Thursday, January 29, 2015

Doctorow on Culture vs. Industry

Cory Doctorow's latest LOCUS essay, on issues including DRM and the abuse of takedown notices:

New Deal for Copyright

A provocative comment about the difference between "industrial activities" and "cultural activities":

"Copyright laws were arrived at largely by codifying the practices of the entertainment industry into law, and because they were only triggered by making or handling copies of creative works, these rules only applied to the industry. When every copy of every book involves a printing press, then every copy of every book has been made by someone who’s using industrial machinery and is part of the industry. Computers work by making copies, so reading a book now involves making copies, as does lend­ing, reselling, or giving away books. That does not make reading into an industrial activity."

I've never thought of the history of copyright from that angle before.

And on the kinds of terms consumers must implicitly accept in order to purchase and use software from a company such as Apple:

"If you have to understand the law to read a book, we have failed. If you have to enter into a contract – any contract, even a ‘‘good’’ contract – to read a book, we have failed. These are cultural, not industrial activities. It’s insane to ask people to sign contracts to read books. Seriously, who actually thinks this is a good idea?"

Along the way, Doctorow talks about indie publishing (self-pubbing through services such as Lulu, etc.) as a "competitor of last resort to the Big Five." Nicely put, but I wish he'd acknowledged, at least in passing, the wide range of midlist and small publishers (both mainly-print and electronic) as alternatives in between those two extremes.

Off topic: Does it make me a bad, bad person that I tend to read news stories about dreadful calamities through the eyes of an English major? Example: For the past week, the headlines of our local paper have been dominated by the fiery destruction of a 16,000-square-foot house in which six people—a couple and their four grandchildren—died. The mansion had no sprinklers, because they weren't required for residences at the time it was built, and it sat on an isolated lot in a neighborhood served by well water, therefore devoid of fire hydrants. No question that this was a horrible disaster and a terribly sad event, two mothers losing their own parents and all their children in one night. But with each new article that appears, I can't help grinding my teeth at the annoying journalistic habits of (1) repeatedly using the real-estate jargon of "home" for "house," and (2) labeling every strikingly sad event and every disaster involving a large death toll as "tragic." In traditional English usage, "tragedy" has a specific meaning, which is NOT "very, very sad event." Why deprive the language, through habitual misuse, of a nuanced term that distinguishes some kinds of disasters and sad events from other kinds, I silently fume? Sigh.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

No comments:

Post a Comment