June 26, 2004
Why aggresive copyright policies kill culture

A few weeks ago Cory Doctorow spoke at Microsoft about DRM (full talk here) and recently David Weinberger did too, although he was asked there for different reasons. I like the following answer to a question on what's wrong with digital rights management and aggresvie use based copyright control:

When it comes to creative works, we are not "consumers," and we are not users. Rather we appropriate creative works, that is, we make them our own. We apply them to our own context. We get them somewhat right or entirely wrong. They become part of us. That's how how we learn and how culture changes. But that means that creators should lose control of their works as quickly as possible. [...] A pay-per-use system and allowing artists to control their works much past launching them into the world will kill culture. Further, since publishing creates the public [a point I'd made earlier], building an infrastructure designed to allow that type of control will damage the new public of the Web as well as cripple culture. It's a really really really bad idea, so don't do it.

Amen to both points (the one of co-creation and the one on the public). In fact I made the exact same point almost exactly 2 years ago:

[T]he act of comprehension of any text or other intellectual content, is in fact a long running, never ending and many faceted process. In the simplest form [of DRM/use based licensing], you would skirt an issue such as this, and go with something simple like "hours of direct personal exposure to content via some digital device". That works for simple kinds of use [listening to a record], but not for complicated use [e.g. software]. And is should be clear from endless "fair use" discussions that content owners are very aware of the presence of ideas made available in their content in later acts of expression.

A wild farfetched guess would be that as we digitize our personal space more and more, expression will be carried to a greater and greater extent over digital devices, so that the act of thought is actually external, published and visible (witness the weblog phenomenon). In such a world, the notion that reference is use becomes quite oppresive.

The last two years has only made that threat clearer.

Posted by Claus at June 26, 2004 03:24 PM | TrackBack (0)
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