The Money Quote

From Sam J. Miller’s essay on the Short Story, over at The Quarterly Conversation:

Many, including me, see a lot of positives in the digitization of art, don’t have a lot of sympathy for the RIAA when it complains about its dwindling bottom line—and laugh out loud at folks like Richard Parsons, CEO of Time Warner, who presumably had a straight face when he said “If we fail to protect and preserve our intellectual property system, the culture will atrophy. And the corporations won’t be the only ones hurt. Artists will have no incentive to create.” As if money was the reason artists create. But many writers, including Alexander Chee, see the digital paradigm shift as directly linked to other, direr developments.

“In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the rise of Limewire, the Napster thing, that ‘code revolution’ for DVDs that unlocked their content. But did anyone bother to mention how in the same time period, the richest 5% of the country became much richer than the rest of the country? Millionaires in America now still have to have dayjobs. Vietnam doesn’t even want US treasury bonds. We’re not a good investment for Vietnam. We need to wake up.”

I was ranting about how the code revolution was misplaced class rage, which I still think it is. Instead of being angry at the people who took all the money, so the average American can no longer afford to buy DVDs and still eat and get gas for the car, and then doing something about it, this person ‘revolts’ by stealing content. It feels like revolution, but it’s not the same as being aware of what’s wrong with the country and the structure of the conglomerates economy, and taking action there politically.

Because it feels like revolution, the thief celebrates by using the content, and forgets to go change the world. Thus playing into the hands of the people they hate.

The next time you have the urge to steal content, pause. Do something else. Sign a petition, write to the FCC, your congressman, your senator. Don’t take your feeling of political and economic disenfranchisement out on an artists.

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