Thursday, July 01, 2010

metaDRAMA: Copywrong?

I can't say I've been in the same shoes as Eleanor, but personally, if an artist like Jason Robert Brown (or, scratch that, any artist) were to kindly ask me to stop infringing on his rights, I would. You can read his whole back-and-forth here.

However, I find one of his examples a bit problematic. He's all for letting a friend borrow a book that he owns, so long as they return it. It's just the permanent copying that he's not cool with. To extend this metaphor, then, it would be acceptable to download, say, a CD from a friend--so long as the original CD was then wiped from that friend's computer. Such action might help to cut back what I suspect JRB has a real problem with, which is that Eleanor isn't borrowing from a friend, but from an infinite number of strangers, enabled by the Digital Age's negation of privacy and distance. In other words, with the supply limited again to the number of people who have actually purchased the object, it would be harder to "borrow" it at whim, which would result in more people deciding to buy it. Might also make for some interesting new friendships, as people are united to share their love of, say, esoteric films (ala Criterion); they'd not only be increasing their exposure to art, but to each other.

I also find the argument itself to be somewhat moot in a digital age. Some libraries trade in e-books, all have digital archives (if not themselves, then through Google), and they will eventually allow users to "borrow" material through their own servers. What's important, then, is finding a way for the artist to continue to share their work for free--especially for students--but still get paid, ultimately, for the ownership of that work. I hope that's the direction in which our government trends its legislation; I would hate to see a harsher enforcement of copyright lead, ultimately, to an infringement on art.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I side with Jason Robert Brown here. Brenna's logic is infantile. But it does make for a very amusing read.

Aaron Riccio said...

Well, her way of arguing is infantile, and I said at the top of my post, I agree with JRB, too. However, I do think that Brown's argument has some flaws--if he's OK with friends sharing books, he should be OK with friends sharing books of music (sheet music), and in today's age, he must understand that that can happen digitally. However, as a way of protecting the ownership rights, I do maintain that we should be looking for a compromise, which is that if you lend something to someone, even digitally, the "lent" copy on the owner's computer should self-delete, leaving only the "lent" copy on the borrower's computer (and vice-versa, when returned).