Makin’ Copies! ‘The Promise of a Post-Copyright World’
Remember the Richmeister character from SNL? One of Rob Schneider’s recurring characters. The sketches were funny, although it was the kind of potent stuff that quickly got overplayed.
The catchphrase—Makin’ Copies!—occurred to me today in the wake of several things I’ve been reading about copying. When I looked around I found this transcript that made me smile. (And made me miss Phil Hartman.)
Anyway, it occurs to me to think about what a great thing it is to be able to make copies. Perfect copies. Today of digital information, tomorrow of physical objects. I’m amazed and dismayed at how threatening it is to so many people, and how they would like to restrict and control this copying. In the future, people will think we were crazy for fighting it, and they’ll understand what many people already do today. “Resistance is futile.”
(That’s long-term. What I worry about is how much damage can be done in the short term. A lot of digital culture and history is fading away as we quibble over copyrights.)
One of the things that has helped shape these ideas is Karl Fogel’s thoughtful essay, The Promise of a Post-Copyright World. Here is a tasty bit:
If copyright is not really needed to stimulate original creation, then what purpose does it serve today? For it is quite clear that if copyright did not exist already, we wouldn’t invent it now. We just finished building ourselves a gigantic copying machine (the Internet) that doubles as a communications device, and incidentally makes it convenient to transfer small amounts of money between people. Sharing is now the most natural thing in the world. The idea that artists are somehow harmed by it is demonstrated false every day, by the thousands of new works that appear online, credited and fully acknowledged by their authors, yet free for the taking. If someone were to argue that creativity would soon dry up unless we immediately institute a system of strict controls over who can copy what, we could reasonably look on them as insane. Yet, in slightly more diplomatic language, this is essentially the argument used by the copyright lobby to press for ever stronger laws.—Karl Fogel, “The Promise of a Post-Copyright World”
Read the whole thing! It goes into the history of copyright to provide the present context, and presents an inspiring view to what the future can be.
Think about how far we would have to go to actually effectively enforce copyright. To have DRM that works. The entire channel would have to be locked down, from web server to your monitor. The RIAA and MPAA and accomplices would like to close the analog hole with whatever intrusive, freedom denying, and privacy destroying mechanism will do the job.
Imagine if it were possible to lock things down so tightly as to prevent you from even taking screenshots of “protected” content. How little freedom you would have with your own devices. Free software would be out of the question, since it could be made to disobey the rules. But there are still stand-alone cameras and camcorders that we have today, and we could use them to grab the content. Are they going to make your camcorder refuse to record a restricted stream of audio or video? So maybe you’re out in public someplace where a copyrighted song is being played, and you want to videotape your kid. I guess you’re out of luck.
It is a dreary and stifling future that many copyright proponents would have us live in. For those that believe in freedom of information and knowledge sharing, we will be the Richmeisters of a better world, with our persistent and annoying call to keep…
Thanks to Stacy Cashman for more great pictures. These are from the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.