Update for anyone who wants to watch the fireworks over at Litopia.
Update Update : Mike Masnick’s own account of the debate is up on Techdirt.
LOZ: Let’s start by his attack on the British Library, which it was–
RICHARD: –No it wasn’t, that is a complete and utter…that is… there you go again…… this is classic Pirate Party tactics
LOZ: What’s extraordinary is thatyou will not even let me speak for more than 30 seconds….
~the Naked Book, Litopia Writers Colony, copyright debate
The topic of piracy has crossed the airwaves of Litopia Writers Colony before, but this week, The Naked Book–Radio Litopia’s show on the life and times of books in the digital age–went from just entertaining the topic to full on debate. Well worth a listen, but if you don’t have an hour to spare, here are the highlights and my take on them.
The result was more a brawl than a debate.
While the publisher depicted his opponents as morally depraved thieves, the pirate attempted to give voice to the victims of copyright, and the tech blogger advocated common sense adaptations to the digital age. Throughout the hour, Pirate Loz and Techdirt’s Mike weathered repeated attacks by PA rep Richard.
First, show host and referee, Phillip Jones, asked why the copyright debate of the 18th century is returning now. Completely ignoring the intervening three centuries of social and technological development, Richard Mollet answered: “Because there are people like Loz Kaye, and there are people like Mike … exciting people into thinking they can take things without paying for it…” Later, he taunted the pirate over the party name: “The Pirate Party is the only party that includes in it’s name an invitation to break the law,” he said, incorrectly. (It is an invitation to change, not break, the law.) “What does pirate mean? What does it mean?” he jeered.
Throughout the hour-long show, he repeatedly attacked pirates as though they were some monolithic mob, rather than readers, librarians, professors, students, and even creators. (Maybe someone should have told him that Loz was a composer & musician.)
Richard Mollet bypassed the victims copyright. He went for the jugular, ignoring his opponents’ points – libraries being crippled, and culture stagnating without copyright reform. Every time – every time! – one of these points was brought up he got defensive, shifting the focus away from the issue, saying things like “this is classic Pirate Party tactics!” as in the quote above. The irony was palpable, for as a great defender of victim-authors, one would expect him to at least show compassion to the victims he himself has helped to create. But there was not even a charade of sympathy.
Repeatedly, Pirate Loz tried to emphasize the British Library’s recent plight for the preservation and access to culture and the digital lockdown that stands in their way, but the argument fell on deaf ears. He, along with blogger Mike, attempted to remind the publisher that there is more to the writing world than the publishers would like to believe. (Thank you! I’m right here.) They pointed out that there are business models (such as crowdfunding) that support authors and support cultural development, but do not rely on copyright.
But every time, they barely gets a few words out before being interrupted by Richard. This is no problem for Mike, who handles it like a boss with a suave “It would be great if I could speak first.” He lead the debate towards a practical, common sense approach to the digital age, and away from the hardline attack.
Common sense is when you look at the whole of the data and the whole of the information in terms of what increases culture what grows culture, and what increases the ability of people to access culture, it’s pretty simple to work out some pretty objective measures for what is good and what is helpful.
~Mike Masnick on the Naked Book, Litopia Writers Colony, copyright debate
But even common sense wasn’t enough to deter Publisher Richard who continually professed to speak up for the rights of the authors, returning again and again away from concrete back to the abstract refrain of authors’ moral rights.
For all the publishers’ talk about the “crimes” of the pirates, one would think they themselves were shining beacons of morality.
While trying to claim moral high ground, Richard Mollet gave appallingly little thought to the rights of the rest of society: readers, libraries, the cultural pool, and other creators whose actions, expressions, and cultural contributions are made illegal by copyright law. Laughably, as a final insult, and despite using words like “theft” and “stealing,” throughout the entire broadcast, and then referring to an entire generation as a “millennial cult” he ended by vehemently denying that publishers are criminalizing readers.
I meant that it would be laughable. If it weren’t so worrying.
Richard Mollet has confirmed that the publishing industry is headed down exactly the same path as the music and film industries before it. And while it’s true that the average reader has only to face the threat of civil rather than criminal cases, it must only be a matter of time before publishers seek criminal charges for the big players in Pirate Bay- and Megaupload- style attacks.
The conviction of the Pirate Bay and the raid on Megaupload were symbolically convictions and raids of their users, since neither of those sites were responsible for any copyrighted content whatsoever. They only provided an open space for us, the users, to communicate. If they are criminals, then we are the real criminals. And, even if not in the letter of the law, these attacks along with the continuous slander with “thief” epithets, go a long way towards criminalizing the customers. And book oriented sites are no different.
So who will be next, when the publishers get their weapons warmed up? Will it be TUEBL? Will it be your local library’s ebook collection?
But we are in a state of flux.
As the pirate and the tech blogger remind us, a new guard has risen, changing the playing field whether the old guard likes it or not, and it is hard to see what road the industry will take. Are there enough of this “millennial cult” coming into their own in the industry, that change is just around the corner? Or are we looking towards a new Megapocalypse, this time, literary style ?