My dear, it has not mattered more than right now. We're baking a cake and we're all arguing who gets to throw it at George Bush. In Slough.
We live in an age of contradictions. At the very same time where people are more free to do whatever they want and meet up with the cultures that were virtually unknown before the adoption of the Internet, we are being persecuted by vultures — from the government, lobbyists, or straight–up copyright trolls — who want to ruin our free culture. Indeed, the Web is freedom. The success of it depended on its open standards and easy adoption. Taking it away? This kills the Web.
Being able to download anything for free, at any time, with the blessing of the creators of the work, is one of the reasons why our happy anarchy works so well. It creates a space without discrimination, without classism, without artificial scarcity and oppression from companies that take so much from the public commons, and yet never, ever give back to it. It's killing permission culture, the culture where ask permission for our art and are leased it by the companies who own it, and bringing forth the beautiful, beautiful world of free culture: the culture where everybody owns art, because everybody has a copy, and can make copies forever and at no cost.
Free culture is free as in freedom, and not just in price. There are thousands of free artworks that don't respect your fundamental human right to partake in them; the majority of Picasso and Orwell's works are banned from being copied in the United States, sixty years later. When an artist gives so much to the world, and yet says to the world: "I give you permission to indulge in it; you can't enjoy it unless I say so", then that is the highest form of greed.
What does it look like when an artist actually cares about their audience? As Paulo Coelho (archive), who sold 350 million books during his career, says: "Since the dawn of time, human beings have felt the need to share – from food to art. Sharing is part of the human condition. A person who does not share is not only selfish, but bitter and alone. […] I want to share everything I write, from my books to my blogs."
If a sixty–nine year old Brazilian man can understand the simple principle that artwork deserves to be shared, then why not the many hundreds of artists out there who still claim copyright over their work? Why do they say, explicitly, "STOP! Do not copy this work!" on their DeviantART pages like they have a birthright to the work they released on their own? What could compel somebody to share artwork, but never allow anybody else to share? They aren't profiting off of it. So is it just a big "fuck you"?
I can only assume the answer is ignorance. Not to say ignorance is a proper answer, but that, over years of disinformation from media conglomerates and their well–meaning role models saying that copying — what humans have done since the dawn of time — is a bad thing. Now, these conglomerates are only in it for profit. It is a harsh, harsh truth of the world that companies are not your friends. Their relationship with you ends where the buck stops. The people who work for them range from genuinely good people to downright scumbags, but we must understand, the organisation of these people exist soley for the amassment of as much money and public infamy as they can possibly earn.
So what these companies do, with their billions of dollars, is advertise for their cause (and their cause alone). Normally if this was made by a government, we'd call it propaganda. I'll take the first step and call this company–run disinformation for what it is: propaganda. It's meant to further the idea that copying is stealing (it isn't) and that you're a bad person for doing so (you're not). Copyright is the tool they use to censor ideas they don't like, the usage of works that cost them a single red cent, and this entire mission is against the entire notion of culture as a living, breathing, entity that grows and evolves over time. Of course, when an anti-piracy group ignores copyright (archive) while still saying copyright protects artists, it further shows their complete and utter contempt for the arts.
And the reason all of this matters right now is because, more than ever, the Web has become a pretty big deal. It's no longer the place where nerds go to hang out and whine and whatnot. They still do, and if they didn't then this blog would be fresh out of hecks, but everybody is now on it. Everybody, from the disinterested teenager watching streams at their school's library, to their parents who are still bootlegging Trent Reznor and trying to set up their pirate boxes, is now affected by the Kafkaesque swamp that is copyright.
And it really is Kafkaesque — a confusing and contradictory swamp of bad intentions and easy avenues for anybody to have anybody arrested for the sake of violating their imaginary "rights". You can take a look at this small Wikimedia Fan Art policy for a taste. Imagine: without copyright, nobody would need to pay attention to these arbitrary rules. Nobody would have to feel guilty before uploading. Nobody would be afraid to download. It would be a cultural paradise, unlike anything ever before seen in the world.
When somebody says that they don't want their work to be copied, I can only think they have such little self–respect in their work that they don't think it deserves to be shared, and they have such little self–respect for their audience to do what they want with it without using it to bring harm to them in some way. An artist who works under the assumption they will always have control over their own work is an artist who is ignorant of how the Internet works. Indeed, how the world works in general.
While Creative Commons licenses have been extraordinary in encouraging a free culture (including the ever–useful CC0 license, applied to this site), allowing people to use freedom–enhancing licenses instead of restrictive ones, it still calls attention to the fundamentally broken concept of copyright by causing people to think about what, by all humanity, should not exist. The big lie is that copyright encourages people to create. In the experience of Nina Paley, a woman who has personally spent 10,000 hours on a movie she gave away into the public domain, it never helped her work sell. To this day, she still sells commissions under a "do whatever you want" agreement — extending even to non–commissioners by virtue of never granting copyright to the commissioner.
In sum, the time to create this blog is now. The time to host it is now. The time to use the work? Always and forever. And though Creative Commons is not abolishing copyright, it has allowed me to give away all of the artificial restrictions I automatically place on the viewers who I want to share the work I create, and the work of the artists who I hack. And using their CC0 license, without which you would not have this freedom, you may use all of this work, including the website, and share it forever.
When does it matter? Forever!