Sharing or stealing and copyright

Sonera – an Internet service provider in Finland – has blocked customers’ access to The Pirate Bay, to comply with a Helsinki court order. Sonera has said it would challenge the court’s decision, saying that barring services was not an effective way to reduce piracy.

The Pirate Bay bans and the piracy discussions in general can be seen in a larger context and is related to open source discussions concerning Internet based material and to the ideas of intertexuality in general as well. Who owns a story? When can we claim that we have the right to use a product? Should it only be the person who has put the © copyright symbol on her work who can claim it to be hers?

Our “stories” are woven together and are overlapping. Gubrium & Holstein use the concept of intertextuality (2009) – texts and ideas are shaped by other texts and ideas. Stories are socially constructed and shaped by many storytellers as all texts are linked to other texts, ideas to other ideas.  Kristeva, Bakhtin, and Barthes argue that we have to analyze all narrative as intertextual production. As an online researcher I have studied how blogs are linked together – the online world is an amazing interwoven world. As a bloggers (a narrator) I use links to provide accountability concerning a text and the links also has another porous; to show that I am a part of a larger context – a community. I don’t know how many bloggers see their blog texts as protected by some kind of copyright law. I would think not very many.

There are groups who challenge traditional copyright practices in the publishing world as well. The book publishing committee Afterhand in Denmark is one of them. They urge readers to change, borrow, circulate and distribute the texts.  We might create a different sort of world without traditional copyright thinking but the question, which arises in these sorts of discussions, is how artists and authors would make their livelihood. This is discussed in an article by Dmitry Kleiner. Kleiner asks how, within the existing copyright regime, artists can earn a living. To me this discussion is also connected to the idea of a citizen salary. Is not the work and what artists produce such an important part of our lives that we could support them with tax money? No artist would get rich on his or her art but would gain more freedom.

Kleiner suggests that property is the enemy of freedom. “It is property, the ability to control productive assets at a distance, the ability to ‘own’ something being put to productive use by another person that makes possible the subjugation of individuals and communities. Where property is sovereign, the owners of scarce property can deny life by denying access to property, or if not outright deny life, then make the living work like slaves for no pay beyond their reproduction costs”. He refers to David Ricardo and the concept of “Economic Rent“: “Put simply, economic rent is income the owner of a productive asset can earn just by owning it, not by doing anything, just by owning. Thus, Rent is the economic return for allowing others to use property. What would a person pay for the right to exist? Well, they would pay everything they produce, minus their subsistence costs. This is the basic bargaining position faced by all of us who are born into a world entirely owned by others.”  We should also expand this discussion to include that of slave labor since many of the copyright protected products still today are made by slaves on the way to us – as users and buyers of there productswe are supporting modern slavery.

I think this is a very interesting and important discussion and is also connected to the academic world where protecting ones “ideas” is seen as natural and according to me makes scientists scared to share and enjoy all the good things which comes with sharing and cooperating. I am also happy for the open source movement within academia.

The indie documentary site Snagfilms is an interesting initiative and phenomenon and maybe also a statement concerning the above discussion.

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