The [copyright] maximalist is working for the day when ... all culture is property.
August 2, 2010 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

Page includes philosophical statement, video and making-of information.
posted by DU (80 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does ancient, artistic nudity count as NSFW? If so, could a mod mark it?
posted by DU at 5:39 AM on August 2, 2010


Does ancient, artistic nudity count as NSFW?

Only if you work at a church, a Thomas Kinkade gallery or the Justice Department.
posted by Azazel Fel at 5:45 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:57 AM on August 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.
posted by Samizdata at 6:01 AM on August 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Previously
posted by Casimir at 6:04 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the culture of engine progress.
posted by eriko at 6:11 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think he might be cheating with his artistic rhetoric. The fact that he was able to combine all those images into a somewhat smooth progression isn't evidence of copying...it's evidence that all the artifacts were made by people with human-shaped bodies.

His point is valid, his demonstration of it, not so much.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:11 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


copyright Salvor Hardin, all rights reserved
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:12 AM on August 2, 2010


Kind of interesting but also a bit of weak sauce. Much of Art History is to study artistic lineage and influence and separate it from mere morphology. This person has just sort of lumped it all together. I do think they could benefit from visiting more museums - which they proudly proclaim in the beginning that they don't.
posted by vacapinta at 6:14 AM on August 2, 2010


Nina Paley is a girl.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Remixing is the culture of engine process.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:24 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


As I looked at those millennia old artworks, I thought that thousands of years from now Mickey Mouse will still be under copyright.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:33 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Copying is the engine of...
UH.
the engine of...
YEAH.
the engine of...
FEEL IT, YO.
the engine of...
SHOUT OUT TO MY HOMIES.
...cultural progress.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:34 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Coping is the cult of enigma progress.
posted by Artw at 6:36 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


"There’s no such thing as originality anyway, just authenticity."
(Student's "justification" quoted in a NYTimes article on plagiarism in the digital age)
posted by fraula at 6:39 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


The descendants of Homer would like everyone to pay them royalties on everything.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:41 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


More a comment on the universality of the human form than anything else. What's astonishing is the endless variety, not the level of conformity.
posted by WPW at 6:45 AM on August 2, 2010


"All Creative Work Is Derivative" (lede of the linked blog post) is a different concept than "copying is the engine of cultural progress". I faved MuffinMan's comment because it's closer to the right concept. Copying something to modify it and make it better could be said to be an engine of cultural progress (and this is the point of the post). However, the soundbite given the post encourages different behavior. I would even go as far to say that copying is the dead weight of cultural progress. Meaning if copied material is identical to the original, the use of the material is solely for the consumption of it, and the original creator is not compensated in some way then you end up with a system primed for cultural stagnation.
posted by forforf at 6:45 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

I've been thinking a lot about this. Proposition A: If we weren't able to copy what we deem good, then there would be no "progress" (= good accumulation over time). Rather, culture would be entropic and good things would "naturally" become disordered (destroyed) over time. But, Proposition B: If copying were the only thing we could do, then there would be no "progress" either. Culture would be static and, while there might be more good things (= quantity), there would never be more different good things (= variety).

Happily, we can both copy, so there is an accumulation of good things, and we can vary, so there is more variety over time. We might ask which is more important. Clearly, the ability to vary. Sometimes things become "better" because there are more of them (that is, via copying). But more often they become "better" because they are different (that is, via creativity). A million clay tablets does not make an iPad (assuming the iPad is both different and better--snark at will).

So on the basis of this (weak?) argument, I conclude that if we are interested in progress, then we want to protect the ability to copy (more = better, usually) but we want to aggressively defend the ability to invent (different = sometime much, much, better). Where the two come in conflict, we want to prefer invention to copying. (By "we" I mean "I").
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:46 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just think, if all of the creative energy people expend trying to justify their acts to themselves were channeled into art, it would be like the Renaissance all over again.
posted by adipocere at 6:51 AM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nina Paley is a girl.

She doesn't say so in her profile.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:02 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Culture is the dodo bird of progress.
posted by swift at 7:09 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

I've been thinking a lot about this. Proposition A: If we weren't able to copy what we deem good, then there would be no "progress" (= good accumulation over time). Rather, culture would be entropic and good things would "naturally" become disordered (destroyed) over time. But, Proposition B: If copying were the only thing we could do, then there would be no "progress" either. Culture would be static and, while there might be more good things (= quantity), there would never be more different good things (= variety).

Happily, we can both copy, so there is an accumulation of good things, and we can vary, so there is more variety over time. We might ask which is more important. Clearly, the ability to vary. Sometimes things become "better" because there are more of them (that is, via copying). But more often they become "better" because they are different (that is, via creativity). A million clay tablets does not make an iPad (assuming the iPad is both different and better--snark at will).

So on the basis of this (weak?) argument, I conclude that if we are interested in progress, then we want to protect the ability to copy (more = better, usually) but we want to aggressively defend the ability to invent (different = sometime much, much, better). Where the two come in conflict, we want to prefer invention to copying. (By "we" I mean "I").
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 7:09 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


This person's arguments are pure vitriol. He makes a good point about the general dependence of creators on their predecessors, but his interpretation of copyright is completely overblown. Copyright doesn't last forever and he is comparing works that are centuries apart. Second, he is over-interpreting copyright's reach. If I write a book that draws on an author's style, that author can't necessarily sue me. That's a transmission of ideas right there and no lawsuits in sight.

And all this stuff about cultures cross-pollinating. Still happens with copyright... so what's the problem? That's why I get to enjoy The Boondocks (which I only just discovered on youtube) and as far as I know, Japan didn't sue Aaron McGruder for stealing anime off them. (alright, not the most highbrow example, but the first that came to mind.)

I can understand why copyright is a brake on creativity but there must be better examples of this happening. I can also see the point of view of creators who want to live off their work and who feel that eroding copyright is a threat to their livelihoods. It is not helpful to demonise them by saying they are all men in suits, intent on killing culture stone dead. This will not lead to a practical compromise between copyright 's advocates and its detractors. And a compromise is what we need to look for.

This is a very stern post... I'll finish by observing although copyright may have prevented a few good works from coming into being, thousands more abominations must have been killed off thanks to a well placed legal threat. Case in point: Ridley Scott saved the world from ever having to listen to 'Gladiator: The Musical'.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 7:11 AM on August 2, 2010


Copyright doesn't last forever

Yeah? When was the last time a copyright expired in the US?
posted by empath at 7:20 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


DNA copies itself, and by failing in small increments, achieves net progress via an aggregate system. Most mutations are lethal.
posted by Xoebe at 7:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Processing is the cow-pie culture of engines.
posted by jquinby at 7:29 AM on August 2, 2010


Fan fiction is cancer!
posted by Artw at 7:29 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not an art historian, but aren't some of her examples in the article actually representative of the dominant (or at least victorious) culture at the time in the areas? The female head found in Pakistan was probably made by Seleucid Greeks in the far corner of the empire, the Egyptian goddess either Greek or Phoenician?

It seems like she is trying to analyze/interpret ancient art through modern geography.

It seems like the examples she cites are better examples of cultural hegemony and imperialism rather than solid parallels to our copyright issues.

If time travel is ever invented in my lifetime, I am so going back to law school to become a time-traveling copyright lawyer. I think there are a few Egyptian priests who I could convince to sue the Ptolemies.
posted by Tchad at 7:32 AM on August 2, 2010


I'll finish by observing although copyright may have prevented a few good works from coming into being, thousands more abominations must have been killed off thanks to a well placed legal threat.

Copyright doesn't exist to prevent the creation of things you don't like.

Case in point: Ridley Scott saved the world from ever having to listen to 'Gladiator: The Musical'.

The world? Those who would have enjoyed such a thing are surely missing out on something, and those who wouldn't never would have been subjected to it. Where's the net benefit?
posted by rocket88 at 7:36 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with Nina. Too much goddamned art is focused on this "human archetype" - two legs, two arms, a face with two eyes, two ears, a mouth and a nose, all symmetrical, always in the same order. The Egyptians were getting at something by mixing it up and throwing animal heads on people, and then Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque started to really mix it up with Cubism, but too many people copied that style.

I think it comes down to stymieing the art of children. Don't ask "does your dad really have a head like a balloon and a body made of twine, with all his limbs connected to his head," say "I've never thought of that, good job!" People have mastered the realistic centuries ago. Let's embrace the unrealistic!
posted by filthy light thief at 7:46 AM on August 2, 2010


The first comment on Nina's post nails the problem:

"You're missing the point. The similarities here are in themes and ideas, not in expression (at least not in all cases). No one can protect the idea of a woman nursing a baby, or even Mary nursing Jesus, or Jesus on a cross, or a man running or Buddha in a certain pose, through copyright, because those are only ideas. Copyright jurisprudence in the US is full of cases where people claimed some work was an unlawful derivative, and the court just says 'nope, it's just a similar idea.' As a matter of fact, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just said as much last week in the Bratz v. Barbie case. So while this was an interesting exercise in exploring evolving themes in art, saying it's representative of 'unlawful' derivatives is a huge stretch."
posted by naju at 8:15 AM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

Is it? Why are so many people right now so eager to make me believe this idea? This sounds like ideology to me, and weren't we supposed to question ideology?

Look at it in a larger timeframe: a couple of generations back, you were supposed to develop yourself into a unique individual, and if you were an artist, you were expected to create, not copy. But we are constantly being instructed to settle for copying, not originality. Will a culture that has settled for copying/remixing create anything that the next generation will think is worth copying?
posted by Termite at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2010


People have mastered the realistic centuries ago. Let's embrace the unrealistic!

The most popular books are about vampires, and boy wizards. The most popular non-fiction works are usually the ramblings of conservative talking head pundits. Hundreds of millions of people pretend to be elves and dwarves to increase imaginary numbers in a database. "Reality" TV is the predominate mode of televised expression, and it's as heavily scripted and unreal than any two-bit sitcom. Millions more carefully curate a digital representation of themselves, connected across invisible lines of electricity and metal. People really, truly care about which brand of small computer themselves and others carry in their pockets

All the while tremendous war and poverty continues unabated while humanity has more connective power than ever before in history.

I do believe we're embracing the unrealistic fairly well.
posted by codacorolla at 8:24 AM on August 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


Nina Paley is a woman. Interview. Her blog. Her "official" position on copyright.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

So why is plagiarism NOT the engine of academic progress?
posted by three blind mice at 8:56 AM on August 2, 2010


If time travel is ever invented in my lifetime, I am so going back to law school to become a time-traveling copyright lawyer. I think there are a few Egyptian priests who I could convince to sue the Ptolemies.

And you just wrote the plot for Cory Doctorow's next book.
posted by Ratio at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


IIRC One of his shorts is already about time travelling plagarists, with Jules Verne being the author of War of the Worlds and Three Muskateers. One of his better ones, I think.
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2010


Will a culture that has settled for copying/remixing create anything that the next generation will think is worth copying?

Well, there's this thing called folk culture (or oral culture, or traditional culture; it has many different names) that is pretty much entirely based on "copying" or reproducing faithfully something created by someone else - often many generations ago. Of course you Americans have no notion of such thing, as your idea of traditional is something that dates back to the 1960s.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2010


IIRC One of his shorts is already about time travelling plagarists, with Jules Verne being the author of War of the Worlds and Three Muskateers. One of his better ones, I think.

I only read Cory Doctorow stories for the sex scenes.
posted by Ratio at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

This really works best when you copy, but then replace a word with...'bacon.'

I'll go first.

Bacon is the engine of cultural progress.
posted by mullingitover at 9:24 AM on August 2, 2010


Look at it in a larger timeframe: a couple of generations back, you were supposed to develop yourself into a unique individual, and if you were an artist, you were expected to create, not copy.

Were you? Why are so many people right now so eager to make me believe this idea? This sounds like ideology to me, and weren't we supposed to question ideology?
posted by DU at 9:24 AM on August 2, 2010


Culture is the engine of copying progress.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

Try telling that one to the teacher who catches you cribbing off the smart kid's exam...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2010


Why are so many people right now so eager to make me believe this idea?

Because it's true? Frank Zappa said "Without deviation from the norm, there can be no progress."

Being different is what advances art and science - copying is something else.
posted by three blind mice at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2010


Copying and altering is the engine of all progress
posted by crayz at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


Progress is the copying of culture engines.
posted by Ratio at 10:24 AM on August 2, 2010


All this talk about copying not being progress is a strawman. Making a perfect copy is making a perfect copy. Plagiarism is plagiarism. Remixing, repurposing, and reimagining all involve copying to some extent but they inject creativity and add value to the original work.
posted by mullingitover at 10:27 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Look at it in a larger timeframe: a couple of generations back, you were supposed to develop yourself into a unique individual, and if you were an artist, you were expected to create, not copy.
You have made your tinted papers; the next thing is to draw. You should adopt this method. Having first practiced drawing for a while as I have taught you above, that is, on a little panel, take pains and pleasure in constantly copying the best things which you can find done by the hand of great masters. ... If you follow the course of one man through constant practice, your intelligence would have to be crude indeed for you not to get some nourishment from it. Then you will find, if nature has granted you any imagination at all, that you will eventually acquire a style individual to yourself, and it cannot help being good; because your hand and your mind, being always accustomed to gather flowers, would ill know how to pluck thorns.
The Craftsman's Handbook, Cennino Cennini, 1400
posted by queen zixi at 10:49 AM on August 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Copying is the engine of cultural progress.

So why is plagiarism NOT the engine of academic progress?


Plagarism is a specific form of copying. It is the inauthentic attribution of another's idea (as formulated) to be your own. In that sense, it's not about copying the idea so much as it's about not being honest about who created it.

As an academic pupil I can tell you that copying, sans plagarism, is the engine of academic progress. Just take a random sampling of 10 papers from a major journal in any discipline, and I guarantee you that the virtually every study will be a slight modification of an old idea. This is the reason why paradigm shifts occur only once the current paradigm has been copied and altered and tested so many times that it becomes patently obvious that a new one is needed. This is also the reason why the scholarly tradition of tracking down sources (what we call a "literature review") is such an essential ingredient in the research process.
posted by tybeet at 11:15 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Of course you Americans have no notion of such thing, as your idea of traditional is something that dates back to the 1960s.

1923, actually.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:23 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


quoted by queen zixi: “You have made your tinted papers; the next thing is to draw. You should adopt this method. Having first practiced drawing for a while as I have taught you above, that is, on a little panel, take pains and pleasure in constantly copying the best things which you can find done by the hand of great masters. ... If you follow the course of one man through constant practice, your intelligence would have to be crude indeed for you not to get some nourishment from it. Then you will find, if nature has granted you any imagination at all, that you will eventually acquire a style individual to yourself, and it cannot help being good; because your hand and your mind, being always accustomed to gather flowers, would ill know how to pluck thorns.”

This has absolutely nothing to do with the issue at hand. To believe that "copying" by hand as part of an artistic course of study is even remotely akin to "copying" by mechanical reproduction is to ignore completely the circumstances in which that advice was given.

No. I appreciate the point of the whole thing – that copyright is silly – and I agree with it on that principle; but this video and explanation constitute a complete disregard of the massive changes which mechanical reproduction has brought about. There are plenty of problems with Walter Benjamin, but his approach here was correct: our sudden ability to automatically copy things has changed everything having to do with art in fundamental ways.
“The uniqueness of a work of art is inseparable from its being imbedded in the fabric of tradition. This tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable. An ancient statue of Venus, for example, stood in a different traditional context with the Greeks, who made it an object of veneration, than with the clerics of the Middle Ages, who viewed it as an ominous idol. Both of them, however, were equally confronted with its uniqueness, that is, its aura. Originally the contextual integration of art in tradition found its expression in the cult. We know that the earliest art works originated in the service of a ritual--first the magical, then the religious kind. It is significant that the existence of the work of art with reference to its aura is never entirely separated from its ritual function. In other words, the unique value of the "authentic" work of art has its basis in ritual, the location of its original use value. This ritualistic basis, however remote, is still recognizable as secularized ritual even in the most profane forms of the cult of beauty. The secular cult of beauty, developed during the Renaissance and prevailing for three centuries, clearly showed that ritualistic basis in its decline and the first deep crisis which befell it. With the advent of the first truly revolutionary means of reproduction, photography, simultaneously with the rise of socialism, art sensed the approaching crisis which has become evident a century later. At the time, art reacted with the doctrine of l'art pour l'art, that is, with a theology of art. This gave rise to what might be called a negative theology in the form of the idea of "pure" art, which not only denied any social function of art but also any categorizing by subject matter.

“An analysis of art in the age of mechanical reproduction must do justice to these relationships, for they lead us to an allimportant insight: for the first time in world history, mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual. To an ever greater degree the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility. From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the "authentic" print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice--politics.”
He's right about this – mechanic reproduction changes everything.
posted by koeselitz at 11:40 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


A single link to a polemical page that uses the term "censor" to describe copyright suits.

Like it or not, copyright is the law. Perhaps electronic copies are making everyone see that packaged music is overvalued, but following the law is important.

I love how the "wow internet means free music" crowd quickly came up with pseudo-philosophical justification for behavior that is, under the law, theft.

You can say it is bad that big corporations can control rights, but at bottom is a person attempting to get notice for their own art work. They just sold the rights to a party with the means to extract more value for it.

Its like saying it was OK for Eddie Murphy to steal "Coming to America" from Art Buchwald. Nope, it wasn't.

These definitions are not pedantic. I hope to see a smaller music industry, with more players and individuals making more of the smaller pie due to technology. When the big players contribute less to the value added chain because now I can make the same recording in my basement that it took a whole studio to do 40 years ago, and market it myself on the internet and iTunes, then the little guys win. When it gets stolen via the internet and some fool gets famous claiming he wrote my tune, well I'm gonna be mighty pissed.

Just stealing their work isn't the same as illegally downloading a Rage Against the Machine album off The Pirate Bay and telling yourself you've struck a blow for anarchy, man!
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on August 2, 2010


There's lots of ambiguities around free culture - on one hand, I agree that privatizing intellectual property is a real problem, but there's something suspicious about most free culture advocacy. Even right-wingers like Milton Friedman think repealing the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act is a no-brainer, so you have to wonder which side "free culture" is on. When they talk about copyright as an impediment to "innovation" and "creativity", aren't they really talking about impediments to capitalism? In the hope of making billions of dollars in profit, Silicon Valley venture capitalists have invested in startups that exist in legal gray areas, or even obvious violations of copyright law, with the goal of becoming the new, profitable middle man between creator and audience. The "information wants to be free" idea works double for them: free intellectual property lowers or eliminates licensing costs, and it also makes private personal information free, which makes advertising more targetable and effective. Now that the social graph is freely available, how long before advertisers discover ways of gaming word-of-mouth recommendations by seeding your friends and family with information about products that they've detected you are in the market for?

Remix culture, decentralized and democratized creativity is equally ambiguous. We aren't reliant on the East coast cultural elites to give us the good stuff any more - OK, great. But now we have to go through Google and other software companies who develop algorithms to help us deal with the enormous volume. This is the area where free culture advocates suddenly become reasonable. They aren't looking to abolish intellectual property, they only want to reform it so that it works better. But who is it working better for? When it comes to personal information, Silicon Valley tells us "Privacy is dead!" but their intellectual property is still protected by software patents and non-disclosure agreements, so the real message is "Your information wants to be free, ours wants to stay private."
posted by AlsoMike at 12:20 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Silicon Valley tells us "Privacy is dead!" but their intellectual property is still protected by software patents and non-disclosure agreements, so the real message is "Your information wants to be free, ours wants to stay private."

Google, at least, walks the walk, and gives away the source for most of their projects.
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on August 2, 2010


Ironmouth: "I love how the "wow internet means free music" crowd quickly came up with pseudo-philosophical justification for behavior that is, under the law, theft. "

You know what else is theft? Declawing your cat. You're taking their claws away and not paying for them, which is the legal definition of theft. And that's a fact.
posted by mullingitover at 1:42 PM on August 2, 2010


Ironmouth, you're a lawyer, you should know better.

It is not theft, never has been, never will be.

In fact, it is 100% legal to download copyrighted content. It's only illegal to SHARE copyrighted content.
posted by empath at 1:50 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what else is theft? Declawing your cat. You're taking their claws away and not paying for them, which is the legal definition of theft. And that's a fact.

Uh, under the law, your cat is your property, as in chattel good. You may do as you wish with an animal you own under the law, as long as you do not violate anti-cruelty laws.

And that's a fact.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:51 PM on August 2, 2010


Oh fucks sake, not this boring ass bullshit again.

Look pirates, people are going to call what you do theft from time to time. Fucking deal with it.
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Uh, under the law, your cat is your property, as in chattel good. You may do as you wish with an animal you own under the law, as long as you do not violate anti-cruelty laws."

Sure, technically, but let's not split hairs: you're stealing those claws from the cat. You can try to rationalize your claw-stealing with vague terms, but theft is theft. Period, end of story.
posted by mullingitover at 1:59 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


A Suppository Gurgling the Inflorescence.

Douglas Hofstadter does a very nice riff on creativity as variations on a theme.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:07 PM on August 2, 2010


Sure, technically, but let's not split hairs: you're stealing those claws from the cat. You can try to rationalize your claw-stealing with vague terms, but theft is theft. Period, end of story.

Yes! And there's a reason people used to think cameras stole the souls of those whose image they captured - because that was theft, too! Or - as I like to call it - murder.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:11 PM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


And there's a reason people used to think cameras stole the souls of those whose image they captured - because that was theft, too!

There are people today who argue that taking their picture without permission is theft.
posted by empath at 2:23 PM on August 2, 2010


If anything has been the engine of cultural progress the last 150-200 years, it has been copyright.

The last 150-200 years have been a historical exception: copyright means that artists and authors have been able to get paid for their work and make a living like any other trade, instead of depending on the good will of benefactors. This has also meant that you don't have to be born wealthy to be able to create art: more people than ever have been able to develop their imagination. We are constantly being told that copyright is an enemy of creativity. If that was true, the last 150 (or so) years would have been a cultural desert. The last 150 years have instead been an explosion of creativity, on all levels, from highbrow art to pop culture, and this creativity is, to me, one of the few redeeming qualities of modern society. It has been made possible by a combination of hard earned rights, one of which is copyright (others are the right to higher education for everyone including women, the right to free speech, etc).

I know that large corporations abuse copyright and I'm not defending them. But it seems that a lot of people want to abolish copyright completely just because of such abuse, without any regard for the cases where copyright works as intended.
posted by Termite at 2:23 PM on August 2, 2010


Good god, seriously? Again? The stupid, stupid theft argument? Please no. Ironmouth, you're trolling. Stop.
posted by koeselitz at 2:24 PM on August 2, 2010


The last 150 years have instead been an explosion of creativity, on all levels, from highbrow art to pop culture, and this creativity is, to me, one of the few redeeming qualities of modern society. It has been made possible by a combination of hard earned rights, one of which is copyright (others are the right to higher education for everyone including women, the right to free speech, etc).

And I'm sure the printing press, computers, radio, television, and movies had nothing to do with that.
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are people today who argue that taking their picture without permission is theft.

Yes! Stupid people!
posted by Sebmojo at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Termite: "The last 150 years have instead been an explosion of creativity, on all levels, from highbrow art to pop culture, and this creativity is, to me, one of the few redeeming qualities of modern society. It has been made possible by a combination of hard earned rights, one of which is copyright (others are the right to higher education for everyone including women, the right to free speech, etc). "

Yes, and surely this has nothing to do with the explosion of wealth and leisure time that humans have enjoyed thanks to the practice, developed in the last 150 years, or pumping massive amounts of fossil fuels out of the ground and thus freeing up incalculable man-hours for non-survival related activities.

Your argument that copyright is the only way our current situation could be possible is like a water puddle saying, "This hole in the ground in which I'm laying is perfectly designed just for me! There is no other hole which could fit me like this."
posted by mullingitover at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know that large corporations abuse copyright and I'm not defending them. But it seems that a lot of people want to abolish copyright completely just because of such abuse, without any regard for the cases where copyright works as intended.

Strawman, man. Noone of any consequence is saying copyright should be abolished.

The vast weight of copyright activism is towards getting a reasonable length of copyright rather than the de facto eternity - 1 year that is being pushed by the cartels.

I mean the whole FOSS movement, creative commons, all that good hippy stuff, relies on copyright.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:40 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


In fact, it is 100% legal to download copyrighted content.

What is your basis for that statement? I do not (necessarily) disbelieve you, but I am curious what you base that on.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:50 PM on August 2, 2010


What is your basis for that statement?

No one has ever been prosecuted, so far as I know, for merely downloading a movie or mp3. How could they? How do you know the person you're downloading from isn't authorized to distribute whatever it is you're downloading?

Here's a search on filestube for a popular recording artist.

Some of those are bootleg remixes posted by the remixer, some of those may have been leaked by the label, some of those are people sharing the mp3 with their friends. Some of those files might actually be recordings by someone else named Katy Perry who is distributing them to her friends legally. Some of those might be covers.

How am I supposed to know what's legal or not?

The DMCA was crafted specifically to resolve these issues and give people safe harbor for hosting and (by extension) downloading media. If something infringes copyright, it's the obligation of the copyright owner to notify the host so they can take it down.

You tell me -- Is it a crime to view an episode of the Dr Who that someone uploaded to youtube?

Is it a crime to download the youtube video to your hard drive to watch later?

Is it a crime to download an mp4 from a file hosting site like megaupload?

What's the difference?
posted by empath at 3:12 PM on August 2, 2010


(I should point out that bittorrent is not merely downloading, you're also distributing)
posted by empath at 3:13 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I mean, if it were a crime to download copyright infringing material, I think they could arrest every single person who has spent more than an hour on youtube.
posted by empath at 3:14 PM on August 2, 2010


all culture is property

But anything I create, I am free to share, as in CC-licensing. Thus the copyright maximalist can never win, since people can just route around the damage. I just created Mickey Mongoose, he's cute, never existed before, and is not derivative. Here he is, remix him however you like.

Imagination is unlimited & so culture is too. Thanks to computers, we can now quickly find anything we're likely to infringe and route around it. Once people realize that "Mickey Mouse" is an invented 'need' they've been sold into, they can uncreate the need, and recreate it for "Mickey Mongoose". Any laws that protect their property protect mine... which I freely share.

The purveyors are dependent on goodwill to maintain their purveyance. The greedier they get, the less goodwill remains. We have the power.
posted by Twang at 4:11 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The stupid, stupid theft argument?

Yeah but those STEALING THIEVES are guilty of THEFT because they STEAL and THIEVE. And don't even get me started on all the STOLEN things that have been THIEVED by those THIEVING STEALERS.

Christ, people, go steal a law book with your eyes and thieve yourself some goddamned education!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:52 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The current copyright regime is far too heavily weighted towards mere "firstness", at the expense of quality and creativity. Copyright reforms need to address that.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:20 PM on August 2, 2010


Yeah but those STEALING THIEVES are guilty of THEFT because they STEAL and THIEVE. And don't even get me started on all the STOLEN things that have been THIEVED by those THIEVING STEALERS.

Why are you trying to sugar coat it with all this 'theft' talk when you and I know that they're just common murderers?

Apologists, one and all.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:03 PM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm writing some books! Provisional titles follow: Harvey Porter and the Force of Her Moans. Harvey Porter and the one with the Basilisk. AKA Harvey Porter and the Danger of Bee-nests. Harvey Porter and the Hobbit of Desire. Harvey Porter and His and Hers black-and-tans. Harvey Porter and the Hoarder of the Beatniks. Harvey Porter and the Healthy Tallow.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:52 AM on August 3, 2010


Every one of those would be perfectly legal.
posted by empath at 6:02 AM on August 3, 2010


In the hope of making billions of dollars in profit, Silicon Valley venture capitalists have invested in startups that exist in legal gray areas, or even obvious violations of copyright law, with the goal of becoming the new, profitable middle man between creator and audience.

What companies and what do they do?
posted by LiteOpera at 12:43 PM on August 3, 2010


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