Charlie's Diary

[ Site Index] [ Feedback ]

Thu, 19 Feb 2004

Angst, Copyright, and Art

That damned cold has moved onto my chest. Consequently, I've been hanging around indoors for the past couple of days. I'm now over the jet lag but not feeling up to work; if I was still going into an office I'd be phoning in sick, but now the morning commute is down to approximately three metres that's kind of hard to do. So I'm moping around the flat, using up tissues like crazy, reading crime novels, and not playing with the cats as much as they'd like. They've gotten awfully talkative since we came home and Frigg in particular seems to want to bounce around the place like a wild thing, just when I'm at a low ebb. (She's a far cry from the obese blob we took away from the cat and dog home a year ago.)

Things seen on the web ... one victim of the RIAA's drive-by lawsuits is doing the right thing and suing the litigious scumbags for extortion. I make my living by selling the rights to intellectual property I create, and I've got nothing but admiration for this woman. One salient point that gets lost in the heat and noise over file sharing is that the RIAA are not in the artists' corner -- they're a cartel of rapacious trough-gobbling multinationals who have largely cornered the music distribution biz, who artificially inflate the price of music, who do not contribute any kind of added value to the consumers, who effectively prevent independent artists from getting into the retail stores, who threaten and sue their own customers ... in my opinion, these people behave like gangsters, and deserve to be treated as such.

In related news, EMI's attempt to crack down on the rather brilliant DJ Danger Mouse's recent Grey Album (which remixes Jay-Z's The Black Album and the Beatles White Album, and was described by Rolling Strone as "the ultimate remix record" and "an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time") has triggered a grassroots protest campaign: the folks at are planning a mass-mirroring. I wish them luck: this won't be the first landmark album to have been suppressed by copyright totalitarians (the JAMMs' Abba album and Negativeland's U2 both spring to mind).

Here's the rub: fans who share music, books, video, whatever, are not the artist's enemies. Art -- any art form -- is an attempt at communication. (Even if it's a private creative journal, meant for the author's eyes only, it's an attempt at communication between past and present.) Yes, those of us who create literature, poetry, music, paintings, sculptures, or whatever may well want to earn a living: and indeed, we may hope that our audience will see fit to reward us for our work. It follows that people or institutions who actively prevent people from seeing our work can only be described as enemies of art. They're trying to prevent us from communicating. In this case, they've gone from being the guy who passes the hat around in front of the audience to being self-inflated gatekeepers who refuse to admit any members of the audience who do not or cannot meet the price of admission set by these self-same gatekeepers, precious little of which ever reaches the artists.

This is not to say that there aren't situations in which the RIAA is justified in going after copyright violators: the most obvious such situations are those where criminal enterprises are mass-producing forged albums in an attempt to rip off everyone from the consumers through to the artists. But in general, if someone is violating copyright without the means or motive of profiting thereby I find it hard to see any moral justification for demanding financial damages. Let the fine match the actual profit, not the imagined loss of sales.

I'm taking pot-shots at the RIAA and the music industry because they're the most egregious offenders today, although the film biz is doing its best to catch up. Book publishers and writers are mostly not actively attacking their own audience. (There are some visible exceptions, but in general the book biz seems to have stayed sufficiently in touch with reality to realise that suing fans is counter-productive.) But mostly I'm blowing off steam because I'm worried that this business is symptomatic of a trend in our social interactions towards placing a cost on everything, and valuing nothing that comes without a price tag. Once all communications cost money, my lips are effectively sealed. And I don't want to live in a place like that, thank you very much.

[Discuss copyright-censorship]

posted at: 18:20 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

Quick links:

RSS Feed (Moved!)

Who am I?

Contact me

Buy my books: (FAQ)

Missile Gap
Via Subterranean Press (US HC -- due Jan, 2007)

The Jennifer Morgue
Via Golden Gryphon (US HC -- due Nov, 2006)

Via (US HC -- due June 30, 2006)

The Clan Corporate
Via (US HC -- out now)

Via (US HC)
Via (US PB -- due June 27, 2006)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)
Free download

The Hidden Family
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

The Family Trade
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)

Iron Sunrise
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)

The Atrocity Archives
Via (Trade PB)
Via (Trade PB)
Via Golden Gryphon (HC)
Via (HC)
Via (HC)

Singularity Sky
Via (US HC)
Via (US PB)
Via (US ebook)
Via (UK HC)
Via (UK PB)


Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

[ Site Index] [ Feedback ]

Powered by Blosxom!