John Perry Barlow Tells Copyright Maximalists That They've Got The Fundamentals Wrong
from the good-for-him dept
I may be one of very few people in this room who actually makes his living personally by creating what these gentlemen are pleased to call “intellectual property.” I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does.He later added the key point, that everyone else who was on the panel weren't creators themselves, but were those who made their living off of creators, stating he wanted to focus on “incentivizing creativity by people who create things, and not large institutions who prey on them and have for years.”
Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.
Of course, this left his fellow panelists stumbling around a bit to defend their positions.
Jim Gianopulos of 20th Century Fox shot back that “no one’s going to argue against free speech,” if “free speech” means that someone takes a video camera and makes a movie on any subject he or she wants. But when “speech” is defined as sharing copyrighted works?Of course, Barlow understands economics much better than the others on the panel. The problem is that these guys seem to think that the only way to make money is through greater protectionism and treating content as property that needs an artificial scarcity. The whole point of what Barlow was saying was that this is simply not true. It's a fundamental assumption these guys are making that is false.
“Speech has to be free but movies cost money,” he said, adding that he hears plenty about the need for new business models but doesn’t see any actual alternative business models that generate the cash to fund big-budget films.
Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand took Barlow to task for his dramatic statements. “I do not share this apocalyptic vision of some dictatorship that will be creeping back through the internet into our lives to control our thoughts and the way in which we function,” he said. Some controls on the internet are eminently reasonable—we need “economic solutions to economic problems.”
The head of Universal Music France talked about just how much money was necessary to nurture new talent. DIdn’t Barlow understand economics?
I actually see this all the time in these debates and it's immensely frustrating. When people like myself and others talk about why copyright is not that important, and that there are all sorts of other ways to make money, we're always hit back with the "but it costs money to make this stuff!" Those who suck off the teat of the old system are so fundamentally wedded to the idea that you must have copyright to make money that they entirely miss the fact that we are talking about ways to make money. Their brains simply default to "no copyright = no money," and thus, to them the argument "but these things cost money to make" makes sense. But that's only true if they don't hear what we say, and don't realize that we are talking about ways to make money -- just without relying on copyright to do so.
Kudos to Barlow for pointing much of this out -- though, it doesn't appear that his points sunk in.
On a separate note, the article points out that other digital thought leaders and activists urged Barlow not to go to the e-G8, because of concerns about how it was set up as a way for governments and companies to come together to regulate the internet to protect old business models and to stomp out speech they don't like.
I have to point out that I think it's silly, dangerous and wrong to suggest folks like Barlow should not participate in these sorts of meetings. If anything, it's better that he and others go and make their voices heard. Otherwise, these people don't hear the other viewpoints, and they assume -- falsely -- that they're right and that everyone agrees with them.