Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On the Primacy of Culture

I tweeted a thank you to the writer of a Techdirt article the other day by the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party, and Rick Falkvinge was kind enough to respond and offer his encouragement.

Today I expound upon my first post - that culture is the natural right of man. In fact, much of this may be seen as related to the recent "creation myth" put forth by the newest recognized religion in Sweden - that sharing and copying are the foundations of life itself and, as I tweeted: "Remixing: it's in our genes."

I'm not going to trumpet the same tirade against equating piracy to theft. That's been brought up over and over and over and... you get the point. No use attacking that old scarecrow. The strawman's been mugged enough.

Rather, I would like to point out the obverse side of this argument: If culture is the Natural Right of Man, a precursor to all other rights, then COPYRIGHT itself IS theft.

I'll let that one sink in a bit.

Nominally, the process of culture is open to all. It is a necessary part of our existence and the key to our evolution as a species. Naturally, culture is limitless in it's original form, able to be shared freely and openly, and none the poorer for this. Are we better off when we restrict artistic expression? Do we experience more plenty when information and wisdom is limited to those who pay for it? Of course not. Culture is, by it's nature, the body of content within the public domain. It belongs to all freely and effortlessly.

But what is copyright?
Copyright and patent were instituted by governments as protections of the economic gain of individuals producing goods and culture. To quote a famous example; "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." When we talk of "Rights" outside of our physical bodies, we generally refer to rights over property, but here we talk of an intangible - a thought, an idea, a piece of information or a formula. When I copy the culture you've created, you haven't lost anything and it CANNOT be considered theft. The original assumption was that creating culture was a difficult, time intensive process that must be incentivized for it to happen. Regardless, the founding fathers themselves (yes, I am aware that the last link was for a member of the House of Commons) were staunchly opposed to it and admitted it as a necessary evil. With the advent of the internet and the wealth of technology, we are afforded an age in which creation of culture, innovation, and wisdom are created and disseminated for free by people eager to show the world their discoveries. All of this occurs without the need to "own" their ideas or content.

If Congress was being given the ability to TRANSFER the rights (thereby 'securing' them), they must be transferred FROM another entity. That entity is the Public Domain. When I copy you, you lose nothing and the world has more culture. When Congress forcibly removes culture from the public, it's actually GONE and inaccessible.
Essentially, the Constitution is legalizing the THEFT of culture from the public and criminalizing the COPYING of wisdom. There's no way about it.

Copyright is theft.

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