Sunday, July 08, 2012

Left losing its mind about brain-work

In recent years, an unconfident left has watched shiny new bandwagons passing by and it has sometimes jumped upon them in hope.

A few years ago, Islamism looked oddly attractive to some. Today, its 'copyleft'.

For some reason, there seems to be a view that support for copyright infringement is popular (this report - pdf -comprehensively demonstrates it isn't).

Opposing the enforcement of intellectual property laws also looks like quite a radical cause. You get to stick it to the man - especially when the man is the MPAA - Universal, Disney or (history fans) EMI (who?)

And then there's something of a mystical pseudo-rationalist view that the internet offers unlimited quantities of magic dust that multiply knowledge and - on some utilitarian calculation - make copyright infringement a small crime that has a large benefit to mankind and the commons. 

There's a ton of bad science behind that one. There's no reason it has to be an either/or question. We are told that the very mild measures outlined in the UK Digital Economy Act or the French Hadopi law designed to reduce file-sharing are somehow 'censorship'. That these measures, and those around Sopa/Pipa in the US would somehow 'break the internet' if they were ever passed.

Then there's what Andrew Orlowski of The Register refers to as the Pseudo Masochism of self-styled civil liberties campaigners who claim any enforcement of IP law is a form of censorship. Take the celebrated Newport State of Mind parody -  it was totally censored as you can see here, here, here and lots of other places.

And the closer you look into it, the more you find that it's more of an issue for corporate monopolies, the very-very right wing and even the fascist and neo-nazi far-right.

In the last few weeks, evidence of Google dog-whistling up campaigns from supposedly liberal organisations has happened at the same time as a surprisingly slick campaign at EU level against the global anti-counterfeiting treaty, ACTA.

Thing is, the music / film / TV industries that lose so much from having their work nicked like this are mostly populated by small independent producers, small labels and freelancers who have to invest in their own kit, skills and training. Many have spent a great deal longer learning their craft than the over-paid professions that they compete with.

Journalists, bafflingly, have bought the liberality of this argument hook line and sinker - none more than The Guardian - a newspaper group whose business model could be summed up as Set Controls for the Heart of the Sun. (another h/t to Andrew Orlowski for that one). Meanwhile, as a profession that has dedicated itself to openness, local newspapers everywhere have died on their arse. The writing is on the wall, but can you find any journalists who are prepared to read it?

They pay taxes at decent rates (unlike the ISPs, search engine(s) and hardware manufacturers who benefit from copyright violation). And creative work has a great multiplier effect on the UK economy.

When the DVD market is hit by piracy, it still hurts. Badly.

If you want a good - if long - outline of why this is an essential issue for anyone who has ever believed that people should be paid and not exploited for this work, this open letter to Emily White is worth a read. But more to the point, creators rights are basic human rights. Why have we decided to forget this?

Next time you speak to the opponent of copyright enforcement measures, ask them...
  1. Do you think copyright should just be abolished and that music/film/TV work should just be appropriated with no compensation to creators (usual answer: No)
  2. What effective enforcement measures would you support (usual answer; Er..... waffle waffle whataboutery - usually something about how totally unfair some pricing models for music were in the past)
  3. OK. Now answer that first question again (usual answer as above)
The whole debate is being distorted by a false flag campaign that actually wants to abolish copyright altogether. The Pirates make no bones about it. The words are more weasely from the Open Rights GroupWhich brings me to the final argument: That the music and film biz totally missed the boat and should have adapted earlier. That they should have adapted. 'Home taping didn't kill music' we're told. Because knocking up a few mixtapes for your mates is exactly the same thing as pulling down entire record collections and movie catalogues off a torrent, innit?

Google and Apple don't get their copyright breached because they would have your bollocks in their pockets 30 seconds after you did it. Musicians, on the other hand, can't enforce their rights, so they've kinda got it coming to them.

It's feudalism - pure and simple. And, apparently, it's a liberal cause as well.