unjapanologist: (Default)
[personal profile] unjapanologist
Welcome to Life is "A science fiction story about what you see when you die. Or: the Singularity, ruined by lawyers."


Tom Scott: Welcome to Life (2.5 min)



One thing that jumps out for me is how well this video highlights the massively overblown importance that people attach to copyright today. Never mind the ridiculous licencing fee of $18.000 per month that a "user" would have to pay to keep remembering all the copyrighted works they've consumed in their life; it seems ridiculous that a human being who just died and now has to make decisions about their afterlife is asked to comply with copyright law, of all things.

Or maybe it's not so ridiculous, if you consider how broad an influence copyright already has on people's lives. Large media companies legislate new technologies and innovative companies to death, or try to, not because those new technologies and innovative companies are breaking the law but because they threaten the vested interests of the content industry. These companies push for broad national and international legislation and treaties like SOPA, ACTA, and TPP that will have immense foreseeable and unforseeable effects on civil liberties, for no reason except to "stop the pirates". (Even if "stopping the pirates" will not automatically lead to more sales - offering people affordable and convenient access to copyrighted content leads to more sales.)

Through all this, they also give people the idea that strong copyright protection is both a natural right (it's not) and some sort of life-or-death issue. Anyone who's spent a childhood watching the dire warnings about piracy at the start of every video and DVD has been led to believe that copyright is everything, and there can be no creativity without copyright. People with every conceivable creative hobby or job start to fret about "their" copyright - programmers, quilters, knitters, you name it, even fan artists. I've seen new people on deviantART ask anxious questions about what they need to do to "protect their copyright", as if the single most important thing about drawing fanart is making sure nobody does anything with it. Not to mention that plagiarism of fanart is hardly that common. But that's what you get when you tell people for decades that content thieves are lurking behind every bush: they start to think that it's likely that someone will "steal" their work and make a ton of money with it or something. They internalize the idea that all creativity has to be accompanied by strong copyright protection.

At a certain conference last year, someone talked about how to revive a dying Chinese craft - I don't remember which. The first thing we needed to do, he said, was to grant the few remaining artists strong copyright protection over their designs. But the problem with that craft wasn't that people were making knock-offs of the artworks: it was that no new people were volunteering to learn the techniques. In that situation, why would you make the craft even less accessible by putting the rights to the centuries-old designs in the hands of a few people? That researcher didn't explain why that strong copyright protection was needed; he presented it like it was totally obvious, something he expected everyone in the audience to agree on. To him, that imaginary link between strong copyrights and creativity was so self-evident that he thought strong copyright protection would automatically lead to more creativity. It's a baseless idea, but it's everywhere now, thanks to the content industry pushing it with every video and every DVD - and with all this increasingly far-reaching legislation.

Anyway, this video makes beautifully clear how baffling and insane it is that the copyright of the movies we watch and the music we listen to is becoming a defining aspect of our lives.

Of course it touches upon a bunch of other interesting issues as well. The creator of the video recommends a couple of books that sound pretty interesting: If you liked this, you may also enjoy two novels that provided inspiration for it: Jim Munroe's Everyone in Silico, where I first found the idea of a corporate-sponsored afterlife; Rudy Rucker's trippy Postsingular, which introduced me to the horrifying idea of consciousness slums.


Date: 2012-05-17 03:40 pm (UTC)

foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxinthestars
That is scary, and at the same time funny in that "dead-on Daily Show gag" kind of way.

The dying craft example is just boggling. To get more people to do X, let's create prohibitions against doing X! Totally cart-before-the-horse, it's ingrained as you say, and people don't realize that copyright is, at best, an ad hoc system for artists to get paid, but if you collapse the logic into seeing copyright as the reward in itself, I guess it's in some ways cheaper (and less empowering to most artists, those pesky weirdos) than paying a living wage...
Edited Date: 2012-05-17 03:41 pm (UTC)
Date: 2012-05-17 04:15 pm (UTC)

angrymermaids: (Default)
From: [personal profile] angrymermaids
This is rather chilling. Your afterlife now has ads! And your thoughts have been directly meddled with by advertisers.

I totally understand what you said about people growing up thinking copyright is everything. My first fandom was Dragonriders of Pern, where for a long time fanfic wasn't allowed, RP could only exist within strict guidelines, and people did get in trouble for stepping outside the lines wrt fanart. It's more relaxed now, but Dragonriders fandom of the late 90's existed under the specter of the omniscient suing powers of the copyright gods. :P
Date: 2012-05-18 01:31 pm (UTC)

foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxinthestars
I read Pern as a kid, might have been in the fandom if I hadn't been over it by the time I got the internet, but I was... If you remember the "Burned for Fandom" former organization I mentioned awhile back*, it came out of Pern fandom, founded by someone who'd been threatened on account of fan-art commissions IIRC, but I don't think they were actually sued.


(*That was when we were talking about the Japanese use of the word "genre" where Anglophones tend to use "fandom" to categorize fanworks by informing text. As a tangential point of curiosity, since then I've seen Japanese sites use "parody" [or "paro"] in that context without necessarily seeming to indicate that the works were comedic as that term would in English...?)
Edited Date: 2012-05-18 01:32 pm (UTC)
Date: 2012-05-22 01:41 pm (UTC)

foxinthestars: cute drawing of a fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxinthestars
I wouldn't know if it's still like that; for me, the books have been a "what was I thinking?" thing for over a decade.

And thanks! The American legal significance of parody seems like a really oddball thing. Of course I'm glad it has some measure of protection, but having whether your art is legal come down to whether the judge thinks it's funny seems oppressively arbitrary when I stop and think about it.
Date: 2012-05-18 04:36 pm (UTC)

angrymermaids: (Default)
From: [personal profile] angrymermaids
What foxinthestars said. I'm pretty sure it was just threats, but it was a big scary thing back in the day. This is the page of the artist it happened to (updated more recently).

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