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Monday, 17 May 2010

Copyright and the future

Information wants to be free. Copyrighted information, government information, my information.
I can't locate the quote, frustratingly, but someone once said that computer memory will never get more expensive, slower, or less convenient. The world is opening up for people to share ideas, books, movies, and personal data across the world almost instantly.

To do so in the case of movies, for example, is definitely illegal; arguably immoral; but still very easy. And likely to get easier.

Did you know that copyright law, when first invented in 1709, applied for 14 years? By contrast, Paul McCartney (and thousands of other artists) hold the view that 50 years of royalty cheques aren't enough. (Please discount my opinion, but if you're not currently earning, maybe you don't need to live a life of luxury.) Most performers around today are aware that customers have the option to pirate their songs, and their responses range from the overzealous ('let's sue them into the ground as an example') to the cool ('I make this awesome stuff you might like, oh and also I need to eat.').

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I bring this all up because I'm trying to picture the future. It seems to me that, whether the privacy activists and lawyers like it or not, our society is tending towards total freedom of information. Everything about us will be available to anybody who cares enough to look. It will fundamentally change the nature of our society. It will change how we treat others (because we'll know we're being 'reviewed' online); it will change why we create things (because anything we write or film or draw will instantly be available to everyone); and it will change how we keep secrets (if we even have them at all).

I'm not trying to present some horrendous dystopia here; nor am I condoning illegal downloading or the abolition of copyright law. I'm only trying to sort out, in my own head, where I think the human race is going, and (accidentally, in the process) who's stopping us from getting there. If I knew no other life, would I really mind living in a world like that? I think my answer is no.

What do you think? Where are we heading?


  1. i just felt like the post is inspired by me. is it true??
    anyway, i fear the loss of privacy in personal life more than stealing of my work.

  2. I work in the media so I actually agree with what you're saying. However, I value my privacy above all else. My work is something I want other people to see because I'm proud of it, but my private life is just that - private. Working in the media has made it abundantly clear to me that already our lives are not as private as we'd like to think, but that small modicum of personal space/time/identity is what (I think) makes us all individuals.

  3. Paresh, no. It's nothing to do with you. I wasn't aware you had any involvement in copyright law.

    Ashton, thanks for commenting. You're absolutely right that privacy is something we should value and defend, and I'd love to know more about what role you think the media plays in that.

  4. Hi Anna, greetings from a twitter follower, My name's Carlos (Twitter user: cmurgueitio).

    Basically, the question is here, what should be considered as "valuable information" or useful.

    In the music case, I can tell, the "illegal" downloading have allowed me to "meet" more music and musicians I barely had an idea of, for example Echo and The Bunnymen, and even I found a complete collection of Beethoven works.

    Why I mention my particular case. I live in a (Let's say) Third World Country, Ecuador. And we barely have decent music stores, unfortunately all these music stores have is Shakira, or whatever is trending. So if I want to find some "obscure" alternative or hard rock record, I'm fucked up.

    I love seeing people gettin' on the Creative Commons wave, sharing nowadays is the way to learn. But one thing is to learn, other to be a peeping tom, haha :).

    All the best, see you and, excellent post!


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