Saturday, May 30, 2009


These days I’m trying to resist the temptation to contribute to message boards whose fine print tells me they own the copyright to my posts. Nor do I write reviews in places like anymore, which was really tempting because I’ve always enjoyed writing film reviews in various places from time to time (for which I was always paid, even if only a few cents per word). But Amazon does the same thing as the message boards: you post on imdb, they say, and they own it. Without paying for it. And some, though hardly most, of their posters write really well, I think. Why they’d give it away is a mystery to me. I'm even mystified that I did it myself a few times before waking up to how self-defeating an activity it was for someone who makes a living selling his ideas.

I also think that if someone challenged these policies by, say, "reprinting" on their own blog something they posted elsewhere and claiming copyright to it, they’d prevail in court. But, as we all know, justice in this country costs money. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re ultimately judged to be on the right side of the issue; you still have to have deep pockets just to get your day in court. Unless you’re lucky enough to be a defendant whose plight seems such an injustice that it inspires a legal defense fund.

I imagine there may be some people reading this who think I’m the Antichrist when they scroll down to the bottom and see that I copyright this page and reserve all rights to the material I post here. Which brings me to my puzzlement of the day and probably the rest of this week: why anyone should find it objectionable for a writer, or any Creative, to protect their work and profit from it, rather than making it available for free. Whatever happened to the idea that everyone has a right to make a living, and when was that right revoked or denied for Creatives?

I’ve been advised that my posts are too long for most people who enjoy reading blogs, which, as a dedicated reader, baffles me. But I’ll take them at their word. (For me, this is a short post.) So this is the first installment of a long essay I've written, which I’ll now break up into daily installments.

In the days ahead I’ll be talking about such phenomena as the logic-challenged Free Culture Movement and the fact that scholarly criticism is dying and critics are losing their jobs because of the bizarre belief that they’ve been made obsolete by all the free -- and usually woefully uninformed -- opinions available on the Internet. And then there is the phenomenon of You’re-Talented-If-America-Votes-For-You, regardless of the fact that the only contestant on American Idol to have achieved anything really impressive in show business was Jennifer Hudson, who, if memory serves, was voted off Rupert Murdoch’s island.

(So as not to deny Kelly Clarkson her due, I'll concede that it's my personal biases that make an Academy Award more significant to me than multi-platinum bubble-gum albums with clunky titles like "My Life Would Suck Without You." And, CDs notwithstanding, does anyone even remember who the hell Ruben Studdard is any more?)

So if you keep coming back here, you’re in for maybe a week of arguments asserting the value of elites where the arts –- not politics or governance -- are concerned. And arguments against the idea that Information Wants To Be Free (which may be arguable, but, then, Information doesn’t have a mortgage). All this plus a host of other ideas that will probably piss off readers and, not incidentally, maybe give me a better sense of how many people are actually reading this until I have time to add a counter and start getting some real metrics.

Not that I enjoy or aspire to pissing people off; I just know that it’s a good way to get their attention. And once I have that, I’d like to try to get them thinking about some things they may not have considered before. See you tomorrow?


greenbushboy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rick P. said...

Martin-- I read this....and I'm even starting to get a little p----d off. I think there's just too much unfiltered commentary available on the internet. Please do not make things worse by allowing this post to be added to the mix.

Bris.bois said...

greenbushboy's post has been removed by a blog administrator. Surely I am not the only one who finds this funny, given the topic.

The US Constitution empowers the federal government to "promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

What does this tell us about the nature of intellectual property as pictured in the Constitution? I ask, and my question is earnest, not rhetorical. If anyone care to explain the matter to me, I'd request they do so in a civil manner without browbeating me for my ignorance.

That clause of the Constitution -- Does it admit intellectual property as a natural right? Or, else, does it presume intellectual is **not* a natural right -- cannot be -- so the framers contrived to **treat** intellectual property as a right in order to promote progress?

I've heard it argued the clause admits intellectual property is not an absolute right. If it was absolute, why secure it only for "limited time"? That's not a "right" in my understanding of the term; that's not even "title".

On the other hand, I've heard it argued the **right** of intellectual property is presumed absolute; it's the duration of legal protection under the law which is limited. Given that our congress keeps extending the duration of that protection -- however often is necessary to insure Disney's ownership of Mickey Mouse, apparently -- I infer we presume intellectual property really is a right, and the "limited" protection may be extended arbitrarily.

I have withheld all snarky puns and saucy double entendres as an experiment, to see it anyone would read all the way to the end. I apologize if by doing so I have abused my contract with the reader, and I owe all offended parties a beer.

"[greenbushboy's] post has been removed by a blog administrator." I guess we know who owns what around here!

MP said...

Mike, I keep waiting for greenbushboy to weigh in again, per my invitation. What happened was, I was revising the post after publishing it, and while I was doing that, Mr. G -- Sid Iwanter, an old and dear friend -- posted a comment. When I came back to the blog as it would appear to the reader, I discovered his comment for the first time, and it addressed the very part of the piece I had reviased. His comment made him look as if he hadn't read it carefully, through no fault of his own, and so I quickly shot him an email explaining why I deleted the comment and asked him to re-post in light of the revisions, if he were so inclined. No censorship involved here.

Also, I had no idea that this app would put up a "post deleted" flag. I'm embarrassed, certainly, and perhaps my judgment was unsound, but my actions were well-intended and, again, in no way an attempt at censorship. I hope Sid gets my email and comes back.

greenbushboy said...

You're taking me away from Robert Newton's version of "Treasure Island" to resolve this imbroglio. In the good old days when I helped sustain your animation career regardless of how many times you attempted to subvert it yourself, did I not always read your scripts quicker than you wrote them and gave you notes of substance and integrity?

Old habits of handing out irrelevant comments die hard especially when you make such foolish suppositions about American Idol, the apex of current US culture. I shall continue to look forward to your dyspectic editorials because my life is sad and I have little else to look forward to.

MP said...

Thanks, Sid, and thank you all. It's refreshing to know that among my friends I can count so many great guys with senses of humor more delightfully bizarre than my own.

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