Thursday, 19 January 2012


Just pointing (via Marbury) at a vg NYT piece on the whole online SOPA/Wikipedia/copyright debacle. What we all want is something telling us what to think, right? Well, as Jaron Lanier says, and as you secretly knew deep down, it's complicated, so tough luck. Lots of people a) want to pretend stealing isn't stealing and b) forget that the web is a massive, expensive piece of infrastructure.

Basically, engineering/films/other stuff has to be paid for somehow, and people who do stuff for money will not want to give it away free. To pay for some of it, Facebook sells info about you. Well...

... it’s not Facebook’s fault! We, the idealists, insisted that information be able to flow freely online, which meant that services relating to information, instead of the information itself, would be the main profit centers. Some businesses do sell content, but that doesn’t address the business side of everyday user-generated content.

The adulation of “free content” inevitably meant that “advertising” would become the biggest business in the open part of the information economy. Furthermore, that system isn’t so welcoming to new competitors. Once networks are established, it is hard to reduce their power. Google’s advertisers, for instance, know what will happen if they move away.

As for the bits of the online economy we all know are illegal (even if we personally believe all information should be free, we also know we do not get to pick and choose our laws), for the nth time, the best thing I have ever read on this, by a writer, is this:

I hate how saying this stuff in public results in friends and close associates of mine getting into terrible wheedling conversations with me about it. They're almost like the debates children have with adults about where naughty behaviour begins. 'You're stealing 6p off me every time.' 'Ah, but if I asked you to lend me 6p...' 'That would be fine.' 'If you gave me 6p...' 'That would be fine.' 'If I found 6p in the street...' 'Yes, yes, all that would be fine. You putting your hand in my pocket and taking 6p from me is what isn't fine!' And as for 'Well, you should be fashionable and technologically savvy enough to just make 6p appear out of thin air. Like I did when I took it out of your pocket. It's hardly my fault you can't do that!' or 'I'm probably going to give you your 6p back, possibly 12p or even 24p!' Well, statistics don't support your highly optimistic view. Statistics say most people who nick my 6p just keep it. And forgive me if I can't feed my family on 'probably'. Most friends of mine at least don't go that far. These conversations are about guilt, about weighing perceived mini-societal approval of theft against a creator's disapproval. But do me a favour: we can still be friends if you've stolen my stuff, just don't seek my approval for having done it. You can't get it.


simon said...

That's clearly not a real mermaid.

Robert Hudson said...

I LOVE the fact that, asked to draw a mermaid, the artist gave it legs inside the fish skin. I love that.