Archive | Sunday, 24 March 2002

When elephants dance

[Ed. note: Minor clarification changes have been made to this article since it was published in its original form. For complete details, see the revision history section at the bottom of the document.]

When elephants dance, it’s best to get out of the way. That’s exactly what’s happening now as the entertainment industry — the recording, publishing, and motion picture industries, mainly — attempts a worldwide intellectual property power grab with two distinct targets. Think of it: A coup and a lock on all published content in the same year, amazing isn’t it?

Target number 1 is the average customer: Anyone who purchases software, an audio CD, an electronic book, or a movie on DVD. The entertainment industry sees customers as pirates, plain and simple. In their collective mind’s eye, we all have a wooden leg, eye patch, and a filthy talking parrot on our shoulder. While the Copyright Act of 1790, Title 17, Chapter 1 of the US Code, and subsequent judicial rulings grant customers certain rights with regard to copyrighted material, the entertainment industry very much wants to separate us from those rights.

Target number 2 in the sights of the entertainment industry are technology behemoths like Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and Apple. These companies, in the perverse worldview of the entertainment industry, make the tools — computers mostly — that allow customers to practice their piracy.

Let me point out that I am a copyright owner, as is everyone else who has ever created a work in tangible form. That’s all authors, for short. Authors are almost never members of the entertainment industry club. The entertainment industry hates authors almost as much as they hate customers. Sometimes, especially when authors get uppity, the entertainment industry hates authors much more than customers. Until recently, authors have always been seen to be at least a marginal threat while customers were seen as merely necessary annoyances.

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