Cory Doctorow’s Keynote @ SIGGRAPH
Cory Doctorow, one of our favorite people, gave the keynote speech at SIGGRAPH today. He really rocked the joint. His talk was structured around his 3 eponymous laws. He said that as an author, he’s obviously not opposed to copyrights, but he thinks that the current approach is completely flawed. The current approach attempts to create a mechanical mechanism for enforcing copyright. Then, because that’s actually impossible, we make any attempt to subvert the mechanism illegal. But this means that we’re outlawing things which benefit both the creator of the work and the user and are actually completely legal under copyright law. The only people who benefit from the approach you see in C32 or DCMA are the people who develop the enforcement mechanisms. This has the side effect of inhibiting the distribution mechanisms which do benefit the creators and users. The original purpose of copyright law is to benefit the people who are creating content. If they’re not benefiting from the current approach, then this approach is broken.
His second law is really important in this discussion. Using Tim O’Reilly’s famous quote:
For most artists, the problem isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.
He illustrated how draconian solutions to copyright problems are more dangerous for creative people than copyright violations can ever be. Most artists (be they writers, singers, or video game authors) actually benefit from the cheap copying which is comes with the internet. It gives them access to distribution channels and allows new audiences to discover them. These creators aren’t going to benefit if we put roadblocks in this path.
Chris really wanted to tweet his line that in the current age, copying is like breathing. We always talk about reading & writing, but there really isn’t any read. You’re really copying every time you read a bit. Preventing copying is pretty much a doomed approach, isn’t it?
There were a number of good questions from the audience afterwards, and Cory was really good at addressing all of them. When you listen to him, it quickly becomes clear that he isn’t doctrinaire about the issue at all. He is really just interested in making things work better.
If you ever get a chance, please listen to Cory give one of his talks on this subject. I think he’ll convince you that we need to get inject some common sense into copyright law and change the path we’ve been on in recent years.