Thursday, 23 September 2010

interim gripe: anti-piracy campaigns

After being away for a couple of weeks, and not posting much in the rush up to my departure and since my return, I've accumulated a fair bit of post-worthy material. But that's still on hold for the moment. Today's commentary is a complaint, inspired by the latest of a series of offensive emails I've gotten this year - all encouraging my support for a campaign to pressure the U.S. government into clamping down on music piracy.

I should make clear - the emails aren't threatening or abusive or overtly rude. What I find offensive is the self-righteousness of the music industry reps involved in this campaign, the attack on creative freedom that these kinds of campaigns entail, and the assumption that I (whoever/whatever they think I may be) am on their side. And I find particularly offensive the way in which these types of music industry people try to pass off as a moral and artistic crisis what for them is largely an issue of money and control.

Example, courtesy of the music division of one particular multinational corporation: "Our community has never matched the noise created by those on the 'copyleft' – we need to be louder than ever to drown out those who don’t care about our art, our jobs and the difference between right and wrong." I am definitely not part of this "our." And I'm repulsed by these kinds of attempts to demonize anyone who isn't.

I won't get into my philosophical stance on copyright and intellectual property (I'm suspicious of it though I support credit where credit is due), the commodification of creative work (I have problems with commodification in general but I'm all for people getting compensation for their work), and the free circulation and exchange of information and ideas (I generally support it), and how all these issues tie into the question of anti-piracy legislation. That would be a whole dissertation in itself (and a tempting one to write, though there are other people who are already embroiled in these kinds of projects). But even just looking at the practical side of things, I do not believe that "imploring Congress to pass aggressive laws to combat piracy" is an advisable or effective reaction to music downloading.

So instead of supporting this campaign, I would urge people to consider some of the more disturbing implications of anti-piracy legislation and its application (multinational corporations vs the individual artist and/or consumer, corporate ownership and control of creative resources, threats to creative and artistic freedom, and so on...). And I offer up, instead of the web address of the group sending me these emails, a link to a group that represents one of several alternative points of view.

Please feel free to reproduce my words (but try not to mispresent my point of view).

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