Where Have All The Flowers Gone…

Too long since my last post, yes, I know. My life leaves little room for freedom of thought, and even less room for freedom to write. I think the trick may be to write in much smaller pieces than trying for a fully formed thought and conclusion. Especially since I rarely come to any sort of a conclusion, rather I find myself left with a whole different set of questions leading me back to the beginning. Quite like Socrates, no? Of course not.

There has been in the news lately Viacom suing Google over its content being placed on YouTube. There is a small addendum that is needed to that basic titular line, however. ‘Content being placed on YouTube’ should have the words ‘by users’ tacked to the end. It is not YouTube nor its parent Google that is downloading television shows from its TiVo and putting them online for a profit. The common folk are the users, people completely separate from the workings of Google.

A large portion of the debate will return to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. This act was designed to secure the copyrights of media in digital formats, but still protecting distribution and search companies from being considered infringing on copyrighted material. It is nearly a coin flip on which side of the DMCA a court ruling may land.

My own thoughts on digital copyrights are a little tough to nail down, but generally fall in favor of freeing digital media from copyright. In fact, I do believe that anything digital is unable to be copyrighted. Any material in a digital format may be copied essentially infinite times without damaging or decreasing the quality. The best analogy I have heard is that of fire. If I have a candle, it does not take away from my light for another to come up with his candle and use my flame.

As a regular computer user and even somewhat qualified technician, I know that the digital world cannot be contained. It is positively amazing what it means for humanity. Even when someone or some group gets shut down, there are immediately people available to fill the void, whether it is a legal activity or not. All information can be cracked, and thanks to the constantly growing internet, can be shared beyond measure. We are only beginning to see the revolution that is happening to the world, and the only thing that compares to this transition is Gutenberg’s printing press (and also creation of copyright itself).

From another perspective, I am also a musician, and at a stretch, an artist. And you know what? I have absolutely no problem with the free sharing of music and art. The world is better for having it out among the people. Besides, a recording or an image holds no candle to hearing music performed live, to seeing sculpture in a gallery, to going to a movie theater. I play music because the challenge is in the process, and the art in the performance. I think that the digital revolution will do a better job separating the manufactured art from the true artists. Also, God willing, it will challenge people to make movies worth actually paying ten bucks to see, rather than the vast majority being worthy only of a bootleg copy a week after the premiere.

Now of course there are the pitfalls that follow the promise of the revolution. With the infinite ability to copy and share, there will always be that portion of the population who will copycat and try to take credit, and now also an even greater percentage of innocent misinformation, such as giving one person credit for the work of another. But I think that anyone who does any bit of follow-up work or just uses a little skepticism when seeing information will be just fine when it comes to the garbage that is and will always be floating around.

The part that might be the hardest to handle the revolution would be the art of writing. But, so far as I can tell, it is actually seeing something of a boon rather than faltering. I think that people of the blogging community are setting wonderful precedent on linking to one another’s work and so many other outside sources. Actually, it beats the snot out of having additional text inserted in your work as a standard essay would. Rather, in blogs, it is merely a word that is a different color that may send the reader to a location being cited. Also, regarding writing, I don’t see Amazon or Barnes & Noble suffering at the feet of change. Of course, it is sadly at the expense of small, independent bookstores. But I digress.

At the end, I see the sharing of arts in such a ready way as a wonderful change. It will, of course, mean the death of the recording industry for music, but then again, the recording industry has been pretty well strangling music to death, so it’s a good comeuppance. Besides, I have always thought that music was an art, not an industry~