Having the first few minutes at home, in front of my desktop, since attending the Copyright Town Hall Inc. Lobbying Mixer this past Thursday at the palatial Royal York Hotel in Toronto’s Financial District, I have decided to construct a blog post/submission to the copyright website all in one. And far be it from me to do anything normally, I thought I would use my words to poke some holes in the common myths that revolve around relaxed copyright legislation.
Myth One: Copyright is responsible for Canadian Culture
I can’t believe that I actually heard one of the record execs in Toronto essentially say that strong copyright laws lead to better corporate abilities to promote Canadian culture around the world. Are we to believe that major label music is to be the hallmark of Canadian culture? Do I really want Nickelback and Avril Lavigne to be what people in Suriname, Guyana, or Guatemala think of my country’s culture? Culture existed far before companies figured out how to monetize physical media, and it will always exist, even far after the death of an antiquated copyright system.
Myth Two: Copyright is responsible for creativity
Beyond the suits echoing the following sentiment, I can’t believe that so many so-called “artists” tried to assert that strong copyright laws and the ability to monetize content was the reason for their creative output. To say that you cannot afford to create anymore if you can’t make a living from it means one of two things:
1) You’re not an artist, but a craftsperson doing nothing more creative than an assembly line worker cranking out product for money, thus, when the money dries up, so does your “ability”.
2) You actually believe that someone OWES you a living for doing something you proclaim to LOVE doing. I have written music, plays, essays, articles, poetry for all of my adult life because I enjoy creating. Let me repeat that – I ENJOY CREATING! I wish I could make as much money writing and playing music as I do in my day job, but I’ve accepted reality and not stopped creating. And before you think you’re better than me at writing or music just because your output is marketable to the mainstream, and a suit wants to rake 98% of your money, get your head out of your ass.
Myth Three: Copyright protects content creators from getting ripped off
Copyright ensures that music creators will get ripped off by record labels. Most artists go deep in the hole when recording and need to sell tens if not hundreds of thousands of copies of a CD to get out of the red with labels. Labels know how to monetize the physical media platforms (like CDs) very well. They have not figured out how to monetize digital distribution systems. The “old school” way demands greasing palms of everyone and anyone connected with the industry to get radio play. A Creative Commons approach to copyright for musicians ensures all reasonable protections and allows for everyone online to find new ways to use and promote music – what a concept, public promotion instead of A&R departments!
But now anyone can record in their basement, and anyone can distribute online. Anyone has the viral video lottery shot that’s probably even higher than catching big with a label. The record labels are surely being propped up by multi-conglomerate properties that form the axes of big media evil that swallow up all that threatens their dominance. There is no reason to think that band who can sell 2000 copies of a CD at $5 online would be any worse off financially than selling 20000 copies for a major label. The abusive Chris Brown sold tens of thousands of copies of one song because of its misappropriation in a YouTube wedding video. Record labels sell dreams of celebrity that are slimmer than becoming a professional athlete.
Myth Four: Harsh copyright punishments will deter P2P theft
Harsh copyright punishments will infuriate half the population who uses P2P for downloading copyrighted and legally-shared files.
To use an analogy, the Queen Elizabeth Way highway between Hamilton and Toronto has a posted speed limit of 100kph. When traffic is not bottlenecked, cars in the fast lane average 120kph without repercussion because EVERYONE in that lane does it. Doesn’t necessarily make it right, but if the speed limit went up to 120kph, I bet the real speed would jump to 140kph. Drivers feel that they can drive safely above 100kph and, when weighing the value of the speed to their destination above the relative inability of authorities to choose to enforce the law, they choose to continue breaking it. Downloaders access copyrighted files for free because they don’t feel they get value for the $15-20 they are forced to spend on a CD when they’ve only heard one song on the radio, television, YouTube, or Blip.fm.
Myth Five: ISP throttling of bandwidth is a logical way to deter pirating
Let me borrow another analogy. In Miami, 90% of all open sea drug smuggling occurs via speedboat although all speedboats used for smuggling only account for a minuscule fraction of all the speedboats in Miami. The US Coast Guard decides to band speedboats from all waters in Florida and only authorizes former speedboat users to travel in canoes.
This is exactly the logic that ISPs are using when throttling an internet users traffic just because they use a Bit Torrent client. There is no sense in the idea that because pirates use Bit Torrent clients, that everyone who uses a Bit Torrent client must be a pirate. To allow ISPs to throttle on the basis on a type of software is unfair to consumers and, most often, not ever told to the customer.
And this analogy is especially ridiculous if you believe the ISPs are throttling to protect copyright. Their prime motivation is to save bandwidth for themselves so they can nickel and dime customers that are bound their CRTC-enforced monopolies.
That’s my two cents on copyright reform, which is probably more than a musical artist signed to a major label makes when I but a copy of their song on iTunes.