A user who calls himself Ryan Ramage, a local software developer (oh, and I don’t mean to imply this isn’t his name. But these are the internets, after all), made some excellent comments today on michaelgeist.ca about copyright as it relates to innovation and creativity. Maybe not the kind of comment that blows you out of the water, but still: he gets it. A surprising amount of other people do not.
Time for me to chime in.
I work in Edmonton as a software developer. I have consulted for many various business and government entities. I have seen first hand how the “open source” movement has fostered and allowed innovation for the products I deliver to these entities. In this “remix” mindset, productivity for everyone in my industry has improved drastically over the last few years. I have contributed to and developed open source software myself. There are personal benefits. I have used my work on these projects on my resume, to gain experience, and network with others.
I feel that as our society closes itself off around the copyright issue, we loose this innovation capacity. This mindset of sharing, remixing, building on others’ work is key to furthering our industry and heritage. When we lock down with copyright, we claim we are doing it to promote competition, but instead it stifles it. I have also seen in my industry many bullying cases where the “big guys” can easily close down other amazingly innovative ideas because they have the lawyers and money, all using copyright and DMCA-style takedown notices.
For a magazine to equate this cause as left, or communist or pop-Trotskyite is insane. This fosters competition. It builds industry. I have seen more innovative bands (music) outside the big labels than I have inside. These are the ones that want others to hear their music, and art, and what they do for the real reason. They get compensated for what they are doing but not as much as what they have done.
Everyone builds on what others have done. As the cost of making digital copies approaches zero, we should hail this time in history as a triumph. We are not thieves, we are champions. Champions of a new way of thinking. Build and share digital works and recognize the author. The author builds this portfolio and gets compensated for new work because people/business want to use the industry leaders, not the industry protectionists.