The content thing

A friend of ours has become similarly bee obsessed and loaned me the volumes pictured above.

The authors of these books receive no royalties when I curl up on the couch to read. Nor do publishers earn any profits.

Am I a pirate?

What about if I borrow a jazz CD from a friend and rip it to my hard drive? Is that copyright infringement?

The difference in the two scenarios is possession. In a few weeks I'll return the bee books. If I want copies, I'll need to buy them. But if I rip a CD, I possess it, not the physical object but the data that gives it meaning.

I've been having a running argument with a member of the younger set, who views access to content as his First Amendment right. Information should be available to all.

For someone who writes content for a living, this goes down like cod liver oil. So I make noises about how not paying your freight hurts writers such as myself or the code-wielding Nake-id IT.

But who among us hasn't mixed tapes or "borrowed" software or accepted a thumb drive filled with the last season of "Weeds"?

Um, OK, moving right along...

it's easy to view CONTENT PROVIDERS like running dog Goliaths, exploiting us little guys. What's the harm in watching rogue copies of "Homeland" or sourcing critical software as a poor student?

For starters, it puts us on the wrong side of the law. And sometimes THEY do prosecute.

And, like Scott Turow said in his excellent piece:

Authors practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress “to promote the progress of Science and     the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can’t be threatened, is essential to democracy.

It's good for the culture to have all us wackadoos out there writing knitting patterns, making independent films and whaling on  guitars. To eliminate the profit motive--modest as it is--puts art and innovation in the hobby category, ghettoizing it to our free time. If we don't support creative people, whether they're engineers, writers, artists or actors, it stands to reason that only the most popular, the most market-worthy will penetrate the culture. There will be less art and fewer ideas, if the D-listers among us can't work.

Isn't it more democratic to vote with our dollars, to align our financial resources with our passions? If we want our artistic and intellectual lives to look like Applebees, then we can cede responsibility for the evolution of the culture to the common denominator. But if we like our Vivaldi or Vanity Fair or The Borgias, we should pay.

As much as I hate to admit it.

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