Yesterday, this article on Falkvinge.net reminded of a guest post I did on PirateWho about the value of creators – something the copyright debate tends to ignore. With PirateWho currently down, I’m republishing my guest post in full here:
Dear Lady Justice,
How are you?
I ask because you seem a bit disoriented lately. I wouldn’t say anything, except… except it may be partly my fault. You see, lawmakers and judges and juries around the world have taken it upon themselves to debate… me. Well, my profession. It’s a pity, really. I would have been there to clarify the whole situation, but I guess my invitation got lost in the mail. So what am I? I’m a writer. Or more inclusively, a creative. Yes, I’m one of those head-in-the-clouds types who got the silly idea into my head to try to put food on the table by making up stories. But, all those lawmakers and judges and juries you’ve been overseeing seem to have the wrong idea and have gotten up in arms about it. It must be quite a headache for you!
So let me explain.
Right now, representatives all over the world are debating the value of copied material – and reflecting on the ones who created it, people like me. But they seem to think – this is so embarrassing – that we, the creators, are the copiers.
You see, this is important because creators are valuable, even – if I may say so myself – essential to society. Creators expend energy, money, time, and sanity to bring insights and entertainment to people. The value of this effort is incalculable. A copy, on the other hand, has a value of… zero. The labor involved in making a digital cop – or a hundred – is zero. The money involved in making a digital cop – or a hundred – is zero. The time involved in making a digital cop – or a hundred – is zero. Okay, okay, almost zero. There’s a teeny bit of storage space and the bandwidth are required, but let’s face it, there was probably some to spare, right?
Making a copy is not the job of a skilled artisan, a team of experienced publishers, or a technical mastermind.
Making a copy is so simple a child can do it – and many do.
And these are the children, so the story goes, who are devaluing art, devaluing music, devaluing literature. Lady Justice, these lawmakers and judges and juries that you oversee rage against these children for making copies – calling them pirates, like they were some sort of seafaring criminal. Creators themselves rage at pirates for devaluing their creative material by sharing it for free. Yet it is the creators themselves – and the lawmakers and the judges and the juries – who equate their worth with the act of copying and thereby truly devaluing it.
As if we were not creators at all, but only copiers! As if we, like secretaries existed to run down the hall to an antiquated machine to collect and distribute pressed wood-pulp! As if we, like secretaries, existed to feed paper into trays, to make sure it didn’t smudge or wrinkle! As if we, like the antiquated machines themselves, existed to pump out copies one after another after another after another!
But it’s worse than that now. It’s worse because it’s 2012 and making copies doesn’t even require running down the hall. It doesn’t even require loading paper into a tray. It doesn’t require making sure an ink cartridge is full. It doesn’t require compiling the pages, binding them, separating the copies. It doesn’t take time. It doesn’t take effort It doesn’t take money. It doesn’t take skill.
Making copies takes a few clicks.
This is our value? A few clicks?
According to the hardline copyright brigade who have been shouting down the halls of Congress and Parliaments the world over, yes. This is our value. This is our value according to the publishers, producers, and distributors that continue to argue – and argue and argue and argue –that the primary purpose of their industry is to do something that a child could do. This is our value according to the creators who argue that it is their duty to make and to control every single copy of their work in existence – copies that they did not make because they were too busy doing their real job and creating. This is our value according to those who lobby to relegate our profession to something child could do.
Our value, according to these arguments, extends no further than to copying a file over and over and over.
We are better than that.
Creators get paid to create, not to copy. We are not secretaries. We are not copiers. We are creators.
So, Lady Justice, I’m sorry for all the headache it’s caused you, but would you please tell the lawmakers and the judges and juries who you oversee, and please tell the publishers and producers, and distributors who lobby in your name, and please tell the poor creators who have been relegated to the copy room, please, please please tell them to stop treating us like some antiquated machines whose purpose is only to spit out the same piece of work as many times as somebody puts in dimes. We are better than that.
Recognize our value. Please?