Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stealing The Future

I was taking a writing break, surfing the net, and came across Steal This Movie 2.

It doesn't directly address copyright infringement, or offer any solutions. But it does a very good job of explaining why copyright infringement exists, and is unstoppable. It's 45 minutes long, and well worth your time if you have any interest in the future of ebooks, concerns about illegal filesharing, and questions about what the future holds.


One of the ideas I found to be the most compelling was the concept of fences.

In the past, property (including intellectual property) had owners. If you owned a bicycle, or wrote a book, it existed as a physical object. To protect your property, you could build a fence around it, so it wouldn't be stolen. Then you could decide what to do with your property. Sell it. Give it away. Throw it away.

But there are no fences anymore. Intellectual property can be copied and distributed, and there is no way to protect it. In fact, the internet was created so people can share and copy information.

I've talked before about gatekeepers. In the past, TV studios, movie producers, and publishers have decided what media the masses can see.

The Internet is changing that. Now, everyone can produce media. The way the trend is going, there won't be any gatekeepers. Or at the very least the ones who exist will have more competition and fewer ways to make money.

For a society, that seems to be a good thing.

But is it good for a writer?

While YouTube has shown that a lot of people can produce media--media that can take viewers away from the TV shows and films produced by the gatekeepers--it hasn't shown how those media creators can make money. The money YouTube generates goes to YouTube, not the people uploading their movies.

And the majority of people uploading content to the Internet aren't uploading their original content. They're uploading media paid for by the gatekeepers.

If you're an artist who wants to earn a living, the way to get paid is to work for the gatekeepers.

But how long will these gatekeepers exist in their present form? How long before the media shared by individuals--both original and pirated--reaches more households than the established distribution networks run by the gatekeepers? And what will happen when that tipping point occurs?

In our desire to share and copy media, we're destroying the institutions that create the media.

But here's the thing. We're only destroying the institutions. We're not destroying the artists.

I don't believe the incentive to create is directly tied in to a paycheck. I wrote many books before ever earning a dime. And if the publishing world collapses, I'll still write books.

If people have an interest in reading me, money will somehow follow suit.

After viewing Steal This Film 2, you won't walk away thinking this is the end of media.

In many ways, it's more like a vibrant new beginning.