iTunes, but unfortunately, their lawyers nixed that idea.
- Fan Fiction and the Law: in which they talk to another of our favorite scholars, Rebecca Tushnet on the nature of fair use.
- 3D Printing, in which Chris Anderson explains how 3D printing is going to change the world in amazing and astounding ways.
- Don’t Screw It Up, in which Public Knowledge’s Michael Weinberg worries about politicians killing off all those amazing and astounding things that Chris Anderson talked about once they freak out about how 3D printing will disrupt a bunch of industries.
- Plaigiarism: Maybe It’s Not So Bad where they talk to professor Kenneth Goldsmith, the new poet laureate of the NY MOMA, who apparently thinks that plagiarism is an art form. He apparently has his students buy an online term paper, hand it in, and then has them defend it as if it was their own. At one point, he notes that students are doing this anyway, so he might as well teach them to be better at it.
All in all a great program for folks interested in these topics. There was only one segment that I found disappointing. I get the feeling someone at OTM felt they needed someone to represent “the other side” of the argument that “ownership society” has gone too far, and so they had musician and critic of the “new media world,” David Lowery (you may recall him from the past, like when he claimed that Apple iTunes did nothing more than host songs, leaving out the whole aspect of bringing everyone together, processing payments, etc.) In that segment, he chooses to take a swipe at The Sky is Rising report, which I co-authored, and he does so by completely misrepresenting what’s in the report, as he has done in the past. I responded in the comments on that story on OTM’s own site, and a lively discussion has ensued. Furthermore, Lowery took a completely gratuitous swipe at Amanda Palmer, bizarrely suggesting that the only reason she’s successful is her penchant for getting naked. His disdain for someone who actually is successful by embracing fans and the internet is quite clear and insulting to the thousands of artists who have found success online whether or not they get naked. I don’t mind people disagreeing with my opinion, but flat out saying we said stuff we never said is pretty bad, as is gratuitous insults for successful artists like Amanda Palmer, and it hurts OTM’s reputation to present such things in that format.
Either way, it’s great to see the rest of the segments get public attention, as more and more people are recognizing that copyright law today is broken, and is creating a society where a focus on “ownership” takes things so far, as to actually hinder the rights of the public in dangerous ways.