Feeds

Doonesbury savages Pepperland's copyright utopians

It's a revolution, dudes!

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

As anyone involved with the original Apple Newton project knows only too well, when Garry Trudeau's satirical eye engages a target, there's only one winner. The Doonesbury cartoonist has a gift for holding up a mirror to bad ideas so they collapse under the weight of their own absurdities. This week[*] Trudeau has turned his attention to the "Creative Commons" project.

Beginning with Monday's comic, radio interviewer Mark questions aging rock star Jim Thudpucker about "free music". Thudpucker returns with a barrage of techno utopian babble that suggests he's been inhaling the heady vapors of the blogosphere.

"There are no rock stars any more!" insists Thudpucker. "With file sharing, we're being liberated from the hierarchical tyranny of record sales… Careers henceforth will be concert-driven, fragmented, and small!"

"And fan bases?" asks Mark.

"Will be kept in Palm Pilots!" replies the blog-brained Thudpucker.

This brilliant satire of the belief that technology can by itself topple entrenched institutions will be familiar to anyone who's picked up a copy of Wired in the last decade. Thudpucker is an ever-present type at any blogging convention. The conversation continued throughout the week, and we won't spoil any more of Trudeau's punchlines, except to note that he captures the other worldliness of this strand of techno utopian idiocy very sweetly.

What's wrong with this picture?

Well, there's nothing wrong with utopianism in itself: it's simply a wish for a better world, and we should all be able to imagine something better. But when utopianism becomes a denial and a retreat from the real world, it serves no useful purpose. It becomes a distraction, draining time and energy from what can be achievable. And like fringe political activism, it can eventually become no more than a psychological crutch for its advocates.

Creative Commons - launched by Professor Lawrence Lessig after a catastrophic Supreme Court defeat two years ago, which set back the copyright reform cause by many years - is one such noble idea.

But there are reasons why the campaign - widely blogged, but even more widely ignored - has failed to gain much traction.

Broadcaster Bill Thompson picked on one reason why the campaign has got nowhere fast. (Try calling the Creative Commons office in the hope of finding a human on the other end of the line and you'll realize another - there's no one home.)

But Thompson highlights the legalistic, American-centric basis of the campaign.

"Lessig doesn't understand why people in Europe care about an author's moral rights, which are inalienable in European law. And because he doesn't understand, he dismisses it. To an American constitutional lawyer copyright is simply an economic matter," Thompson told us.

"I have an objection to the British National Party using something I wrote in their party political broadcasts. That's my right."

"I'm a critical supporter of Creative Commons, but I don't accept US hegemony in this or any other area."

So Creative Commons is emblematic of how even the best of the US fails to understand how the rest of the world works. Is this a failure of empathy? Or a deeper philosophical failure which places too much emphasis on the law, and therefore "hacking" the law? Your thoughts, as ever, are most welcome. As we know, you can't throw an iPod in the United States without it hitting either a lawyer or an economist. And look where they've got us.

Fortunately we have more practical remedies to such escapist fantasies to hand. We only need to put them to work.®

Bootnote:Big Reg oops: Trudeau's strip, which captures the flavor of the debate today, was originally published two years ago. And as the Professor says, you can't hold the cause responsible for the wilder fantasies of its supporters. Quite correct.

Related stories

How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved
Digital music: flat fee futures
We're not so inEFFectual
Germany debuts Creative Commons
Tech heavyweights explain how to destroy the Internet
Internet is dying Prof. Lessig
Lawrence Lessig's birthday spam
Supremes back Disney and pigopolists vs science and culture

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Lords take revenge on REVENGE PORN publishers
Jilted Johns and Jennies with busy fingers face two years inside
Yes, yes, Steve Jobs. Look what I'VE done for you lately – Tim Cook
New iPhone biz baron points to Apple's (his) greatest successes
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.