Art McGee on Thu, 29 Apr 2004 07:10:46 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Re: World Intellectual Property Day - today.

> But as an African American, I can never help but link the
> analog piracy that so many of our musicians (and others)
> suffered to the digital forms that now take place.

Yes, that does complicate the question, which is what I am
always trying to hammer into the minds of the hard headed
"everything should be free" worshippers. Some of these
people are pathetic in their ignorance. The historical
context which African-Americans and Indigenous peoples in
the United States approach the question of intellectual
property is complicated by the fact that their intellectual
property claims, both as individuals and as communities,
have over the course of 400 plus years, rarely been
respected. The amount of outright theft in various forms is
so egregious as to make the continuing resistance to the
need for some form of Reparations a signifier of serious
mental illness on the part of the American public.

This is why you must approach African-Americans and American
Indigenous peoples differently, when trying to open up a
dialogue. To say that everything should be free and open,
now that generations of non-white people have had their
cultural capital and intellectual property stolen from them,
is the pinnacle of duplicity and disingenuousness. Any
discussion of freedom must inherently contain with it a
proposal for reparative action. Otherwise, we're back to the
old days, when people who were enslaved in the United States
were set free, but were not given any form of economic help,
as if the very act of freeing someone was good enough in and
of itself. Then, as is now, the 40 acres and a mule are due
on the intellectual property front.

However, for me, the converse of the question also pertains
to my identity as an African-American, albeit a slightly
younger one, as without the ability to borrow and "steal,"
the global musical art form known as Hip-Hop would have
never come into existence. In fact, like a Moebius Strip of
justice, a colleague of mine recently pointed out that in
many ways, Hip-Hop was a form of metaphysical revenge for
what Bill alluded to above, with the poor Black and Latino
youth, having no outlets and no hope under the boot of
Capitalism, said "fuck it," and decided to take back what
had been stolen from their ancestors, that being, the
original conceptualization of music creation as a shared,
communal activity. The idea of music as it is now produced
is an abomination before God and needs to be destroyed as
soon as possible, yet, as I said above, we must do so with
the awareness of the need to rectify the past injustices, to
atone for the immoral imbalances wrought by the pursuit of
profit, and put everyone on a truly equal footing. Then
everything and everyone will truly be free.

I'm off the soapbox.


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