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Sorting Out the Birds from the Bees · Tuesday November 30, 2010 by Crosbie Fitch

If you don’t really have a position on copyright except as a cultural hazard, and just flit from flower to flower, copying what you want, sharing what you will, generally taking back whatever cultural liberties seem appropriate at the time, then you are a bee – busily bumbling along.

However, if you do have a position in the copyright debate then the first question to put to you is this:

  • “For those few holders who can afford to prosecute it, is copyright still effective in achieving reproduction monopolies for covered works?”

If you answer “Yes”, then you no doubt consider that piracy is negligible and can be written off as youthful exuberance to be remedied by better education and deterrence. In general, you are optimistic for copyright’s future, and believe it will remain a sound basis for anyone to adopt for their business model. An apposite label for you is ostrich – unable to consider things from a broader perspective, reassured by the similar, inward looking agreement of one’s fellows.

If you answer “No”, then there are three main answers to the next question:

  • “Can copyright be returned to effectiveness, and if so, how?”

If you answer “Yes, via draconian enforcement – cultural terror then you are a hawk – not an uncommon position, though typically found isolated in high positions of power.

If you answer “Yes, via reform, such as by compulsorily licensing the areas in which it is not effective (instituting an Internet mulct)” then you are a dove – clustering for safety in numbers, unwilling to challenge incumbent hawks, espousing appeasement and compromise.

If you answer “No, of course not. Moreover, it follows that the privilege of copyright should be abolished, since it can only serve as a means of enabling copyright oligarchs to spitefully wreak vengeance against the public for having the temerity to re-assert their cultural liberty” then you are an owl – rarely seen, but unafraid to prioritise nature’s principles above political expediency or popularity.

If “No” then there’s another question:

  • “Given their 18th century privilege is now worthless except as a means of extorting random file or news sharers, how can artists exchange their labour in a market that is now effectively free?”

The answer is simple: “Enable the artist’s audience to offer the artist money in exchange for further work – on the proviso that copyright is neutralised as a means of extortion, and that the public’s cultural liberty concerning this work and derivatives is restored”.

Obviously, once work and money are exchanged, all can freely distribute and promote the artist’s work through copying it accurately and honestly (being careful not to corrupt or misattribute it, nor misrepresent the artist).

So, what are you? Unconcerned bee, optimistic ostrich, predatory hawk, appeasing dove, or wise owl?

Or would you rather not be so pigeonholed?

Where you stand in resolving this conflict between privilege and liberty is all rather moot. The bees do whatever comes naturally. If the legislators, whatever their feather, do not want to be stung they make the law accord with the bees, not vice versa.

DNA copies and remixes, and nature selects the best. Homo Sapiens copies and remixes accordingly, and mankind learns and progresses the better because of it. It is power that corrupts, and queens so corrupted who legislate contrary to natural law, pretending that it is the suppression of copying and the prohibition of remixing that best advances mankind’s learning and progress.

We must awake from this lie that we have been living, snap out of our collective delusion, realise the empress is naked, and remember that the liberty we were born with is rightfully ours, not Queen Anne’s more privileged subjects. Only willing slaves are seduced by such a snow queen’s suggestion that the sacrifice of her subjects’ liberty serves them more than herself.

Maniquí said 3786 days ago :

I’m still probably a “bee”, from a cultural consumer POV.

Certainly, I’m not any of this: optimistic ostrich, predatory hawk, or appeasing dove.

A wise owl? Well, an owl trying to get wiser and trying to explain other this “new” concepts, which sometimes I just find very hard to explain (the copyright unlearn process isn’t too easy to apply).

Crosbie, please, would you care to briefly explain the “naked empress” analogy?
I’ve read the tale long time ago, but I can’t make the relation between the topics you write about and that tale.

Crosbie Fitch said 3786 days ago :

Maniquí, the trouble with wisdom is that it cannot be taught. It has to be learnt.

It is of course the proverbial Emperor who conceitedly credulous is conned, and in turn cons his subjects, into believing in the existence of fabulous clothing that is plain for all to see does not exist. A carefully contrived pretext creates an avalanche of peer pressure that binds people into suspending disbelief – since it says the clothing is invisible only to ignorant buffoons.

Queen Anne’s pretext tells us, as her Stationers’ Guild helped persuade her, that a power to prohibit copying would obviously encourage her subjects’ learning. Ignoring the gold coins that end up in the guild’s pocket, the con, illusion and deceit, that all must suspend disbelief in, is that there can be such a power and that it would assist learning.

It is plain to all that no such power exists. No musician or storyteller has a natural power to prevent all persons the world over from making copies of their work. Children can see this. They can see that no power can constrain their sharing of music and stories. But, their parents tell them, if they misbehave, bogey men will come to lay their family to waste, and will imprison and enslave all naughty children that dare to share. Even so, the children still fail to see how such liberties are detected, so they carry on regardless. And teachers, scientists, and journalists, all fail to see how a power to prevent copying of knowledge, science, and news, can improve the world’s learning of it. But all, of course, cannot betray themselves as buffoons, so all pay lip service to the righteousness of Queen Anne’s sacred gift to her subjects.

We all convince ourselves and each other as to how essential copyright is to everyone, and yet this is a myth the opposite of Father Christmas. It is a magical force that children are blissfully ignorant of, but one in which adults come to believe and fear (or if powerful, learn to threaten others with).

It is time all adults also dared to share, and time we all became buffoons and resumed our disbelief in a magical power that pretends to prevent us singing each other’s songs or telling each other’s stories.

The empress is naked. The power to prevent sharing is non-existent, invisible, illusory, a figment of our imagination. All that exists is her permission to punish unbelieving children and imprison incorrigible pirates, and the policy that all should ridicule non-believing buffoons.

It’s time to turn the tables, time to call for the repeal of this instrument of injustice. We must all declare what we see with our own eyes, that it is copyright that is truly ridiculous and all who yet believe in it. That’s how we, as a people thus enlightened, can abolish a wicked queen’s curse upon us and our cultural liberty. That’s how we become as free as our children.

We CAN copy. It is good to copy. Copying is how we learn. Copying is in our DNA, and no law should be made that pretends to take this liberty from us.




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