Intellectual Property: Why It Matters
Intellectual property has always been subject to theft, and it seems like nowadays it’s an epidemic. Just think about it: how many times have you downloaded a song, a video, a book, whatever, without paying for it?
And what about images? Do you have the same qualms about copying a cute photo of a cat in a cake that you’d have for downloading “50 shades of yuck”? In my (not so humble) opinion, the debate about intellectual property on the Internet is only half-done.
Let me explain myself: about 15 years ago Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich gained a lot of notoriety for directly attacking song sharing website Napster; if you’ve never used Napster, I’ll explain: back then, when Internet connection was dialed-up (and you surfed the web at night, because nobody would need the phone at that time) and there was no such thing as cheap CD-Rs, sharing music was a pain in the behind.
Then came this guy with this site where you could download pretty much anything (true, it did take a couple of hours per song), and he made the newly released Metallica album available (oh, the audacity!). Remember: 15 years ago there was no thing as a band’s website, let alone YouTube and Vevo, and artists relied on their CDs to reach their audiences.
Now, Lars was pissed that this guy was taking away something that was clearly his, and created pure havoc all around, because now not only did people had to stop and weight the way sharing music online would change forever the music industry but also discuss how you can protect the rights of the people who are putting their stuff on the web, since it was considered a no-man’s land in terms of laws (one of the outcomes of Lars diva fit was that laws were actively created and/or modified to include the virtual scenario).
Forward fifteen years on, and the big companies and industries are all well protected against the common pirate; they have worked their way around piracy (with a battalion of lawyers, never doubt it) and do not suffer any financial losses from it. Their ever vigilant afore mentioned battalion is ready to deactivate any account that steals something of theirs and, if necessary, pursue legal action. Cool. But what about that kid that depends on that money to pay his rent? What about that girl who cannot have the ownership of her song questioned? What about the young photographer who’s trying to build a portfolio and attract clients?
What about you and me, who I like calling “the average Joe”? Because, well, I haven’t got a battalion of lawyers. Heck, I haven’t got one (much to my parent’s displeasure)! So what can we, average Joes of the world, do to protect our work whilst still putting it out there where people will see it, appreciate it and, with a bit of luck, buy it?
That’s the part of the whole intellectual property debate that I think needs airing out – the part concerning the people who aren’t related to any big companies that will run endless propagandas on their behalf. You wouldn’t download a car, but you copy that photo of a paradisiac beach and use it as your mobile phone wallpaper.
And it’s so automatic – the photo is there, you click a few buttons and presto, it’s in your device – that you forget that it’s the work of someone, their bread and butter; that it took talent, learning, opportunity and who knows what else to take that photo. And since the lawyer battalion isn’t ours, it’s up to us, artists, to protect ourselves the best way we can. Applying for copyrights, trademarks, and even patents is essential. Policing ourselves as not to accidentally using something which is not public domain is another step.
Let us all throw a Lars fit and conquer our (copy) rights!