COLUMN SEVENTY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
LABOR & ARTS NOTES:
COPYRIGHTS, COPYWRONGS, PROPERTY RIGHTS, PROPERTY WRONGS
This issue of
Chicago Labor & Arts Notes introduces nine articles that swirl around the
issue of intellectual property in the era of electronics. The current focal point of this swirl is the music industry,
the leaders of which are frantically, fanatically grasping to maintain their
hold on profit. Outside the core of
the controversy is the concern about who "owns" commodities of the
mind, regardless of whether they are literary, visual, musical, scientific. More
fundamentally, these articles question the commodity nature of cultural products
whose transformation into commodities is challenged by the process of electronic
articles include the following:
WRONG WITH COPY PROTECTION?
SCIENTISTS CALL FOR ONLINE LIBRARY
ANTI-COPY TECHNOLOGY STARTS CONTROVERSY
GRAMMYS: 21ST CENTURY THUG LIFE
GREENE DEFROCKED IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
JACK VALENTI PUSHES FOR COPY-CONTROL PC'S
BUSINESS OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
MUSIC WILL BE COMING FROM
If you would like copies of any or all of the above-listed articles, please email Lew Rosenbaum at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone him at 773-761-6229. These articles address primarily the music and film industries. The theme of the articles is succinctly stated by John Gilmore in the first article: "What is wrong is that we have invented the technology to eliminate scarcity, but we are deliberately throwing it away to benefit those who profit from scarcity."
In What Is Wrong With Copy Protection, he argues that the moguls of industry are blocking the possibilities to achieve the wide distribution of goods that as yet are not produced as cheaply as text and music. The focus on content protection is a sham, he states. Just as General Motors has no interest in "content"?--cars versus insurance, for example---the same is true of the entertainment industry. It's interest is simply in preventing cheap replication of commodities without their authorization, without their profiting. In Supply Side Patriotism, Dave Marsh describes the further consolidation of the music industry even in the immediate wake of the September 11 events.
While pledging to move onward despite
the tragedy, FCC chairman Michael Powell presided over the dismantling of
regulations governing monopoly in the newspaper/television/film industry. Marsh
also forwarded an article reporting on UK scientists pushing for an online
library of scientific papers, freely available. Amy Harmon, writing in the New
York Times, reports more on music and DVD copy-protecting devices and the
controversy surrounding them.
"It couldn't have been more than an hour after the Grammys slouched to its conclusion that I had a full transcript of Mike Greene's attack on file-sharing in my mailbox," Dave Marsh writes in 21st Century Thug Life. What Greene did was claim that copying music files impoverishes the music industry and the
Unfettered dissemination of knowledge and information is one of the great needs of our time
musicians. But more
importantly, Marsh returns to another theme, raised in Gilmore's article, but
more clearly enunciated here: the industry and the artists are not the same; the
debate needs to be broadened to raise questions of how we can all share in
cultural and economic abundance.
most artists have to work day jobs, capitalize their own recordings while being
entitled---on paper---to less than a quarter of the money generated, and must
hire accountants to do the permissible partial audits (never at the point of
manufacture) in order to get anything at all. Meanwhile, they live without
guarantee of income, health care or the record company's willingness to put out
the next record.
are the musicians with record contracts.
what we really need to debate."
further reports in the New York Times:
"But in addition, it seems strange that he [Greene] would admit on
national television that he hired three people to break the law (the Electronic
Theft Act) and then show them in the process of doing this, especially since one
is a minor."
Tom Greene in
Washington (presumably no relation to Mike) reports on Jack Valenti, president
of the Motion Picture Association of America, who also rants about file-sharing
in the movies. Greene suggests that Valenti, who is concerned with copying
"content", might better turn his attention to another content issue:
making better movies that more people would want to see.
meant to reward artists for their creations are now commercial products that pay
most of their dividends to companies that trade in them. We have to think of a
new and fairer way to fund creativity," writes Joost Smiers in The
Business of Intellectual Property. This, of course, is the theme introduced
by Marsh and elaborated here.
poem be created without previous poems?" Smiers asks. And, questioning even
the necessity of the "industry," Smiers quotes Marilyn Monroe:
"If I am a star, the people made me a star. Not a studio, not a single
person, but the people."
Will Be Coming From returns us
to Gilmore's point: Kevin Kelly writes in the NYT, "The industrial age was
driven by analog copies; analog copies are perfect and cheap. The information
age is driven by digital copies; digital copies are perfect, fluid and free.
Free is hard to ignore. It propels duplication at a scale that would previously
have been unbelievable."
"free" propels duplication at a scale previously unbelievable, then we
stand on the edge of a grand contradiction.
Gilmore envisions duplication for free that can create a "heaven on
earth" (his phrase). Marsh
shows that, while in sight of this "heaven" we experience a
distribution of wealth becoming more and more unbalanced, more like hell for
most of us. "Musicians need national health care," he says, "but
we'll never get it for singers and guitarists unless we get it for
everybody." That is the bottom line of the battle over intellectual
listening. Feedback always
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