Monday, November 17, 2008

Cory Doctorow on "Culture"

Patrick’s previous post pertaining to this article led me to this one by Cory Doctorow.

In that last article, Cory makes an interesting statement. He says that copyright was never a big deal (or at least it was much less of a deal) before the internet came into being. People copied, edited, and recreated literature, arts and music without any fear of retribution, or indeed any knowledge that they were doing something wrong. That’s not copyright infringement, says Doctorow; it’s culture. He says that with the birth of the internet, two things happened: one, law enforcement starting cracking down on copyright; two, copying flourished.

Copyright law valorizes copying as a rare and noteworthy event. On the Internet, copying is automatic, massive, instantaneous, free, and constant.

It’s easy and straightforward to track, because everything is recorded, and yet there is simply so much of it going on that it’s impossible to classify some of it as illegal and the rest as not. What of it is “culture” and what is piracy? Is there really a difference? Cory Doctorow’s view of “culture” is an interesting one, and one that I at least partially share. He is smart in using the word “culture”, because it’s a very positive-sounding one, and culture is something that sets us apart as humans; everyone agrees that culture is good, that we need it to thrive.

The only point of disagreement is on the definition of culture. What defines that good stuff that gives quality to life? Music. Art. Literature. More generally, it is the Arts. We need to use our creative minds, or we are no more than animals, quarreling amongst ourselves for territory and food. Cory Doctorow says that the only way to keep our minds stimulated in this digital age is through copying; sharing our creative works with others. He might just be right.


HAYNE said...

Cory Doctorow's view of "culture" concerning the field of copyright is just a little too mushy for me. It's one thing to say that copyright laws are obsolete and quite inapplicable in today's digital age. It's another thing entirely to say that copyright laws are suppressing us from
"being who we are", etc. That's a stretch. I also disagree with the enormous slice of the culture pie Doctorow allots to the internet. The thought that pinnacle of cultural "evolution" is sitting in front of a computer and copying other people's YouTube videos is somewhat depressing. Also, I just don't like Cory Doctorow in general for reasons I cannot explain.

Kayla said...

I agree with Hayne. I'm not sure culture is the right word for this issue. The way he talks about it is comparable to wearing a very straight-laced uniform to an extremely strict school. The whole "not allowed to express yourself" thing.

Sure, I think the perhaps the internet has been integrated into our culture is plausible, but I still wouldn't call it culture. I actually would say what Hayne said word for word. "copyright laws are obsolete and quite inapplicable in today's digital age", kind of like the Electoral College, right?