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Poliudie by Nicholas Roerich: a painting of people paying tribute to the Kievian Rus

If Filesharing is Theft, Then iTunes is Extortion

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Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Copyright Monopoly – Zacqary Adam Xeper

Don’t kid yourselves, artists, authors, and other creative people: charging money to access your work is morally reprehensible. You can argue semantics all you like, and call it “selling” to “customers” who “buy” your “product”. But the rest of us know that it’s nothing more than oppressive, tyrannical despotism.

Satirical Post
The views expressed in this article are intentionally absurd, and not intended to be taken at face value. I have to say this, because this is the Internet.

In the ancient world, a despotic king from a distant land might demand tribute from his conquered people in exchange for the “valuable” service of neither raping nor pillaging them. This is in contrast to the fact that normally, the conquered people would naturally have the right to live their lives rape-and-pillage-free. Similarly, when you publish a digitized cultural work on an online “store” such as iTunes or Amazon, you are demanding that people give you money in exchange for the “valuable” service of accessing a non-scarce, non-rivalrous, infinitely redistributable collection of data. These two scenarios — ancient and modern — are perfectly analogous, and are just as morally reprehensible as one another.

Therefore, it is in no way an embellishment to call a creative person who charges money for digital distribution a “despot”. You dirty, reprehensible despots, you. There is nothing hyperbolic about comparing a brutally violent relic of history to the modern-day idiosyncrasies of MP3s and stuff.

You despots have no regard for all of the hard-working people who made your creative output possible. If you’re an author, how could you write your novel if nobody ever invented the word “the”? Or the idea of paragraphs and sentences? Or the narrative and literary tropes which you used or self-consciously subverted (because you’re so postmodern)? You drew all of these things from the cultural commons, and the cultural commons is made up of everybody’s freely accessible, freely modifiable work. If everyone demanded ritual sacrifice of money in order to access and transform their work, then nobody would ever add anything to the commons ever again. What, do you want it all to just stop? Forever?

Now, given how undeniably right I am about all of this, you’ve probably realized that I’m a smart enough guy to be realistic. And I am. I’m extremely intelligent. I have unrestricted posting rights on the blog of one of Foreign Policy Magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, so I’m obviously better than you.

Thus, I understand human nature. I’m not saying all of this to try and stop anyone from being evil, black-hearted despots who demand monetary tribute from innocent aficionados of culture. If a human being can ruthlessly extort money out of someone else, they will. That’s just common sense, and no amount of the ever-increasing biological and anthropological evidence to the contrary can change that. But don’t ask me to like it. Don’t ask me to be your friend if you demand money to read your book, watch your movie, listen to your music, or whatever it is you do.

Fortunately for basic human decency, I know that it’s a myth that demanding money for culture is a particularly easy process. For now, it’s a nontrivial exercise for people without access to conniving legal or PR teams. That’s why, despite the fact that most of the art and culture I enjoy is behind a paywall somewhere, I’ve still experienced a shitload of it with no obligation to pay. Most normal people (as opposed to petulant divas or pro-copyright lobbyists) can’t be bothered faffing around with self-aggrandizing whiny blog posts or suing their enthusiastic fans. They’d just like people to enjoy their work.

But the grand-scheme-of-things irrelevance of all of you malevolent, contemptible despots does absolutely nothing to quell my undying rage against you, which is not petty at all. I don’t care that your despotic demands for tribute have no discernible impact on anyone’s lives at the end of the day. If you charge money to access your creative output, then you are committing a crime against humanity.

You might say, why Zacqary, that’s a bold statement. To which I’d reply, no: it was an italic statement. This is a bold statement.

If you want to talk about cold, hard economic realities, let’s talk. But don’t try to argue semantics. Don’t try to gain the moral high ground. No matter what you say in a semantic or moral argument about these issues, you’ll always be wrong.

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About The Author: Zacqary Adam Xeper

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

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This article is also available in other languages: Spanish, Serbian.

By participating in the discussion and posting here, you are placing your contribution in the public domain (CC0). If you are quoting somebody else, credit them.

Contributors take own responsibility for their comments.

25

  1. 1
    Anonymouse

    allofmywat

  2. 3
    SpecLad

    That bold statement isn’t bold.

  3. 4
    SuperFoonly

    Satire should be more subtle. I have to say that because this is the internet.

  4. 5
    Sten

    Filmmaker? LOL, that is satire.

    • 5.1
      Fredrika

      En filmskapare är en filmskapare oavsett infantila åsikter hos någon okunnig lakej på Exercisgatan. Mer patetiskt är nog när en öppet bevisad fullblodspsykopat, som förföljer och hotar unga kvinnor, och är emot den fria marknaden och mänskliga rättigheter samt förespråkar omvänd bevisbörda, ljuger och kallar sig för “oberoende omvärldsbevakare” när han i själva verket lyfter svart ersättning från en propagandaenhet som ägnar sig åt grov brottslighet för att skydda intäkterna åt vissa misslyckade amerikanska entreprenörer som inte klarar sig utan lagstiftade monopol. Snart flyr Amanda också.

      • 5.1.1
        Anonymous

        Lol,
        Fredrika, min 5 åriga dotter är en fullfjädrad konstär i förhållande till Zacs infantilt naivistiska försök till filmer som har total avsaknad av tittare och det är fler besökare på hennes dagis som ser verken än det Zac får samman på Youtube.

        Precis som på Christians blogg så undrar jag vilka indivder du skriver om och vem du riktar dig till?
        Du var hos Christian noga med att hävda att de virriga lallande texterna inte var adresserade till mig, trots att inläggen i sig var adresserade till mig.
        Och här nu så många epitet som mest verkar beskriva ditt eget tillstånd, likt att kasta sten (lol) i glashus.
        Vem förföljer dig? eller andra kvinnor?
        Vem hotar dig? eller andra kvinnor? Jag hoppas att inget jag skrivit adresserat till dig någonsin verkat hotfullt.
        Vem är emot en fri marknad?
        Vem kallar sig oberoende omvärldsbevakare.
        Vem lyfter svart ersättning? från vilken propagandaenhet?
        Vem är Amanda?

        Behöver du hjälp?

      • 5.1.2
        Sten

        Lol,
        Fredrika, min 5 åriga dotter är en fullfjädrad konstär i förhållande till Zacs infantilt naivistiska försök till filmer som har total avsaknad av tittare och det är fler besökare på hennes dagis som ser verken än det Zac får samman på Youtube.
        Precis som på Christians blogg så undrar jag vilka indivder du skriver om och vem du riktar dig till?
        Du var hos Christian noga med att hävda att de virriga lallande texterna inte var adresserade till mig, trots att inläggen i sig var adresserade till mig.
        Och här nu så många epitet som mest verkar beskriva ditt eget tillstånd, likt att kasta sten (lol) i glashus.
        Vem förföljer dig? eller andra kvinnor?
        Vem hotar dig? eller andra kvinnor? Jag hoppas att inget jag skrivit adresserat till dig någonsin verkat hotfullt.
        Vem är emot en fri marknad?
        Vem kallar sig oberoende omvärldsbevakare.
        Vem lyfter svart ersättning? från vilken propagandaenhet?
        Vem är Amanda?
        Behöver du hjälp?

        • Fredrika

          > “..är en fullfjädrad konstär i förhållande till..”

          Ytterligare en ointressant subjektiv åsikt från någon som inte ens förstår innebörden av begreppet satir, och även den åsikten är helt irrelevant för faktumet att en filmskapare är en filmskapare likt alla kommersiella filmskapare varit sen dom skapade sina första usla kortfilmer.

          Resten av dina efterföljande frågor har ingen som helst relevans för en jämförelse mellan vad som är mest patetiskt, gällande att tillskriva sig faktiska respektive falska epitet.

        • Sten

          “faktumet att en filmskapare är en filmskapare likt alla kommersiella filmskapare varit sen dom skapade sina första usla kortfilmer.”

          Vilket inte gör dem mindre patetiska och irrelevanta när de inte har någon publik förutom de närmsta lidande.

          Patetiska och irrelevanta liksom dina långa, virriga, lallande texter om Exercisgator, Amandor, förföljelsemanin du verkar lida av, liksom förvirringen gällande någon form av hot mot unga kvinnor, tankar om fri marknad och oberoende omvärldsbevakning, vad det nu skulle vara? och svart ersättning?

          Den mest relevanta frågan är troligen. Behöver du hjälp? Eller är det om igen så att texterna inte är riktade till mig? lol, utan formulerade för någon lite hemlig PPklubb.

  5. 6

    Well that was a confrontational read! While I’m very active in supporting the Pirate Party if I see any post or comments that might, not to put too fine a point on it, work against our interests because it’s too ridiculous, A.K.A. “jump the shark,” I’ll say so.

    Methinks you’ve jumped the shark, Zacqary. Here’s the problem: people need to adapt to survive in the digital age and ALTHOUGH THAT’S NOT YOUR PROBLEM an approach that says, “Die, already, you dinosaur!” isn’t going to win us any friends. Want to make changes in political digital policy? Make friends.

    That said, I share your sentiments. It’s just that you come across as a freetard in this article. Is there any chance that you or one of your colleagues could post an article that lists the myriad ways of making money on the internet without relying on what amounts to a protection racket?

    The copyright laws we have right now are little more than a protection racket. That’s why I’ve joined the multitude of people who call the legacy gatekeepers “The MAFIAA.” They persuade governments and sheeple to go along with this via FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) because they either can’t or won’t accept that there are viable alternatives to their business model. To overcome that, we need to spread far and wide the knowledge that there are alternatives and the specifics thereof. This will win converts to our cause and decrease the influence the MAFIAA has over IPR policy.

    Once we have convinced enough people that the legacy gatekeepers, not “pirates,” are the problem, the MAFIAA will either change its ways or go away. We need to persuade artists, etc., that the Pirate Party is their friend, and we need to persuade enough of them to gain the influence we need to make enough of a difference to bring about change. I believe that providing viable alternatives is the way to do it. Can we at least try it?

    • 6.1

      BTW I’m aware it was intended as a satire. Then I read the post…

    • 6.2

      I know, right? It’s almost as if angry, confrontational rhetoric that encapsulates inhuman disrespect for your fellow human beings is a ridiculous idea.

    • 6.3
      Da5id

      Way to miss the point. You “share his sentiments?” Do you really agree frustrated artists trying to sell their work are evil? If that’s the case this post is making fun of you. Read the last paragraph again 5 times. Also if you want to make friends stop saying “sheeple.”

      • 6.3.1

        Please don’t be a dick. Especially not when telling people they missed the point of an article telling them not to be dicks.

        • I sort of got that but may I suggest an update with a link to a resource page for people who are looking for alternatives to copyright royalties for an income?

          That’s enough to satisfy my criticism and it would prove that seeking to expand and enforce the current copyright regime is a ridiculously unfair thing to do in light of the fact that it’s unnecessary.

        • Well, I suppose I did already compromise the artistic integrity of the piece with the disclaimer at the beginning. Maybe I can add something at the end like “for the actual views of the author, go look at blah blah blah.”

          If I have time later I’ll get that in there.

      • 6.3.2

        “I know, right? It’s almost as if angry, confrontational rhetoric that encapsulates inhuman disrespect for your fellow human beings is a ridiculous idea.”

        It is, because that’s how we are perceived. Allow me to explain:

        I got into a conversation with a lady who acts as a manager for a musician. She approached the Pirate Party for help because she doesn’t think it’s fair to impose ever more draconian laws on us but still wants to be able to make a living. She was hammered by a freetard who told her, “If you can’t make a living ten years after you wrote the music, you have no business trying to make a living.”

        Who is the one who actually helped her find alternatives to copyright royalties? Me. We have a new convert because I was kind to her.

        Then a plagiarist came and simply grabbed the musician’s work and renamed it, claiming credit for the work himself. Where did she come for advice on resolving the matter? The person who was kind to her. I advised the musician to confront the plagiarist on YouTube and promised to help. After reviewing the evidence I hopped in and said, “I can confirm that [the musician] is the author of this music and he’s asked you to remove it because you haven’t attributed the work to him. This is a reasonable request. Please comply.”

        Three more of the same got it down because it’s a Pirate belief that the artist has the right to be identified as the author of the work.

        This is not about me being clever, it’s about how being kind and helpful wins hearts and minds, and that’s what we need to do.

        As for missing the point, Da5id, that would be you. Remember, I’m for providing artists with alternatives to copyright royalties so they can make a living from their work without hammering us for sharing it. Meanwhile, I’m winning hearts and minds and persuading people that Pirate policies work for everyone, ESPECIALLY creatives. How are you doing with that?

        “Sheeple” are people who follow blindly wherever they are led instead of thinking for themselves. I think that we can all agree on what a bad idea that is.

        • I’m having trouble seeing where we disagree on anything. My life’s work has been in finding alternatives to copyright revenue. Part of the reason I got involved with the Pirate Party was to combat the freetardedness I perceived as being endemic in anti-copyright movements, and make it actually work.

          There are some weeks when every other Techdirt post makes me want to scream in Mike Masnick’s face about how hopelessly out of touch he is. And I had to work really hard to maintain my composure when telling off the freetard who left Comment 3 on this article. Take a look at that response for an unambiguous description of my views. Long story short, I think they’re exactly the same as yours.

  6. 7

    It’s all good. : )

    I think we’re on the same page on all points now. : )

  7. 8
    Amon

    What he said… XD

  8. 9
    None of your Business

    While I understand that IP should sooner or later fall into PD, you cannot expect IP creators to work for nothing. I know published writers personally and they work very hard at what they do, often on their OWN time because they can’t make enough as a full-time writer and have to have “day jobs”.

    They certainly deserve compensation for their work, if they are going out of their way to create it and make it available to you.

  9. 10
    Scared

    So this means that nobody can be paid for their work? Not that I make much money from writing – I wish, because that would mean I could help my disabled husband so much more.

    I write for the love of it, but make a living from it is seemingly viewed as a wicked act by some. I work very, very hard at self-publishing my books – why is it wrong to be paid? Though I will say that most of the downloads have been free and the costs are as low as I can make them…if I’m lucky I’ll make 25p a download on some – gee, aren’t I greedy?!

    Oh dear, please tell me how do we live if none of us have money? And, Zacquary, how do you mange to live on nothing? Or are you paid for your work?

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About The Author

Zacqary is an activist in the New York Pirate Party, where his official title is "Cat Herder." He is an open source game developer, and the Chief Executive Plankhead of Plankhead, a free culture arts collective. Despite believing that money is a superfluous social construct, he has a Gittip profile.

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