November 26, 2005

Bias of the beholder

Ideas are different than physical property, and they have been treated distinctly through our history. If I take your car, you can't use it. If I have a copy of your song, you still have the song. Infringement is wrong, and I don't defend it. But there has always been some infringement, and copyright holders have lived with it as part of their overall bargain with society. [Dan Gillmor, We the Media 216]

In Chapter 11, Gillmor explains some of the finer points of the copyright debate between the entertainment industry and consumers. He advocates stronger observance of the "fair use" rights of consumers, continually claiming that those rights are being undermined by the restrictions enforced by the law and court decisions.

As a college kid who loves to sidestep the rules sometimes, I can empathize with Gillmor's fear that the e-industry will someday have complete control over the distribution and use of its products. Likewise, as a college kid who dreams of one day becoming an author, I can empathize with the e-industry and its argument that its ideas should be treated as physical property, to a certain extent.

As Gillmor points out, a song is not physical property -- but it's still property, and a product, the result of creative work and imagination. Just because you can't physically hold the song itself in your hands doesn't mean that it should automatically be treated as less-worthy of copyright protections. Quite frankly, that's being unfair to the person(s) who produced the song; it's like telling them that their work is not as valuable as a car in the eyes of the law, simply because it doesn't take a physical form. After all, you could consider cars as ideas -- they're just more easily converted into a physical format, and the ideas are covered up along the way by the actual appearance and function of the vehicles themselves. The idea is still there; it's so widely dispersed and understood, however, that there's no need to try to squirm past its copyright protections.

Posted by ChrisU at November 26, 2005 03:29 PM | TrackBack
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