Monday, June 18, 2012

D. Lowery on copyright infringement: How to alienate potential allies through intellectual dishonesty, illustrated by example

Young people's cavalier attitude towards copyright infringement is maddening, but this essay by D. Lowery comprehensively misunderstands what the Free Culture movement stands for. The guy repeatedly slams Free Culture but apparently has read neither Lessig's book Free Culture which gives the movement its name, nor the Creative Commons website, even though he links to a PDF of CC's tax filing.  This intellectually irresponsible ignorance makes me disinclined to be sympathetic to him.

Furthermore Lowery seems to have no conception whatsoever of:

  • The purpose of copyright law: viz., to ensure the production of the creative and useful arts. Note that there seems to be just a bit of culture being produced on the Internet these days, so the burden of proof is on those who want to lock the Internet down.
  • The costs and unintended consequences of reorganizing society in the ways that he prefers — so that service providers must implement comprehensive preemptive review of what is posted, or so that it would be dramatically easier for people to issue takedown notices on content published on the Internet. For example, Lowery's blog is hosted on Wordpress.com; comprehensively applied human review as a mandatory requirement for hosting service providers would have made Wordpress impossible in its current form; and dramatically easier takedown would make it trivial for a random troll to censor Lowery's blog post in a fit of pique.

...among other things.

Note that I buy or rent all my music and movies.  Almost nobody else I know does this consistently.  I did not illegally download the second season of Game of Thrones; I am waiting for it to come out on disc.  Mostly, the people I know seem to view me as sort of a sucker, but I do this because I view copyright infringement on entertainment media as beneath my dignity, like shoplifting.*  If my reaction to Lowery is to get extremely pissed off at his cavalier disregard for the truth, perhaps he should consider changing tactics.


*Of course, purely as a matter of utilitarian ethics, there is a huge difference between copyright infringement and shoplifting physical goods, but never mind that; this is just how it makes me feel, in this particular case.

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