Wednesday, September 07, 2016

On Copyright

Copyright is something that sounds, err... right. It's about keeping the profits of the sale of work to its author. If I write a book, I expect to get the money from it, not somebody who would print it and sell it in my name. With the digital revolution, copy costs collapsed to zero: anyone can copy anything and spread it globally for free. So what does that mean for me, the author? Well, it sucks. The logical thing for me is to try to fight for my rights, turn to the law which is supposed to protect me, find technical ways of making copying my work harder, preferably impossible, going for the people who are chipping away at my hard earned profits.

However, that only makes sense from the author's point of view, specific to their work, outside of any context. Now, imagine a system that allows me to anonymously share anything to anyone, while they also can get it with no chance of being identified or even detected. Me, the author, can see that my work is being circulated, but I can't stop it or determine who is spreading it. My only recourse is to try to dismantle this devilish system that destroys my living, with the full support of law and various companies that want to get their share of the profits. And here comes the context: in order for me (and the entire media industry) to be able to protect my way of life I need to actively fight against any method that allows anonymous and/or secret sharing of information. In fact, I would be fighting for a global system of surveillance and censorship.

As you have seen, I tried to present the situation from the standpoint of the author. I feel for the poor guy (less for the snakes that get most of the money by controlling distribution and marketing), however it is clear that I can't be on his side. The hypothetical system that I have been describing kind of exists right now in various forms and media companies are making efforts to thwart attempts to make it more user friendly and more widespread. What we see today is the logical continuation of the situation. Forget intelligence companies looking for terrorist threats. Forget tyrannical states trying to find dissidents. Forget the political correctness police trying to expose and shame people for their beliefs. The real money is in stopping people distributing knowledge for free and it has direct (and dire) implications on our ability to speak freely.

Note: I used the expression "speak freely" rather than free speech, because free speech is not actually free at all. Read about it and you will see that is a completely different thing than the ability and permission to express yourself without repercussions.

Of course, I am not the first one to have thought of that. In the world it often has become more effective to use copyright in order to censor things you don't agree with. Just google it and see. Every time you hear something about economic accords, freedom of information, net neutrality, they are all talking about the same thing, only from different angles. The war is active, in full swing, with all of us possible casualties, yet few people are even aware of it. Oh, I am not saying that you can do anything about it... or can you?... but at least you should know about it.