Reality can’t be copyrighted

The opposite of broadcast: the distribution economics of the internet favor infinite niches, not one-size-fits-all. The web’s peer-to-peer architecture: a symmetrical traffic load, with as many senders as receivers and data transmissions spread out over geography and time. A new regime of digital technology has now disrupted all business models based on mass-produced copies, including the livelihoods of artists. The contours of the electronic economy are still emerging, but while they do, the wealth derived from the old business model is being spent to try to protect that old model. Laws based on the mass-produced copy are being taken to the extreme, while desperate measures to outlaw new technologies in the marketplace “for our protection” are introduced in misguided righteousness. This is to be expected: entire industries (newspapers, magazines, book publishers, movie studios, record labels) are threatened with demise, and most will die. The new model is based on the intangible assets of digital bits: copies are no longer cheap but free and flow freely everywhere. As computers retrieve images from the web or displays from a server, they make temporary, internal copies of those works. Every action you invoke on your computer requires a copy of something to be made. Many methods have been employed to try to stop the indiscriminate spread of copies, including copy-protection schemes, hardware-crippling devices, education programs, and statutes, but all have proved ineffectual. The remedies are rejected by consumers and ignored by pirates. Copies have been dethroned; the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connection, and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer, and engage a work. Art is a conversation, not a patent office. The citation of sources belongs to the realms of journalism and scholarship, not art. Reality can’t be copyrighted.

— Reality Hunger

 

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