Others blogging on copyright are way ahead of me, and have already linked to this David Pogue piece in the New York Times. I think I'm slow off the mark on this because of my advanced age.
Anyway, Pogue writes -- for filthy money, protected by copyright -- that he has identified something called a "generational divide" on the question of music file-sharing and movie copying. I'm assuming he didn't write the word "gap" to avoid any kind of American-style trademark litigation.
Pogue poses a bunch of ethical questions re: file-sharing to a room of 500 young college students, trying to find their ethical tolerance line on file-sharing. He's shocked to find there is not really a line.
Finally, with mock exasperation, I said, "O.K., let's try one that's a little less complicated: You want a movie or an album. You don't want to pay for it. So you download it."
There it was: the bald-faced, worst-case example, without any nuance or mitigating factors whatsoever.
"Who thinks that might be wrong?"
Two hands out of 500.
I know, I know, culture should not be owned, but who can read Pogue's article and not come to some understanding about why cultural professionals might worry a bit over eroding copyright? Who, I ask.
Well, not copyfighter Russell McOrmond -- the Bugs Bunny to my Daffy Duck in our own classic "rabbit season! duck season!" bit -- who writes rather eloquently (bolding is mine):
I see no reason why well paid professional creators cannot exist in a world where every citizen has personal control over the tools used to participate in culture. Yes, some people will abuse these tools to infringe copyright just like people jaywalk today without any technological help. If everyone jaywalked, our transportation system would come to a standstill and many people would be physically harmed. There will always be reasonable legal and business means to deal with these types of problems.
498 out of 500 is, admittedly, not everyone, but we can probably agree that's a significant percentage of jaywalkers on the superhighway.
Here's Dr. Laura Murray, a proponent of "fair" copyright with whom I have also disagreed in cartoon-like fashion on many points:
Myself, I think that culture is worth paying for. How, is the question...
My point is that if we want to support cultural innovation, we have to look at copyright as one tool among a wide range of tools, which include grants, stipends, cheap tuition, tax breaks, support for museums and galleries and other arts institutions, and a government commitment to give Canadians free digital access to their cultural heritage.
This all reminds me of a stunning conversation I had a couple years back. I'm in my early forties, and I was telling someone in her late twenties about my buddy's CD collection, which is enormous, and must have cost him thousands of dollars which he happily paid (though he is also a fantastic bargain hunter). He owns even more books, by the way -- fantastic consumer of culture. Anyway, as I'm waxing devotional about my older friend and his collections, my younger friend interrupted me and said "I don't know anyone who owns a CD collection. Everyone I know just shares their music -- no one buys it."
And people wonder why the book industry is a bit worried about unlocked e-books?
I've said it before (see the link above):
I think the mass of consumers can be trusted to respect copyright and the need for compensation that encourages continued creativity in a market-based economy, eventually.
Trust -- publishers and creators need to learn to trust consumers to do the right thing with unlocked content.
Respect -- consumers, young and old, must respect copyright.
One won't work without the other.
Hobby horse point -- who might teach that respect? Universities -- they certainly have the captive audience.