Digital killed the copyright - it was about time

Oct 19, 2015
Digital revolutionizes copyright, challenging gatekeepers and shifting power to creators and consumers.
If you are going to research the evolution of copyright in history, you will come across common terms like 'books', 'author', 'works' and the like. But there is an interesting detail to be noted: words like 'control', 'privilege', 'censorship' and 'monopoly' set the tone of the subject. The term 'protection' appears only marginally.
The fact is very illustrative of how copyright has never been concerned with respect for the author but with the privileges of the government and 'status quo'. Up to this point, the gatekeepers have been calling the shots. Now, they will have to sit down to negotiate or else, they will lose.
For a touch of history on the subject, copyright had its first formal law under the reign of Queen Anne, in England in the 18th century. Up until then, the management of 'copyrights' was purely and simply a control of information by governments, especially after the creation of the Gutenberg press. Between Queen Anne's decree and the 20th century, basically, attempts at regulation all came from the clash between freedom of expression and booksellers, who wanted prohibitions for the circulation of texts by third parties.

20th Century, copyright becomes business

Broadly speaking, until the 20th century, limitations lasted just over a decade, only in the last century extending to periods that vary between 70 and 120 years because an elite realized that they could amass fortunes with the limitations imposed by draconian legislation. The phrase by Lord Camden, who in the English House of Lords, in 1774, vigorously attacked the monopolists is still very up-to-date: [voting in favor of perpetual copyright] "is to allow knowledge to be locked in the hands of the Tonsons and Lintots of our times" (n. of e., applicants for actions demanding copyright monopolies). "They will charge whatever price they want until they enslave everyone as they do with their animals. Science and knowledge cannot be chained".
The rights of authors have always been widely used as the object to be protected in copyright laws, but this is a fallacy. The legal control of information dissemination has always been a way to ensure an elite the privileges over information management. The 'protected' ones have never been the authors, but rather the publishers and companies that owned the rights to the works. The fallacy of copyright is a hypocritical discourse that guaranteed until quite recently police powers for anyone who tried to reproduce information.
Digital was to the police system of copyright the equivalent of a nuclear bomb on a boulder. The gatekeepers of the last 300 years, like newspapers, publishers, studios and record companies, saw their police capacity decimated with two paradigm shifts: for the first time in the history of communication, it became possible to make indefinite copies of a certain content (be it graphic or sound), and since the first cave paintings, contents could be reproduced without a 'physical' version, like a painting, a vinyl or a printed text.
This 'physical' rupture mortally wounded the compulsory management of copyright, because it altered its essence. There is no longer any possible control of information that circulates unlimitedly and is very difficult to monitor. Yes, the 'establishment' continues to drool and apoplectic to guarantee what it 'thinks' is theirs, but it is a lost battle. Very rarely do technological innovations make a deal with the state of things before. The friction created by the desperate attempt to protect 'copyright' is, as Radiohead's frontman, Thom Yorke, said, "the last fart of a corpse. The pressure and repression will continue to grow, as happens at the end of every regime, but it is only a process that will consume resources and stress and will lead to nothing. Just as the Catholic Church maintained the monopoly of information for centuries and was defeated, the current system will disappear - and that is excellent.

Going to resist? Then it's going to hurt more

It may take a few years, maybe decades, but the only possible way out is a redesign of the system, in which the profit of the rights holders is reduced to hundredths of the current ones and where the creators are rewarded in alternative ways. The argument that without copyright there is no incentive for intellectual creation is a fallacy. Creators create because they need to create and the rewards they earn have many facets beyond the financial.
Intermediaries and middlemen of information, like the paper sellers and plastic merchants formerly called newspapers and record companies are dinosaurs entering an ice age. The architecture around the new intellectual productions will eliminate those who do not adapt and reward those who are more creative and engage their consumers in a dialogue instead of a monologue. The death of traditional copyright is welcome. May it rot quickly and be consumed along with all the parasites it has carried for centuries.

© Cassiano Gobbet 2023 - 2024