Ever since the very first recording devices for artistic works came along, people have been trying their very best to ensure that they profit from the production of their work. We all have bills to pay and we want our fair share. So when a kid from the nineties tapes a song off the radio on their cassette playing ghetto blaster, it results in social ostracism and tut-tutting from concerned parents about giving the artist their fair share. Well, where was I before I took a trip down memory lane to the nineties? Oh yes, copyright! You see, ever since the printing press and the first recording devices, it has become apparent that a producer of a creative product has very little control over what happens to their work once it is shared. Books can be printed, cassette tapes can be copied and now massive files can be anonymously shared via VPNs and torrent clients. It is quite a fascinating digital wild world.
There is a dispute going on between the people who profit from holding onto copyright and those of us who wish to chuck the whole corrupt, materialist scheme in the nearest trash bin. Just check out the way that the Pirate Bay has fought back from all of the legal attacks and has managed to survive in the face of adversity. The Man succeeds in taking down the pirate bay url (I think it was piratebay.com but I am too lazy to look it up for sure.) Does Pirate Bay disappear? No! A bunch of internet nerds set up a bunch of mirror sites and distribute this information all over the internet. A search of pirate bay on reddit will give you an idea of how to get there. It never fails to amaze me, the things that a well-organized group of people can accomplish. The Man can kick and scream until he is blue in the face but it will do nothing to change the implications of file sharing.
There is yet one other form of file sharing that gets me excited. Have you heard of ?The idea is quite simple. Stick a USB stick into a wall. Anybody can come along and get data off the stick and put data on it if they like. Voila! Meatspace file sharing. The simplicity is genius. My family mocks me for getting so excited about this concept, but there it is.
I understand that it takes a lot of work and time to compose a work of art and you want to get the money from it that you deserve. You especially don’t want people that didn’t contribute to its production to profit from your song. But the whole music industry is a bunch of opportunistic and greedy leeches. They suck the life out of the artists and they get diddly squat the majority of the time. Sure, sure some people make out like bandits. But the vast majority of talented musicians become elementary school teachers.
We are brain-washed into thinking that producing art is about making money and that making money is the most important thing ever. The truth is, as long as you have your material needs met, you are very well off. You won’t be any happier with more stuff. You can join the rat race and spend money you don’t have to buy stuff you don’t need. We all suffer from this affliction to a certain degree. When I see an android tablet I start drooling and my credit card gets itchy. I understand. But once I get it I will complain about all my bills and I won’t be any happier.
All human knowledge is collective and owned by everybody ultimately. Who invented all the languages spoken or the music written? What about the guy who invented the wheel? Should he get a royalty every time someone drives a car? How far back should this attribution scheme go?
True happiness comes from adding to the sum total of all human knowledge. Every bit of truth and beauty you can add to the world is what makes you happy.
People have a habit of stealing my words. As a prolific mouthpiece, there are many to steal. I will use a word or a turn of phrase and pretty soon everybody is using it. At work I used the term living vicariously through others and pretty soon everybody was saying it. I added gregarious to Ethan’s verbal repertoire. Sure he may have heard that word before but in reality he gets all his words from me. I really should take all the credit for his podcast. Anyway, people stealing my words makes me proud. I don’t demand a royalty. I stole those words from someone else and it is impossible to know who I stole them from. Every song that is written is influenced by every other song the artist heard. When you write a song, you use musical instruments and written materials that were made by other people, the vast majority of whom died in obscurity and didn’t get a dime. But I bet that whoever invented a guitar and strummed out the equivalent of “Twinkle twinkle little star” celebrated the truth and beauty in that by sharing it with as many people as possible.
In conclusion, I say don’t lament when somebody likes your ideas enough to steal them. While I do believe in giving credit where credit is due, it is impossible to do that all the time. Give your work away freely. Go open source. There is so much free content around that generous people have made to share with the larger community. Think of all the open source software that exists. I hope that someone invents cheap, easily reproducible energy, prints up the blueprints and calls it open source energy. It wouldn’t take long for the internet to share that one around. Copyright is dead.