DRM, Again

Here’s a short thought, provoked by this post at Jenny’s blog.

When the publication/distribution profiteers paint themselves as the defenders of artists’ rights, they always frame the issue on the royalties of the individual artist, which that artist presumably loses when audiences share books, recordings, and so on. As Doc always reminds us (based on his appreciation of George Lakoff), the framing makes the big difference here.

That frame excludes from our field of deliberation a number of ways that restrictive copyright mechanisms harm not only the interests of acquisitive audiences, but also those of all artists. Most obviously, it’s a good thing for people to be able freely to enjoy the work of artists; though almost all artists, authors, et al., relish income and would like more of it, virtually all whom I know yearn for attention and appreciation also — and we can show that many are willing to trade off potential income for attention.

But that’s only the beginning. Artists (and from now on, I’ll just say “artists” as a shorthand for all who have a producer’s interest in reproducible works) have an interest in the freedom to compose works without anxiety over whether they’ll be inhibited or even prosecuted for transgressing on another’s alleged copyright. Artists have an interest in audiences having the freedom casually to become interested in their work — a freedom that DRM restrictions stifle. Artists have an interest in public goodwill, the sort of positive feelings that highly-restrictive copyright regimens erode (how interested will I be in paintings if I have to pay fifty cents for a two-minute glimpse of “Nude Descending a Staircase”?

Especially since the circumstances of production and reproduction have changed in fundamental ways, we need to reconfigure the ways that the public rewards artists — and the ways that the public experiences and shares artists’ works. That’s not only for the sake of audiences, but even and especially for artists, too.

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