Copyright and the Fourth Reich

10 June 2018 · Karl Finch · Permalink

Above: intellectually violating a photographer who in turn intellectually violated an author, depending on where you are.
Above: intellectually violating a photographer who in turn intellectually violated an author, depending on where you are.

Really? Comparing the present state of copyright law to the height of fascism? Yes, and not even for your much-craved attention.

Corporate media fights tirelessly for the artist in the struggle against the pirate horde. Ensuring creators may keep on creating and safeguarding the very survival of art, theirs is a noble cause. That its executives and their lawyers enjoy a majority of the resulting profit for a fraction of the responsibility is mere coincidence.

It’s a neat little pitch almost ready to land in the Hollywood writer’s room. Nine months later follows a woefully tone-deaf serving of something that meets the technical definition of cinema. Let’s be fair, though: it’s a return on investment and should be treated as such.

Be that as it may; the industry and its revered moral authorities have spared us certain headaches. We need not worry about what is fit for public consumption, or for how long after someone’s death should another own the rights to the particular way they arranged a series of ideas. It’s these virtuous lovers of beauty drawing much of the line between what we call art and what we don’t. Ask not a creator what you can ask of a lobbyist.

Pay no attention to the musician explaining in all honesty that touring, not selling records, is the key to financial success. Ignore that designer willing to strike out independently at great personal cost in a saturated market. Think nothing of those who repeatedly dispense their work for free without rendering their medium a creative wasteland. Make no mistake: this has nothing whatsoever to do with artist autonomy.

Stealing is, we largely agree, not permissible. It’s really a matter of personal preference whether hacking off a thief’s hands is an appropriate response. (However, it has been assumed for your benefit that the principle of private property is a given.) We also frown upon ignorance, but can’t simply cast aside something we have such inborn talent for, especially when it’s subsidised by the government.

For most of us with the questionable privilege of having been born after 1980, it’s simply common knowledge that when a digital file is copied, the original one is unchanged. When mental gymnastics reaches the Olympics, the grey and stiff athletes equating basic computer functions with personally robbing an artist will take gold.

Segue to refresher number two, economics: what could not have been sold cannot be a lost sale. Our pleb is not a consumer until they have the currency to exchange for a product as well as the perception that the latter is of greater value. The free market is no place to cry wolf.

At least until recently, books were used as portable, exchangeable repositories of thought and experience. Information, if we can speak on its behalf, wants to be free. Books don’t burn themselves or scream in protest when their words are repeated without consent. Despite our passionate neglect, the truth tends to take care of itself.

By all means, support the artist. Have your intellectual property and enjoy your fundamental rights (subject to availability). Anyone with a match and some impotent rage can burn books. Suppressing all opposition to maintain power in a false reality? Some things take a tyrant.