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Copyright wars are damaging the health of the internet

Lib Tech

The copyright wars have eroded the internet's inherent resilience at a time when it is desperately needed. Today's internet is integrated into our lives in ways that have surpassed even the wildest prognostications of the 1980s – it's the default way of signing your kid up for after-school dance classes; for paying your gas bill; for posting videos of police violence;

Copyright wars are damaging the health of the internet

by Cory Doctorow
28 March 2013
guardian.co.uk

I've sat through more presentations about the way to solve the copyright wars than I've had hot dinners, and all of them has fallen short of the mark. That's because virtually everyone with a solution to the copyright wars is worried about the income of artists, while I'm worried about the health of the internet.

Oh, sure, I worry about the income of artists, too, but that's a secondary concern. After all, practically everyone who ever set out to earn a living from the arts has failed – indeed, a substantial portion of those who try end up losing money in the bargain. That's nothing to do with the internet: the arts are a terrible business, one where the majority of the income accrues to a statistically insignificant fraction of practitioners – a lopsided long tail with a very fat head. I happen to be one of the extremely lucky lotto winners in this strange and improbable field – I support my family with creative work – but I'm not parochial enough to think that my destiny and the destiny of my fellow 0.0000000000000000001 percenters are the real issue here.

What is the real issue here? Put simply, it's the health of the internet.

The copyright wars have eroded the internet's inherent resilience at a time when it is desperately needed. Today's internet is integrated into our lives in ways that have surpassed even the wildest prognostications of the 1980s – it's the default way of signing your kid up for after-school dance classes; for paying your gas bill; for posting videos of police violence; for remitting funds to distant relatives; for getting permission to put up a garden shed; for booking a vacation; for finding out whether you need to go to the A&E; for writing a paper or essay for school; for earning a living – and increasingly for everything else, like buying groceries, shopping for insurance, getting a degree or qualification, and all the other activities that constitute full participation in public life. None of those things are related to the entertainment industry, but none of them are taken into account when the industry's pals in government draw up their plans for fighting "piracy." Everything we do today involves the internet, everything we do tomorrow will require it.

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