WHICH CAMP ARE YOU IN?
What did you think about downloading copyrighted media when you began reading this chapter? What knowledge did you possess before you began reading? What new information have you gleaned from reading it? Chapter 2, Copyright or the Right to Copy? , explained copyright law; has your understanding of the issue changed? Have your thoughts or feelings changed?
In a way, what we are trying to do here is a little like sex education—make sure you have the information and tools you need to make decisions that work for you. You should at least know where you stand on the issue. Then you can go off and make decisions for yourself when the lights are out.
Gordon Gekko said it in the film Wall Street: "Greed is good." You can say that the recording and movie industry executives are greedy, but aren't the downloaders greedy, too? Greed means to want or desire something to excess, which implies ownership. Most of the world's great wars have been fought over property—from women (Helen) to gold (the Aztecs) to land (Genghis Khan). So here we are at the new millennium, the record business and its consumers squabbling like two barbaric warlords over something that neither can truly possess: the spirit of artistic creation. Whether it is music, video, art, poetry, computer games, or software, it can only be the genuine "property" of the individual who created it, but it may be more valuable as it is shared with others. Anything else is a legal subtlety.
Both sides need to chill out.
Think about a future scenario, say like the one William Gibson envisioned in Johnny Mnemonic, where you can upload digital data right into your brain (or wetware, as Gibson called it). Who can own that data? Who even knows if you have it?
If there is one thing the Us's and the Thems can agree on it's probably this: In this information-rich, entertainment-oriented, digital age, it's time for a new vision of what it means to protect—and share—intellectual property. Ah, but what is that vision? Read on.