I was on a debate panel in Edinburgh, UK this week; a panel about the copyright monopoly conflict. I have had this feeling in my gut for some time, but it became clear on this panel: we’re going to be debating the same topics with the same arguments for another 40 years.
Do you remember when Napster came around twelve years ago, and everybody said the digital copyright wars would be replaced by a new equilibrium?
Today we can easily observe that this hasn’t happened. We’re in exactly the same positions today as we were a decade ago.
As I was talking on this debate panel, representatives of the (obsolete) middlemen repeated two themes over and over: “we have rights, we have rights, we have rights” and “we need more time to adjust, we need more time”.
The latter was quite easily defused by asking “So… you demand that the world must wait for you to catch up with it?”, whereas the former will probably be heard for another forty years.
People who think they have the moral right to control what other people discuss, transmit, use, and copy simply are not going to abandon that point of view. They will assert that right as superior to any civil liberty, forever.
Anybody who is able to adapt by reading the dead-obvious writing on the wall has already done so. Those who religiously keep repeating the same mantra today as they did a decade ago will keep doing so.
In other words, we’re pretty much stuck with the copyright monopoly pundits and maximalists we have today for the rest of their natural lives.
Of course, this doesn’t include the masses of people who merely have a casual interest in the copyright monopoly. But it does include those who were schooled in the wonders of monopolies twenty or thirty years ago, and have been working in a bubble protected from outside influences ever since then. Almost all the world’s new creators are already working in the new paradigm; creating despite the copyright monopoly, rather than because of it.
So what I said to the “we have rights, we have rights” panelist was that they should be careful asserting rights given by law, for those laws can and will change as the 250 million Europeans who share culture come into power. 250 million people is not an adolescence problem; it is a power base of 250 million voters. As these people start writing laws, they can and will kill those monopolies at the stroke of a pen.
So, sadly, it seems that a universal truth comes into play here: Viewpoints of society don’t change because people in society change. Viewpoints of society change because people defending the obsolete viewpoint die out.
In other words, prepare for another forty years of corporate bullshit.