This is a rambling, wide eyed conspiracy theory about the technology industry and Creative Commons, written by a Music Industry Prof at UGA. The person who wrote this teaches undergrads about the music industry.
There was a real deal gulf of misunderstanding around the SOPA/PIPA debate between members of the content industry and Internet users - you could see the media interests talking to themselves, absolutely convinced that they were sitting across the table from a bunch of thieves and liars. This sort of essay is exemplary of how detached from reality the thought leaders in the content industries have become. The thinking here is broken enough to be dangerous.
I think that some good could come from attempting to reach out to these people and help them understand what is really happening in technology and why. Unfortunately, they may not necessarily be receptive. My comment on this blog was not accepted by the moderator, and I see almost no critical commentary in the thread. I find it hard to believe that no one let this stand unchallenged.
I also deeply empathize with your generation. You have grown up in a time when technological and commercial interests are attempting to change our principles and morality. Sadly, I see the effects of this thinking with many of my students.
These technological and commercial interests have largely exerted this pressure through the Free Culture movement, which is funded by a handful of large tech corporations and their foundations in the US, Canada, Europe and other countries.
The words "their foundations" are linked to a tax return statement for Creative Commons. In other words, the fact that technology corporations fund Creative Commons is herein presented as proof that the conspiracy is real and the evil technology corporations are manipulating all the innocent little children into becoming corrupt thieves - Creative Commons being, of course, the epitome of pure evil.
The fundamental shift in principals and morality is about who gets to control and exploit the work of an artist. The accepted norm for hudreds of years of western civilization is the artist exclusively has the right to exploit and control his/her work for a period of time. (Since the works that are are almost invariably the subject of these discussions are popular culture of one type or another, the duration of the copyright term is pretty much irrelevant for an ethical discussion.) By allowing the artist to treat his/her work as actual property, the artist can decide how to monetize his or her work. This system has worked very well for fans and artists. Now we are being asked to undo this not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists work without their permission on a massive scale and globally. We are being asked to continue to let these companies violate the law without being punished or prosecuted. We are being asked to change our morality and principals to match what I think are immoral and unethical business models.
Who are these companies? They are sites like The Pirate Bay, or Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. They are “legitimate” companies like Google that serve ads to these sites through AdChoices and Doubleclick. They are companies like Grooveshark that operate streaming sites without permission from artists and over the objections of the artist, much less payment of royalties lawfully set by the artist. They are the venture capitalists that raise money for these sites. They are the hardware makers that sell racks of servers to these companies. And so on and so on.
What the corporate backed Free Culture movement is asking us to do is analogous to changing our morality and principles to allow the equivalent of looting. Say there is a neighborhood in your local big city. Let’s call it The ‘Net. In this neighborhood there are record stores. Because of some antiquated laws, The ‘Net was never assigned a police force. So in this neighborhood people simply loot all the products from the shelves of the record store. People know it’s wrong, but they do it because they know they will rarely be punished for doing so. What the commercial Free Culture movement (see the “hybrid economy”) is saying is that instead of putting a police force in this neighborhood we should simply change our values and morality to accept this behavior. We should change our morality and ethics to accept looting because it is simply possible to get away with it. And nothing says freedom like getting away with it, right?
But it’s worse than that. It turns out that Verizon, AT&T, Charter etc etc are charging a toll to get into this neighborhood to get the free stuff. Further, companies like Google are selling maps (search results) that tell you where the stuff is that you want to loot. Companies like Megavideo are charging for a high speed looting service (premium accounts for faster downloads). Google is also selling ads in this neighborhood and sharing the revenue with everyone except the people who make the stuff being looted. Further, in order to loot you need to have a $1,000 dollar laptop, a $500 dollar iPhone or $400 Samsumg tablet. It turns out the supposedly “free” stuff really isn’t free. In fact it’s an expensive way to get “free” music. (Like most claimed “disruptive innovations”it turns out expensive subsidies exist elsewhere.) Companies are actually making money from this looting activity. These companies only make money if you change your principles and morality! And none of that money goes to the artists!
Companies that make computer systems only make money by convincing you to change your morality and become a criminal. He posts this - on a blog.
The big question is, what is the right place to engage these people where they'll listen. I wrote reams and reams about the problems with SOPA and PIPA and I actively tried to engage people who were parroting content industry talking points but I don't think I had much of an effect on their thinking. When you convince yourself that everyone on the other side is either misinformed or a criminal its easy to ignore what they are saying. When you close yourself off from what a lot of really smart people are saying, that is when you loose touch with the real world and begin to build an idealogical cocoon around yourself. The content industry is very much engaged in this process right now.
The result is going to be worse that SOPA, much much worse.
Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered. | The Trichordist