The Internet Has Changed Everything

Copyright law has to change, plain and simple.

Copyright laws were first created over three hundred years ago, and had the original intent to protect the creator of written materials against losing profits and credibility for their hard work, and has blossomed to include all forms of art. However, the advent of the Internet in everyone’s life has changed everything. For instance, when Napster started the whole internet music downloading craze, musical artists were worried that CD profits would take a hit. And they did, but not just because of Napster, because of the changing culture. Napster was shut down, but the new technology was out there. After all, how many of you have downloaded music illegally? If you think to yourself that you haven’t, you’re lying. What artists now do is they’ve evolved, through online outlets like Amazon and iTunes. Albums and videos posted on YouTube (remember a time when MTV was actually about music videos instead of reality TV? It’s all about evolution) are now just avenues for artists to get their music out there as advertisements while they make money touring. This isn’t limited to music, of course. Books have evolved in the form of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle and the Nook. Change is important, and if chains like Border’s are any indication, you either evolve or fall by the wayside.

SOPA (The Stop Online Piracy Act) failed in Congress for much of the same reason. The technology is out there, and creating more laws will just lead to ingenious people finding more ways around the system. Information is out there, and people are going to get it no matter how many laws are placed as roadblocks. The original artist or writer does not lose credibility or authenticity for having their work uses pro bono, that’s why plagiarism is such a big deal. One can’t write or assert that a work that isn’t their own is theirs, and one will almost always get caught doing that. Just ask Jayson Blair.

Even Thomas Jefferson thought patent and copyright laws were a little extraneous in their current state, and fought very hard to get a Bill of Rights amendment in the Constitution to alleviate the long restriction on copyrighted documents. If one is a writer or a musician or an artist, they rarely ever get into the art form for the money. It’s about getting their name and their message out there. The suits, the corporate holders, and the powers that be are the ones that want the money. The publishers and the record producers.

There’s a certain danger and asinine quality to pursuing those who download illegal documents, or use music illegally. Aaron Swartz is a prime example of this. Here was a brilliant programmer who helped invent RSS, co-founded Reddit, and led a charge against SOPA. He was  arrested by federal prosecutors for downloading 4 million JSTOR articles. While this was illegal, JSTOR opted not to prosecute him or even go after him because “our interest was in securing the content [which they secured all 4 million documents]. Once this was achieved, we had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter.”  The government asserted that he was doing this for profit, and must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Swartz subsequently hanged himself, rather than face 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

This proves a cautionary tale and how copyright law has gotten out of control. Swartz had no way to profit from the articles, he was not planning on selling the material. It’s tantamount to checking too many books out the library. This too can be seen through using speeches like MLK’s “I have a dream” speech (also protected under copyright law). Ironically, using his material without expressed written consent now would constitute civil disobedience, regardless of whether or not it’s for profit. The same method that Dr. King had used to get his message across.

As a burgeoning writer, even if write a short story or a chapter of a book that’s distributed freely, and copyrighted, I would have no problem. It’s getting my name and my message out there. As a form of art, that’s what’s most important. And that’s why copyright legislation has to happen, and things have to change.

Until next time



One Response to The Internet Has Changed Everything

  1. I think you made a good point in saying that creating more laws will only lead to people finding more ways around them. Since technology and the way we get information is changing maybe we need to find ways to change existing laws instead of creating more.

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