Joshua Kronengold (mneme) wrote,
Joshua Kronengold

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Crackdown: Do not Want

I received a (predictable) letter from Senator Gillibrand saying that while consensus could not be reached and Protect IP 2011 was dropped, that "All New Yorkers should be able to agree on the shared goals of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted material without any unintended consequences of stifling the internet or online innovation." My response follows.

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

Thank you for writing back to me regarding the Protect IP Act of 2011.

That said, I do not agree on the shared goal of cracking down on the illegal piracy of copyrighted materials. The establishment of copyright has a history and purpose; it is (or has been) a necessary evil -- not a goal in and of itself, established for the common good of encouraging creative work and the sharing thereof.

As such, as technology, commerce, and society change, it is very well worth reexamining the purpose and role of copyright.

It has long since been known that in some ways, copyright is an unalloyed bad. The folk traditions -- long the primary means of creation -- relied on building upon the works of both the recent and distant past, but copyright makes that activity illegal -- an activity one might even consider central to human creativity, as we climb upon the backs of our fellows.

I submit that the widespread violation of copyright -- often, though hardly always, by children, and often by those who are spending as much of their income as possible on media -- indicates not that new, harsher measures are called for, but that copyright in its current form may have outlived its usefulness -- and that it is our responsiblity, not to attempt to enforce it even if that means global empire or import censorship, but to come up with new models for ensuring that creators can reap rewards for their creations that do not rely upon the (now false) assumption that reproduction is a valid place to put this reward model.

This -- and putting the works that have been stolen from or denied to the public (and the public domain) back where they should be and where they can do the most good, should be our aims going forward -- not attempting to stick more fingers in a dam that has long since burst.

FWIW, for clarity:

I don't habitually pirate things myself.

I don't think the measures in place now are sufficient to reward/compensate creators when their works are pirated.

I don't think copyright being abolished would suddenly make the world a better place.

However, I think the issue is vastly oversimplified in common discourse and common press, and that widespread piracy is a symptom of something deeply wrong with how copyright works relative to the world, rather than a sign that a substantial population is bad/wrong and needs to be corrected and/or punished. If we stick to didactic enforcement of copyright as a goal going forward, rather than attempting to find a solution to the basic problems, there's pretty much nowhere to go other than tyranny.

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Tags: piracy, political
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