I read BoingBoing.net a lot, so I see a lot of references to Cory Doctorow (not knowing before today that he was a co-creator of the site.) Cory Doctorow (not to be confused with author E.L. Doctorow) is a popular sci-fi author who also provides his books for free on the Internet (so he has some cred when it comes to his beliefs on the abolishment of copyright.) He also was highly active with the Electronic Freedom Foundation which has fought for years to protect consumers or electronic media from ridiculous corporate extortion, and protect the legal rights of media users and bloggers.
I listened to some of his various interviews today, and found that he has some interesting points regarding the future of technology and ownership and copyright. Here, very loosely paraphrased but honest to the message, are some of what Cory talks about:
< ♦> What happens to world capital when it’s not needed to start a business? When before, venture capitalists would invest a million dollars the first year, and then ten million the second year, and then get fifteen million back once the IPO is released? Now, you can start a company for ten thousand. What’s happening to all that capital? (He explores this in a story that has smaller companies who exist to use the legal system to wantonly leech capital off the corporate big dogs.)
< ♦> Today it’s as hard to copy bits as it ever will be. It will only become easier. Saying “How do we make copying harder?” is like saying “How do we make gravity suck us harder?” It’s ridiculous. What do we do in 3 years when every song in the world can fit on a hard drive you can buy for $100? In 5 years when every movie? in say 15 years when every image, song, movie, TV show ever made can fit on a hard drive for $100? In say 25 years when all that plus every genome can fit on a drive the size of a sugar cube for $100 and you can give them for Xmas gifts, that you power up by giving it a good shake?
We shouldn’t be trying to figure out how to prevent that world, but how do we live in that world!
< ♦> (In reference to three ancient ax heads he had the opportunity to view–the products of archaeological digs. Each from different eras over a period of 30,000 years and each nearly identical to the other.) 30,000 years of no technological progress. The people of that time may have had a “tomorrow,” but no “future.” Perhaps our first great invention was “the future.”
< ♦> There is no scarcity of human labor. How does that change or effect capital? How does this affect capitalism? When huge products can be created with such collaborative effort with such minute individual effort?
For example, Google ranks sites based on how many links connect back to a site. That is to say, the more links on the ‘net go back to a site makes that site get a better ranking. Google is taking advantage of all our efforts when we make a link to some site. Our minute efforts in aggregate has create the “shape of the Internet.”
< ♦> The “theatre of security” (a concept coined by someone else) where it’s a puppet show, all this security. It’s there to make us afraid, after all, why would we need all this security if there’s not some threat to secure us from; and it makes us feel safe because now we have this security. But it’s all a way to remove our liberties while leaving us not really secure at all. If we’re being asked to trade our liberty for security, then we should be sure we’re actually getting real security. (Although, I don’t think he’s at all advocating giving up liberty for security at all! His point is that it’s impossible to have real security.)
< ♦> DRM, the anti-copying technology, is predicated on the idea that the hardware you own (PC, DVD players, iPod’s, etc,) will now and then take instructions not from you, the owner, but from someone else who provided the media (the MP3 file, movie, PDF, etc.) It’s a harbinger of the world in which the machines control us and not we control the machines.
(This, I can’t really agree with! Because you bought the PC or DVD player, and own the player, doesn’t mean you by default should have total control of the media (you didn’t create yourself anyway) simply because it’s on your hardware. I believe the creator of the media has the right to prevent that media from being used and manipulated in a way the creator did not intend!)
There’s really only one good reason for anyone to create a technology that limits the use of the media. No one wakes up and says “I think instead of stealing music I’m going to buy it today so that I can do less with it.” The only reason for DRM is to lock a user into a proprietary system. Apple wants you to be locked into their product and unable to take your media to another product, and DRM makes that possible.
< ♦> The movie industry was basically begun by pirates. When film was first being made, the Edison Company, Thomas Edison, had a strangle-hold on the way film could be used and distributed with draconian rules. So people who wanted to make movies away from his tyranny moved basically nearly to Mexico: Los Angeles, away from New Jersey and Edison’s patent attorneys. The recording industry began the same way with the creation of piano rolls. Their attitude at the time was “to protect the artist, you must protect the inventor.” Today, the recording industry only wants to protect how they earn their living.
They get around the concept of ownership rights by saying when you “buy music” you’re not buying it, they’re leasing it to you. But the problem is, according to the law, when a record company leases music 50% of the revenue has to go to the artist–but on all these music transactions the companies are claiming them as “sales” to the artists for which they’re only required to pay the artist 8%.
Suing your fans business model is like the underwear stealing gnomes in “South Park” with the sign on the wall: Step 1: Steal all underpants. Step 2:______. Step 3: Profit. “Step 1: Take everyone who was a music fan and sue them into a hole and then treat everyone else like criminals by forcing them to agree to ridiculous terms. Step 2: Something happens. Step 3: A properly chaste and subdued public returns to the malls with credit card in hand to properly buy their music.”
< ♦> Copyright is useless anymore. Once art was created via patronage. Someone had to commission you for your art, usually the pope or royalty. Then copyright was supposed to be a way for art to be subsidized by anyone with money–the industrialists. We don’t need industrialists any longer: anyone can make art now, and share it. The entire purpose for copyright is no longer necessary.