Free Speech and Copyright

For future reference, you can always tell when I am writing (vs playing World of Warcraft) because I am putting up posts here.

That said, I am a big fan and supporter of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Basically, in a nutshell, EFF is an organization representing and fighting for the rights of email, stuff on the internet, and cell phones. Basically. They’re much more than that, of course.

Apparently there is/was this big event called the “e-G8”. Not exactly sure what or who they are but I just read an article about the co-founder of EFF and his attendance at this event.

When Barlow had a chance to speak, he expressed his own surprise at being on the panel, “because I don’t think I’m from the same planet, actually.” He then proceeded to trash the foundational assumptions of everyone who had just spoken.

I may be one of very few people in this room who actually makes his living personally by creating what these gentlemen are pleased to call “intellectual property.” I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does.

Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.


Later, after the Big Boys up front with him had a chance to change their pants, they confronted him about it.

Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand took Barlow to task for his dramatic statements. “I do not share this apocalyptic vision of some dictatorship that will be creeping back through the internet into our lives to control our thoughts and the way in which we function,” he said. Some controls on the internet are eminently reasonable—we need “economic solutions to economic problems.”

The head of Universal Music France talked about just how much money was necessary to nurture new talent. DIdn’t Barlow understand economics?

“If you’re spending $5 billion on new artists, we’re not getting our money’s worth,” Barlow cracked, and he reframed his argument in economic terms of scarcity and abundance.

“Trying to optimize towards scarcity, as you are by all of your methods, is not going to be in the benefit of creation, I promise you,” he said. “It’s not IP enforcement that gets you guys properly paid.” In his view, payment comes from building a product that people actually want to buy—and the movie industry’s repeated record box office takes in recent years show that people have no problem coughing up the cash for something of value.

“I am not against being compensated for what you do,” concluded Barlow.

So why would I, a crippled up old Southern lesbian, give a rip? Well, on a large scale, I don’t want them to start regulating the Internet. Once they start regulating it, they start controlling it. I don’t want them in my email and certainly not controlling what I can or cannot post. On a much smaller scale, I do believe there is a need for some sort of regulation, but not of the Internet itself. There are hundreds of web sites where people can upload whatever so that other people can download whatever. This includes music, books, movies, photos, etc. Some are legitimate. The vast majority are not. There are people who actually scan in entire paper books into .pdf format then upload them so others can “enjoy” them. This is theft. It is piracy. I’ve discussed this before. So on the one hand, keep your nose out of my stuff. But on the other hand, I understand about copyrights. We can’t copyright ourselves to death or we’ll be in a massive gridlock. But a copyright needs to be honored.

So, folks at e-G8, work on shutting down online piracy. You can keep arresting and suing the user but until you get the pirate and the pirate sites, it’s like bailing water without turning off the faucet.