from the frame-of-mind dept
Now we can add another comedian to the list of folks who just don't see infringement as a problem, and think of the internet as a boon rather than a threat: Doug Stanhope. In an interview with Wired -- which is hilarious enough to be worth reading the entire thing -- the former Man Show frontman took on the notion that piracy is harmful.
The internet has done nothing but good for comedy all around. Comedians no longer have to rely on TV execs and club owners deciding if they are funny or not. There’s the problem of piracy if you think it’s a problem. I credit piracy with getting my name known enough to have a decent career. People bootlegging shows on cellphones and putting material out before it’s finished is a problem for every comic, but compared to all the upsides of what the internet has done, it’s a fact of life that we’ll learn to adapt to even if it means finding these people and killing their families in front of them.Now, I'm at least 75% certain that the last bit about killing families for infringement is a joke, but his larger point is a gem. When we, all of us, think about what we want the internet to be, it is important for us to weigh the sum total of its impact. If I may extrapolate on Stanhope's statement, I would argue that this completely undermines the view the piracy and/or sharing must be stamped out on simple moral grounds. We've all heard the "but piracy is just wrong!" arguments (or, heard that in substitute of an actual argument) but that's nonsense. Piracy, infringment, and sharing would be wrong if there were a net-negative impact on the works being infringed upon or shared. If there is a net-benefit to those people, as Stanhope suggests there indeed is, how in the hell could that be morally wrong?
Further on that point, while some may argue that it is still wrong because the infringers are not respecting the wishes of the artist, look at how Stanhope frames it: Piracy is a problem if the artist thinks it's a problem. Bootlegged shows and uploads may present challenges and problems, but they are going to adapt. It seems to me that it is every bit incumbent upon artists, be they comedians or musicians, to change their frame of reference as it is on the internets denizens to respect the artist's wishes.