Eric Miller on 26 Jul 2000 20:36:52 -0000

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RE: <nettime> Terror in Tune Town

ooh, this is starting to get good. [sic]

First off--Mr. Fisher makes a great point here, and one that I must
acknowledge as valid and relevant.  My arguments partially rested on an
assumption that current IP and copyright law are our assumed baseline for
managing the rights of the content creators/owners as well as the
consumers.  If we step back and say "this system is potentially no longer
applicable/relevant" than the debate certainly changes. 

So barring revolution (or a truly liberal Congress/international
consensus, which seems equally likely) I'm not sure that we'd be able to
realistically achieve a radical restructuring of our current legal
framework.  But that's beside the point...I think we could all agree that
there must be a better way to handle this. 

Also, I'll grant that the notion of "property" being applied to
thought/intellectual labor is a hard one to swallow.  But I'd propose that
this capitalistic philosophy is the most pragmatic in light of human
nature and behavior.  To paraphrase..."Democracy is the worst form of
government, except for all the others."  Churchill, right?  Apply it to
free-market capitalism as well as democracy.  Anyone got a better system? 
Let's hear it.

I've been called here on my "grey area" argument...not to use it as an
escape hatch here or anything, but I don't think that there's consensus in
the artistic community (let alone in the business/legal realm) on what
constitutes "fair usage".  For example, many people have questioned
hip-hop artists and pop musicians (Beck in particular) who appropriate
other musical elements to create their work.  At what point does it cross
a line?  Ask ten different musicians, you'll get ten different answers. 
And usage/format/style also plays a role...many people support what
Negativland does, but there's been a huge stink over Kenny G's recent
verbatim lifting of a Louis Armstrong recording.  So in the end the answer
seems to be "it depends". 

One specific response to Pat ( who writes "They [Napster]
have created a market with an infinite supply."  I'd differ with you on
this point...the supply may seem infinite, but the resource (the artists)
is finite.  the individual distribution nodes for Napster, though, have
the effect of increasing available content sources exponentially in
relation to the original resource. 

Okay, after all this, what's my point?  Setting 
semantics/philosophy/politics aside for a moment...I still believe that we
don't treat artists fairly if they don't have the right to determine the
use/distribution/profit from their work.  At least to a certain extent
that allows them to maintain the integrity of their product.  Regardless
of what the technology can do, or what the law says, I firmly believe that
letting the masses appropriate the labor of the individual without consent
is a violation of that individual's rights.  Furthermore, it dilutes the
integrity of their work, and can have the net effect of discouraging them
from pursuing or distributing their work.  And that's everyone's loss. 


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