Charlie Stross on Copyright

In his blog, Charlie Stross makes many good copyright points. I stopped discussing this topic in online fora, because someone invariable would play the “but I make my living from copyright and you don’t” card. Instead, I now just point to the same points I was making but made by people who do earn their livings via copyright. He discusses the lady who is suing the RIAA for RICO violations (which on the face of it sounds like a sound legal argument to me) and about the Grey Tuesday mass mirroring of the Jay-Z/DJ Danger Mouse Grey Album. They have a list of sites that will turn grey in support. Hey, I’m already there! This site has been grey for a long time.

Here’s something that Charlie says that I agree with wholeheartedly. If I said it, it would be shouted down because I don’t earn my living via copyright thus am not permitted to have this opinion:

Here’s the rub: fans who share music, books, video, whatever, are not the artist’s enemies. Art — any art form — is an attempt at communication. (Even if it’s a private creative journal, meant for the author’s eyes only, it’s an attempt at communication between past and present.) Yes, those of us who create literature, poetry, music, paintings, sculptures, or whatever may well want to earn a living: and indeed, we may hope that our audience will see fit to reward us for our work. It follows that people or institutions who actively prevent people from seeing our work can only be described as enemies of art. They’re trying to prevent us from communicating. In this case, they’ve gone from being the guy who passes the hat around in front of the audience to being self-inflated gatekeepers who refuse to admit any members of the audience who do not or cannot meet the price of admission set by these self-same gatekeepers, precious little of which ever reaches the artists.

This is not to say that there aren’t situations in which the RIAA is justified in going after copyright violators: the most obvious such situations are those where criminal enterprises are mass-producing forged albums in an attempt to rip off everyone from the consumers through to the artists. But in general, if someone is violating copyright without the means or motive of profiting thereby I find it hard to see any moral justification for demanding financial damages. Let the fine match the actual profit, not the imagined loss of sales.

Amen! He points out the hypocrisy of going after non-commercial MP3 filesharing or book posting individuals while ignoring the giant black market industries that make significant cash bootlegging and selling those same works as if they were legitimate. Those are the true enemies, the criminal organizations reaching in the pocket books of media companies and artists. Bring the noise, Brother Stross.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.