Digital Music

“Culture Is More Important Than Copyright.”

image from robot6.comicbookresources.com Last week, TechDirt highlighted this great quote from comic book writer Mark Waid and I hadn't gotten a chance to post about it till now. Waid recently spoke at the Harvey Awards and gave a semi-controversial talk about copyright, the public domain and learning to embrace file sharing. Wanting to further clarify his points and clear up some of the confusion that arose from his statements, Waid took the time to publish a written version of his talk.

Of interest and perhaps one of the most important point he makes is that "culture is more important than copyright." This a stance quite similar to the one that music industry pundit Andrew Dubber has been advocating for quite some time now; a perspective I agree with. Here's Waid at his best:

"Like it or not, downloading is here. Torrents and filesharing are here. That's not going away. I'm not here to attack it or defend it–I'm not going to change anyone's mind either way, and everyone in America at this point has anecdotal evidence "proving" how it hurts or helps the medium–but I am here to say it isn't going away–and fear of it, fear of filesharing, fear of illegal downloading, fear of how the internet changes publishing in the 21st century, that's a legitimate fear, because we're all worried about putting food on the table and leaving a legacy for our children, but we're using our energy on something we can't stop, because filesharing is not going away.

And I'll tell you why. It's not because people "like stealing." It's because the greatest societal change in the last five years is that we are entering an era of sharing. Twitter and YouTube and Facebook–they're all about sharing. Sharing links, sharing photographs, sending some video of some cat doing something stupid–that's the era we're entering. And whether or not you're sharing things that technically aren't yours to share, whether or not you're angry because you see this as a "generation of entitlement," that's not the issue–the issue is, it's happening, and the internet's ability to reward sharing has reignited this concept that the public domain has cultural value. And I understand if you are morally outraged about it and you believe to your core that an entire generation is criminal and they're taking food off your table, I respect that.

But moral outrage is often how we deal with fear. It's a false sense of empowerment in the face of fear." (Read the rest.)

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2 Comments

  1. He and so many others on this blog keep fighting over the same points. This is not about copyright, nor is it about culture,or technology or the majors vs the indies. This is about the ability to make diversified product in an increasingly financially monopolistic culture.
    He mentions Degas, the fact is that artists in those days were either wealthy or had patronage. Cultures going as far back as the Sumeria had ways to find and develop their artists. We have no such system in place, instead we have a system that favors one kind of artists leaving all the rest to fend for themselves.
    If copyright is not the solution then fine, if net neutrality is not adopted we are all doomed anyway. What must happen in these discussions is a fundamental understanding of the problem, now that the majors have made their decision to leave the music business and be in the exploitation and marketing of pop products with a musical component.
    Where would our culture be if only Marquis de Sade’s work had been allowed to be published because it was commercially viable, or only Paganini was allowed to go on tour cause he had a great gimmick. Renoir was spat on in his first exhibition, yet the community of impressionists rallied and the movement took off.
    Where do we rally?

  2. I appreciate Waid’s effort to bring some measure of perspective (but not, of course, resolution) to the file-sharing discussion, but I think he mistakenly lumps anyone who feels “moral indignation” over rampant file-sharing into one convenient group–namely, people who are panicking over the erosion of current business models.
    The truth is it is quite possible to feel moral indignation over the situation without having any personal skin in the game. I am not a musician, I am not a record label, I am not a publisher, and I still feel badly about the way file-sharing has pretty much disemboweled marketplace protocol that has existed for thousands of years (i.e. I give you something of value for the thing of value of yours that I want). Plunder isn’t a mark of civilization, and I’m pretty sure I can feel discouraged about this without being fearful of the internet.

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