Perhaps It’s the Terms that Are the Culprits

An Australian musician named Dan Beazley has written a nice essay on music “piracy” that reminds me once again how we have allowed corporate copyright defenders define the debate over “intellectual property.” Beazley writes:

Music fans who colonise the world wide web have embraced the remixing, curative, collaborative and sharing capabilities of Web 2.0 Technologies. They are motivated to take part in the frenzies created by community influencers intent on selling their sense of cool to gain social capital and present a self interest. While this free access to online music has lead to a surge in copyright abuse by these online communities, who the recorded music industry have labelled ‘pirates’, the value generated by allowing the message to be curated specifically for each community out ways any negative effect. While these virtual communities are often blamed by the industry for the drop in profitability of recorded music, the unbounded nature of the internet has also heralded the savior of an industry whose dominance in public consciousness and of the public’s purse, is dwindling. For the music industry it seems that piracy is not the problem, its the answer.

Though “outweighs” might be preferable to “out ways” (I can’t help pointing it out–after all, I’m an English professor), Beazley’s point is spot on.

Perhaps if what the corporations call “piracy” were referred to more often as “liberation,” we could further right the debate. Beazley’s use of “unbounded” is key here: our conception of creative products as “property” has led to a fencing in of what could be an abundant commons where all could share in the tremendous ensuing creativity (the creative artists most of all, believe it or not). “Liberation” itself has been unfairly tarred over the past few decades; perhaps a deliberate change in terms can alter that, as well. The type of ownership that has been extolled so heavily (more than ever since the Reagan “revolution”) is meager and limiting, stifling both the present and the future and benefiting only the few instead of allowing the “property” to give to the whole (which would not even hurt the few–this is not a “zero-sum” game).

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