Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Wikipedia is

turning itself off at 4pm today. It is being turned off for twenty-four hours as a protest against the introduction of a bill into the United States Congress which is supposedly designed to stamp out piracy on the internet - at least inside the United States.
I doubt that the protest will do any good. I doubt that the legislation - if it passes - will work. Geeks somewhere will find a way of getting around the legislation eventually. Unlike China, where there are also heavy controls on the internet, there are constitutional issues for the United States. File "sharing" will continue.
If we really want to stop illegal file-sharing then we would have to do away with computers and photocopiers and anything else that has the capacity to record and store - and thus copy. Breaching copyright is wrong but it will go on happening.
I am wondering if one of the reasons it happens is because most people do not recognise the work involved in creating music, art and literature? They see it as being there for their enjoyment. How can something you enjoy for relaxation be work for anyone else? Musicians, actors, artists and (especially) writers just do it for the fun of it. There is no real work involved. They can have "real" jobs and just do those things part-time...unless they are super-stars. There are a very, very small number of musicians who get paid well, even extremely well. There are also a very small number of actors who get paid huge sums. Most musicians and actors get paid very little. It is the same with artists.
Writers get paid the least of all. Of all the creative arts what they produce is the easiest to reproduce. Anyone with a minimal amount of knowledge can copy this blog post. They can cut and paste and copy. They can change it minimally and put it up as their own. They can print it multiple times and use it as class material - a class they will be paid to teach. Yes, the copyright belongs to me but they will genuinely believe they are doing no wrong. Trying to stop them is like trying to hold back the sea in a storm.
Even when people pay for a book they will pass it on to others to read, donate it to a library or a charity shop, dump it somwhere. The amount of work involved in producing it will rarely, if ever, enter their heads.
Perhaps what we need is not an anti-piracy act that will not work but an education programme about the work involved. Perhaps what we need are governments who are prepared to acknowledge both ownership and effort. If they do not value creativity how can they expect others to value it?


Nicole MacDonald said...

I wish they'd come up with real solutions. Extreme laws are pointless. Also, as a writer who offers her first book for free, I'd rather have people enjoying my work than it sitting gathering dust in a drawer. If a reader enjoys it enough, then they'll buy book two. Pirating will always occur but I do feel that most the time it actually only increases fans of the genuine product. Yes they may have got some of it for free, but the rest they gladly pay for and appreciate. Those that steal then trash - well karma's a b!tch and it will bite them in the end :)

Anonymous said...

What?! Take the photocopier out of the library? There would be a riot!

widdershins said...

What! You're asking the government to do something altruistic FOR the masses? Absurd! How would the bureaucracy function if everyone ran around doing that?