Sunday, November 17, 2013

On Modern Propaganda Promoting the Idea of Copyright

It's interesting how copyright propaganda changed over time. Historically, copyright propaganda made a moral argument: it's simply wrong to copy. Why? People depend on creative works for their livelihood. If you copy, you harm the industry's continued existence and its ability to create. You can see this in the famous "Home Taping Is Killing Music!" campaign or the original "Don't Copy That Floppy".

This approach was largely abandoned in propaganda produced after the mainstream rise of computer networks and the widespread copyright infringement that followed. Perhaps because the actual moral qualms come about over restrictive copyright? Perhaps because more music is being made then ever despite this "industry's" virtual existence on life support? Hrmm? I'm not sure really, but it's interesting.

The new copyright propaganda is based on fear. They try to scare people into submission. You can see the moral viewpoint shown in the new "Don't Copy That Floppy", and other propaganda videos such as "Downloading Movies Is Stealing" or FACT videos on copyright. The point of these propaganda videos is to show the legal consequences of copyright, like for instance showing like a mass infringer making hundreds of thousands of dollars and that he's in jail. Great. The problem is, the vast majority of copyright infringers aren't like that. So they are using hyperbole to attempt to scare people. Maybe it's wishful thinking.

They also have made arguments that copyright infringement is equivalent to supporting terrorism. This almost feels like it belongs in a parody of copyright propaganda, but it's the real deal (see: "FACT Anti-Piracy PSA"). I almost feel like this kind of thing goes down with something like "Fuck it. Terrorism is bad, lets go with that. Film the stupid video and lets go the pub already." I feel like I could be a good propagandist for them. Imagine a plane crashing into a skyscraper, dramatic music, people screaming in the background, followed by a narrator saying "this happened because you downloaded The Hunger Games yesterday. I hope you are happy." Instant success!

Also interesting of course is the always present cultural references, for instance, Star Trek characters in the new "Don't Copy That Copy". It's possible that they utilized them with permission, but it's not out of the ordinary for copyright propagandists to regularly violate copyright themselves often in their efforts of promoting it.

It will be interesting to see how copyright propaganda evolves in the future, but one thing I feel is certain: they aren't getting their message across.

Is copyright simply not compelling?

On Google Books

It's an easily derived opinion from my philosophy on copyright and the information age, but here's something I posted on a blog in response to the idea that the Google Books case is not over yet. I'm very excited about the potential of Google Books, but indeed, it's not out of the woods yet. I summarize my opinion on the situation (keeping it here, with some fixed grammar for posterity):

The Author’s Guild could also appeal as well. But it limits the plaintiffs’ options, so it is a pretty significant win for Google at this point.

I don’t view this as David vs Goliath, since there are huge financial interests on both sides.
What I see though, is Google made a service that could literally give access to entirety of human knowledge to anyone with Internet access, and the ability to search through tens of millions of books no different then any other search query. It’s not a pipe dream. They made it already.

And I see a bunch of plaintiffs that just don’t want this. I see them defending business models built in a world where a service like Google Books is a pipe dream, not a reality. I see them defending business models that are based fundamentally on developing and maintaining a scarcity of knowledge, business models that intentionally make knowledge more difficult to access, and where knowledge is less accessible to lower economic classes.

To not allow a service like Google Books is to put a damper on the progression of humanity. All to serve no other purpose but to maintain business models that can no longer, and do no longer benefit the public interest.

Unfortunately, due entirely to these interests, Google Books is not as useful as it could be. In fact, this has entirely everything to do with the sorry state of copyright law and nothing to do with the technology itself.

Google had to spend significant engineering efforts, efforts that could be used to improve the service instead, to serve no other ends except to literally make their service less useful. They do this by randomly introducing defects into the service, such as removing pages from books and other shenanigans so that researchers can’t use the service to get a complete context. These are not features, they are anti-features. They exist for no other purpose but to disallow the service to function in its true potential. By literally introducing defects into the service, they are working to make it defective by design. All because of a legal regime that demands defects in products such as Google Books.

But removing all those legally-imposed defects will be a trivial change (perhaps just setting a configuration variable) and I think one day we’ll see a books service that is not hampered by the current limitations imposed by copyright law. That’s my hope. I want to see a world where the entirety of knowledge and culture is made available to the whole world.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Isohunt shut down.. and back up a few days later

In recent news, we find out that IsoHunt was shut down by the legal system.. and it's back up a few days later (under new management of course).
This blog post talked about the inevitability of this kind of thing. Raiding and shutting down a website is not like raiding a factory or physical space, where the damage of shutting it down is real - where it takes time to build a new factory. Unlike physical stuff, websites can be copied and reproduced much like anything else on the Internet - nearly instantly.

Did I predict this would happen? Yes. But it's not like I'm kind of oracle, this stuff is almost completely fucking obvious. It's bound to happen.

How the hell are you suppose to combat this? I can answer that actually: it's impossible!

Tell me, why do we still pretend that we can have a functioning copyright system today?

Instead of working on a new kind of system that could reward creative effort today, we continue to promote this BROKEN system of copyright almost everyone agrees no longer works. By pretending that copyright can work, you keep creative industries chasing an impossible dream that produces diminishing returns. Don't chase copyright to your grave.