Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything is a Remix”, Part 4

21:55 Sun 19 Feb 2012. Updated: 23:44 02 Mar 2012
[, , , , , , ]

I mentioned this on Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s important enough to also write a post about.

You can see it either on its own website or on Vimeo.

The two most important arguments in it are:

  1. Laws restricting copying were meant to serve the public good and have been warped far beyond that original purpose.
  2. Ideas and information are not like physical objects, and are deeply entwined with the ideas and information that precede them, making attempts to demarcate them precisely rather difficult, if not impossible.

All laws should be to serve the common good, of course, but today I rarely even hear the “common good” argument for the extension of copyright restrictions; instead the main argument is to “protect the rights of creators”, strongly implying that these rights exist prior to any law and that laws must be extended to match them. This is perhaps because it’s difficult to claim that, for example, retroactively extending the copyright term another 20 years will either a) extend back in time to promote the creation of new works or b) actually have any impact whatsoever in making creators more likely to create.

The video makes clear that the current state of affairs is bad for the common good; while some copyright is perhaps a good thing, that absolutely does not mean that more of it is a better thing. And now that we’re firmly in the Information Age, it should be clear that the social costs of fencing off ideas, and patrolling those fences, are vast, and that our future will be a better one the more freely we let information flow.

Kirby is also correct in asserting that it’s important to change people’s attitudes about this; even with the lobbyists on their side, the copyright cartels will eventually be defeated if nobody accepts their paradigm. Ideas are not property, and while we all deserve just payment for our intellectual labors, we also all suffer when others’ intellectual labors are difficult to access. Jealously guarding the former and ignoring the latter (partly because we don’t realize how valuable the free access we’ve acquired in the past has already been) and its pernicious effects is imposing a larger and larger burden on society, primarily to the benefit of a very small group of people—most of whom are not, incidentally, actual creators themselves.

Leave a Reply