The real problem with media pirate culture: Punishing artists for making art

There is a problem with the world of illegal piracy that we have online today, but it's not what the RIAA and MPAA want you to think it is. It's that we've become accustomed to participating in illegal copying, and yet it is still illegal. This means that we have the illusion of a body of work that can be built upon, remixed, and combined with new work, but if real artists practice this commercially, we are exposed to legal attack. Being a remixer is revered by culture, but being a commercially successful remixer is punishable by massive lawsuits, and if SOPA ever passes, maybe even prison time.

This is the absurdity of our era: one of the most vibrant artistic communities in existence -- with some of the most innovative art, in the most engaged and socially conversational modes -- is under constant threat of attack. We're learning to live with a black market, and the possibility of the "Feds" crashing the party at any moment. It's prohibitionism all over again. A valuable part of our culture is being marginalized and pushed into illegitimacy in the name of preserving commercial monopolies.

Because the real problem with media "piracy" is that it is illegal.

At this point, we might imagine abolishing copyright altogether. I think that would probably be unfortunate -- the copyright system has been useful, and a massively reformed system might indeed promote the arts and give a useful income to producers. But is it possible to restore sanity to the law when it has been so distorted? Or is destruction the only way out now?


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