The Case For Copyright

Nigel Goodrich makes a good, solid case for the enforcement of copyright for musicians.

I’ve written at great length on the futility of using DRM to enforce copyright, but I agree with most of what Goodrich says here. That’s probably wise of me, since he knows a great deal more about the subject than I do.

Here’s where we have the most common ground: Artists need to be fairly compensated for the commercial use of their work. If their work is making money for someone, they should have the right to consent to this arrangement and receive compensation for it. This is, in my opinion, a good and proper use for copyright and it ought to be enforced by legal means.

Fortunately, we’re at a stage where companies that enter into inequitable arrangements don’t have the market share mass to perpetuate these deals. Artists can and will seek better deals because there’s obviously a lot of money to be made here and all it will take is someone to come along with a better split for creators and Spotify will be left high and dry.*

Here’s the bit that gives me pause:

The internet will change in the next 20 years beyond recognition, as it has already in its last 20.. and it would be nice to think that the people who make it rich with content will be properly protected once the inevitable structures have evolved that could protect them.. rather than being exploited indefinitely for corporate financial interests. Once all the precedents are set and laws are changed it will be very different to turn back.

I agree that this it would be lovely to create an internet that protects artists, but there’s real danger in trying to set this in law. It would be difficult to argue that artists in general, and musicians specifically, have not been exploited by corporate financial interests for better than half a century now. This exploitation has traditionally been accomplished by creating a situation where the corporate interests create a wall between artists and fans. This wall allows them to exploit both the artist, since the corporation controls the only avenue the artist has to reach their fans, as well as the fans, since the corporation has a monopoly on distributing the art.

That’s the traditional model and it worked very well for a small minority of artists.  The lucky (and often deserving) artists who did well under this model were held up as examples, in the same way that lottery winners were showered with publicity, as proof that it could happen to you! They were the exception, though. Most artists found “the system” stifling and an impediment to doing what they wanted to do: Make art.

Well, make art and make a living.

So, when we get to talking about making laws to make the internet into something that will protect the interests of creators, I get nervous. Not because I don’t want the creators to make money. The opposite is true; I want to make sure that it’s the creators, not the corporate interests, who are getting my entertainment euro. The internet has done so much more good than harm in this regard that I feel I can’t emphasize it enough.  But when we’re talking about changing the way the internet works to facilitate this, I am certain that what we’ll get is an internet where the corporate interests can rebuild that wall between  the artist and their fans. And, an internet that doesn’t allow people to send files or enshrines DRM in law is a broken internet.

What we need now is our government to act and defend the intellectual rights of its citizens.

So long as the government recognizes the fact that it is literally impossible to prevent the distribution of digital information and acts in accordance with that reality, I agree. Otherwise, those are fighting words.


* Yes, I did that on purpose. Don’t judge me.

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