| Get rid of copyright
Once upon a time, ideas were the property of everyone.
Today, the struggle against copying in itself has become an insult to the work of the creator
By Morten Skriver
I write to warn you against a dark and mechanical power that rules our societies. An almighty feelingless force without face and name. Every day it increases its power. It offers us dreams that we do not need, and services we have never asked for - but we cannot say no because this is the power that can manipulate any part of our feelings and our mind. It changes everything into traded goods and makes us believe that it is our own choice. It undermines all values and all meanings in a strife to reach its goal. It will grow at any price and it needs the human being as a catalyzer. For every day it changes us into more and more passive consumers. We are caught in the mental death trap of copyright.
At the beginning it seemed as a good idea. Everybody recognised the first treaties that protected intellectual property rights as progress, when they were ratified during the past two centuries. What could be more logical than an author that got money for every copy of his book that the publisher sold. What could be more just, than when an inventor received a fee when others earned money on his invention. The protection of intellectual property rights could be seen as a necessary precondition for further cultural and technological development. No one protested - and as time went by the protection of intellectual property - trade marks, patents, copyright and so one - became so rooted in our societies that they are regarded as a form of natural laws.
No one wonders how a human being can own the shape of a chair, the recipe on medicine or the composition of tones in a love song. But once upon a time it was different. The oppression of the right to copy freely has taken place during the past two centuries - at the same time when we have seen industrialism, mass production and transnational companies. Before that time the world of ideas was the world of everybody. Mozart made his music without caring that anybody - in all the future - could play it for free and nobody patented the violin or the music paper.
As such the technological and cultural advancements of human beings, as we know it, is inseparably connected with the free and unlimited right to copy. The old cultures were created by persistent copying and imitation. In this way the most remarkable complex and wonderful cultural formations were created. They understood intuitively that repetition, copying and reproduction is the foundation of life. Therefore it is not hard to see that the limitation of the right to copy is not only an anti-nature-law - but an insult against the very Creation.
We oversee the fact that everything in the Universe is given to us and that we are united by a cohesive spirit in a collective room of consciousness.
The key to the problem is that the legislation protects objects without material substance. If you copy a melody the composer does not lose anything at all - in contrast to the situation if you steal his piano. There is a fundamental difference. When I hear a song it is in principle already mine. It exists as an object in my head.
In this way copyright protects products done of the same matter that dreams are made of. They are purely in the mind and totally volatile.
The anti-copyright laws have taken the market and the property rights from the world of physical products into the world of the mind, and opened the collective mental room for economic speculation in a way that men have never seen before. In the beginning the consequences were minor and perhaps even positive - but as the mass medias and the information technology have developed it is more and more clear that this legislation contains an enormous force that will break down our cultures and our societies. We have seen how the possibility of gaining economic control with copyrights of any form have created the most comprehensive and powerful propaganda organisations the world has ever seen. We have seen how fewer and fewer global media-companies dominate larger and larger spaces in the public and private consciousness. We are occupied by companies that have the goal to conquer the human soul - and they are difficult to rebel against.
The ban on free copying means that all communication is about money - not only the advertisements, but also most of the literature, music and most films. The motive behind all types of cultural expressions is alone to create economic wealth. The result is a self-sustaining commercial running amok, where the marketing of trade marked goods is flowing together with the products of the entertainment industry, with music, films and sport in a more and more intensified atmosphere of merchandise, logos and product placement. It leaves us with consumption as the only fixed point in our lives.
Even more grotesque is the situation when it comes to medicine and genetically modified goods, where the anti-copyright legislation really appears as a law of nature - but a law that is not even recognised by nature. Monsanto may own the right to a specific genetically modified plant but the wild fellow plants do not care and may incorporate the genes in themselves.
We are subject to a demonical power where the only motivation is a blind and furious desire after economic growth and wealth. However, we have made the legislation ourselves - so we can free us from its strangling impact. All we need to do is to get rid of these laws again. Think about the relief. We would not be swamped by as many poisonous and superfluous products.
And the technological evolution would not stop.
Alexander Flemming did not even dream about patenting penicillin because he believed that such a discovery must belong to mankind. Tim Beners-Lee did not patent the World Wide Web because he recognised that the system would only be meaningful if it belonged to everybody. Microsoft has taken the exact opposite position.
Without copyright the remote control of our desires and wishes would no longer be possible. Without the remote control by the entertainment industry we would redisover unity of place and time and rediscover local cultures.
The transnational companies would break down but most of the people who write music, poems and books, who paint pictures and take photographs and have only marginal copyright revenues - they would continue and we would get an enormous new demand after locally produced cultural expressions. We would lose nothing, but win a more concrete and local presence of the organism.
We should be happy for private copying of any kin - because even the smallest act that undermines the anti-copyright legislation will contribute to the most important and necessary cultural revolution in the history of mankind: The liberation of the world of ideas.
The above is an extract from a chronicle in the Danish newspaper Politiken on March 3rd, 2000.
Translated to English by Christian Friis Bach.
Original document from Djembe, modified with slight corrections by eclectica, 2004-11-19.