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Creativity vs. Copyright, Quotes from Cory Doctorow

The Great Big Beautiful TomorrowI recently bought The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow, the newest volume in the Outspoken Authors series by PM Press.

The second item in the book is a speech Cory gave called “Creativity vs. Copyright”, “revised and condensed from his historic address to the 2010 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia.”

His speech is just as vital and relevant today as it was when he gave it. Here are some of my favorite quotes from that historic address, on copyright, DRM, and creativity:

“Anytime someone puts a lock on something that belongs to you and doesn’t give you a key, that lock is not there for your benefit. The lock I’m talking about here of course is digital rights management, or DRM—the so-called locks that are used to restrict copying and use of digital works”

“I heard a poet speak at a European Union copyright event a couple years ago bemoaning the terrible state of poets’ lives, talking about how hard it was to make a living writing poetry. I completely sympathized until she concluded: “That’s why we need to defend copyright!” And that’s where I broke with her, because even if she had her own special copyright cutlass that allows her to disembowel people who used her poetry without paying for it, it wouldn’t make her an extra penny.”

“When you use copyright to turn creativity into an obstacle course, you end up giving power to institutions whose job it is to remove obstacles.”

“It is really only by using policy to remove obstacles to creativity that you end up giving power to creators. This is where we get back to the idea that it’s hard to monetize fame, but impossible to monetize obscurity. Creative Commons licenses and other tools make it possible for artists to build audiences. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc., allow artists to forge contract with readers or listeners that runs person to person, not person to corporation. (It can be quite exhausting, very asymmetrical: you’ve got a million readers and there’s only one of you, and they all want to send you a tweet, and you have to figure out how to reply to them all! But it sure beats the alternative, which is that you’ve got no readers and no one gives a tweet.)”

“So if you say to Google, you have an affirmative duty to ensure that none of this stuff infringes copyright before the public is allowed to see it, you fundamentally say to them we expect you to hire an army of copyright lawyers booking more lawyer hours than exist between now and the heat death of the universe. Which is to say, it’s impossible.”

“Information doesn’t want to be free, people do! Artists need to transcend the self-serving, terrorized, crappy narrative that’s been fed to us by the copyright industries and recognize that all the collateral damage from this doomed effort to reduce copying includes the free society that we all cherish.”

Read more about Copyright, DRM, and the Internet from Cory Doctorow by checking out The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow, his Guardian column on DRM, Digital Rights, Digital Wrongs, Boing Boing, and his personal website, craphound.

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