Sometimes, discussing copyright is an outright surreal experience. It would seem that the difference between copyright issues and copyright law is one of the least understandable differences since the invention of sliced bread.
Which is not only a mixed metaphor, but also the reason why so many get stuck in their underfinanced trenches. Often without knowing that they are either in a trench or underfinanced.
It tends to go something like this: someone writes a long, comprehensive argument about the need for reform in copyright law, wherein they point to such things as the consequences of the ever more draconian punishments for everyday copyright infringements. Consequences such as a diminishing lack of respect for the institutions of the law; a youth generation that grows up taking for granted that they will be viewed as criminals (because they are); a private sector that actively avoids investing in anything digital due to fear of crossing the line between innovation and criminality; a stifled creativity among artists who put ever more effort into making sure they are not sued for making something that reminds of anything copyrighted; archivists who refrain from preserving unreplaceable works of art due to fear of copyright claims eating their ever diminishing budgets - and so on and so forth.
Whereby someone responds with the question: but how shall the artists get paid?
I'm sure you immediately notice two things here. Both the surrealism and the trench. Not least in the assumed premise that it somehow would stop being a problem that everyone younger than me have committed crimes on a daily basis (and assumed the mentality that follows from an unreflexive life of crime) - if artists got paid.
A tragic aspect of this is that all these tougher measure against copyright crimes doesn't lead to these artists in question getting paid. Putting young people in prison won't make them put more of their non-existent budgets into buying more culture. Neither will the threat of putting them in prison or of giving them enormous fines increase their willingness to consume. And if we ask the artists themselves if their intent is that their productions are to be enjoyed under the thread of legal violence, they will think the question absurd. Because it is.
The problems for artists is not that people pirate things. Their problem is that they sign lousy contracts, and that those organizations that could collectively bargain for better working conditions are busy lobbying for harsher measures on piracy.
This does not have to be. There's no need for this nonsense. It can change. But only if those who pay lip service to working for the artists get their act together and put their money where their mouths are. If they get to work on ending the cynical exploitation of the artists by the corporations that have the loudest mouths regarding the importance of harsher measures against piracy.
Therein lies the difference between copyright issues and copyright law. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Originally posted August 11, 2013