Thursday, July 30, 2009

Copyfight, Win, Prevail

Copyright will be the struggle of our age. Twenty-five years ago, no one except for video pirates like Marty McFly in the first draft of Back to the Future would have had reason to care about it. Today, the implications of copyright are everywhere, and as it gains in scope and influence, copyright maximalists have begun coming out of the woodwork to channel it like water in a Sumerian irrigation canal.

I think that's a valid comparison. Just as the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt were hydraulic empires, deriving their authority from control over water, the issue of control over intellectual property may well be one of the defining struggles of the twenty-first century. Steve Jackson Games' Transhuman Space series explores this issue in detail - and, to be honest, it was seeing its presentation of copyright in 2100 that galvanized me to work towards something fairer, something more equitable, in the here and now.

Yesterday, Cory Doctorow over at Boing Boing wrote about Access Copyright, a copyright license agency up here, attempting to throw its weight around in the current copyright law consultations being run by the Canadian government - which will, more than likely, completely ignore the outcome and just pump electricity into Bill C-61's corpse, but that's neither here nor there.

Their broadside paints the project to its membership as "[taking] aim at your livelihood," and claims that the consultations are "dominated by individuals who do not agree you should get fair compensation for digital and other reproductions of your works." What's really telling about Access Copyright's intentions, though, is in the message sample they provided as a means of getting their members to record videos and circulate their perspectives.

"When someone reproduces my work for free, it destroys the market for it, and I suffer the consequences."

This may be one of the single most ridiculous sentences I've ever read. An author's greatest challenge is obscurity, not piracy. When I think of "reproducing work for free," I think of Jonathan Coulton and Cory Doctorow and Paulo Coelho, creators who wholeheartedly embrace free sharing through Creative Commons licensing or otherwise and who have seen their awareness among the public increase greatly as a result.

This is what copyright needs to recognize. When I read Access Copyright's post, I was galvanized, yes - but probably not in the way they intended, as I made a video and posted it on YouTube, detailing why I disagree with what they're doing.

That room is like an echo chamber.

1 comment:

  1. Everyone deserves to be paid for their work. Do sick people have a right to free medical care? Do criminals have a right to free legal advice? Do readers have a right to free writing? There is no such thing as free. Someone pays. Health care is not free in Canada. Legal aid is not free. I don't see why people have the right to read people's writing for free.

    Yes, doctors sometimes provide free care,lawyers do pro bono work, and writers can publish for free.

    A copywrite law is in place to protect workers' rights to earn money from their work.
    Creators own their work, and they have no duty to provide free access to their work.
    Your argument--that people should have the right to read your story to ensure that you won't die an unknown--is really about access. No one is preventing access to your work. They can read short stories in libraries, or they can buy the book. If your are an obsure writer, perhaps your writing is bad, or perhaps the market doesn't appreciate it.
    The question is the use of another person's work--what counts as fair usage.
    You might die in obscurity, but you might also get rich. Artists take chances. You have a choice. Your choice shouldn't become someone else's duty.