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The Graceless Death of Copyrighting

January 18, 2012

Today, the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) withdrew their support of the two bills. This action has been largely credited to vehement opposition by websites and other technology companies, including a widespread “internet blackout” and information campaign.

Preemptively depriving people of property and liberty in order to prevent copyright infringement would not have been a valid solution, but a new offense in itself. Those pieces of legislation represented an assault on civil rights that are already besieged from multiple angles. Their abandonment is definitely cause for celebration. Hurrah!

However, while this triumph is laudable, it resolves nothing. The real problem is that, particularly since the advent of peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing, copyrights have become unenforceable—whether for music, film, software, or printed material. The internet effectively makes copyrighting obsolete, and the entertainment gurus cannot abide this change in the game. It turns their golden goose into just another bird.

The internet takes communication and innovation to a whole other level. The birth of the internet was the beginning of a new age into which we have been steadily progressing. It is an age of free information and worldwide, real-time communication, incompatible with institutions whose profits rely on copyrights and other such restrictions. Those institutions are part of an old order that has no place in the new age. They cannot coexist with free communication, and no amount of arguing will convince the world to sacrifice such a valuable asset to keep their industry afloat.

Of course, in this light, the old order will use every resource at its disposal to stunt free communication. As long as they still have means to do so, corporations and trade organizations will try to prevent this new age from coming to fruition, at any expense. It doesn’t matter if the price we pay is the elimination of basic civil rights, if the alternative is death of the institutions. If they can’t be part of the new age, no one will.

As with many major political issues, there is a massive underlying problem at the core of the copyright controversy and many others: too many of our institutions are set up to be permanent. The self-deified leaders of industry, rather than adapting to a changing world, become obsessed with crushing any innovation that threatens the eternal life of their business models.

We see this phenomenon not only in the dying premise of copyrighting, but across the board. The petroleum and automotive industries expend a great deal of money and resources to suppress alternative vehicles and fuels. The Democratic and Republican parties use every means at their disposal to keep outsiders from establishing a meaningful political presence. Central banks incite wars and threaten the stability of the world to prolong catastrophic monetary policies. Religious organizations denounce scientific advancements that shine light through the gaps of faith. The list goes on and on.

As new technologies enable new abilities—a process that has accelerated across human history—old orders will continue to fiercely struggle against their impending demise. Fortunately, they will always fall behind because they’re on the wrong side of a futile conflict. They are medieval cavalry trying to trample a fleet of tanks and helicopters. Today, two of their best-suited horsemen were unceremoniously crushed.

Despite this victory, we must remain vigilant. We have won a battle, and we will win the war, but this old order will never resign peacefully. We must strike it down every time it stands up, again and again, until it has no choice but to assume its proper place—in the past.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
    January 18, 2012 19:19

    Does this indicate that the act of copyrighting something is of little use.

    Will plagiarizing be a legal offense ?

    Is plagiarizing a moral offense ?

    • January 18, 2012 19:30

      A person commits plagiarism when he presents another person’s idea as his own, without attribution. It’s an intellectually dishonest practice that is universally decried. It will always be a moral offense as long as humans value original ideas.

      A person infringes a copyright when he presents a piece of “intellectual property” without the permission of the party that owns the copyright. It overlaps with plagiarism if the offender also attempts to claim authorship, but that’s not a defining feature.

      Yes, copyrighting is becoming useless, despite extreme measures to keep it in place. That was the gist of this piece.

      • Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
        January 18, 2012 19:59

        Then in the etherial world of the Internet, this immorality is being enabled to flourish and in-fact, promoted ?

    • January 18, 2012 20:16

      In fact, no. The internet makes it much more difficult to commit plagiarism and get away with it. It’s very easy to catch a plagiarist because so much written material is now openly available as searchable text.

      If you’re trying to get around to some point about the internet being a bastion of immorality, don’t waste your energy.

      • Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
        January 18, 2012 20:55

        I’m sure no more a bastion of immorality than the physical world. Ha Ha {:>)

  2. Robin White permalink
    January 18, 2012 20:25

    This was a bow shot across the bow of open information and free speech. Clear away all the fog. People should know who the offenders are and next time shoot back.

    • January 18, 2012 20:28

      By all means, Ms. White, do elaborate.

    • Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
      January 18, 2012 20:58

      Free Speech and Copyright seem to be Oxymorons ?

      Can they coexist ?

      • Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
        January 18, 2012 21:25

        Free Hearing …….Music

        Free Vision ……Movies, TV

        Free Smelling ……Perfumes

        Free Tactile ……Women

      • January 18, 2012 21:32

        An oxymoron is a phrase or idea that appears to contradict itself. (The classic example is “Parting is such sweet sorrow” from Romeo and Juliet.) The phrase you want to use is “mutually exclusive,” i.e., unable to coexist, usually because one element cancels out the other element. For example, one cannot simultaneously win and lose a tennis match.

        In a sense, yes, free speech and copyrighting are mutually exclusive because copyrighting is a restriction on people’s ability to communicate freely. (In comparison, avoiding plagiarism doesn’t impede free speech because you’re still allowed to say what you want; you just have to give credit to the original author.)

      • Yahdah Yisrayl Hawkins permalink
        January 18, 2012 22:50

        Yeah, I couldn’t think of the right word, “mutually exclusive” is the right word.

        You answered my questions, Thanks

  3. Richard Polunsky permalink
    January 19, 2012 01:00

    The preservation or death of copyright isn’t the issue. The problem with SOPA and PIPA was the co-option of the internet infrastructure by Big Government (principally under the pressure of Hollywood and the old-music industry) to establish a hidden ban-first authority using a web intercepting firewall rivalling that of China. Making this a pro- or anti-copyright statement is a lazy way of ignoring the bigger issues that actually torpedoed the bills *as currently written*. This is not over.

    • January 19, 2012 01:36

      Yes, that is the ultimate fear. That’s why the government, instead of mediating the conflict and adjusting law to reflect reality (i.e., doing its job), is pushing to spin the conflict into an excuse to seize power over the internet. I wouldn’t say that the MPAA/RIAA crowd is motivated by the power-grab; more likely, it has coincident interests with the government goons.

      In my opinion, the government power-grab is along the lines of the idea of an old order clinging to life. It’s basically the same gang of bastards who have been trying to rob the world’s people of their freedom from time immemorial. Right now, they’re going after the internet, but it’s all part of a larger scheme. Shit, they’re probably getting away with something worse while we’re preoccupied with SOPA and PIPA.

      (P.S.—I resent the implication that I’m lazy, but I’ll let it slide this time ’cause I like what you had to add.)

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