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Mrs Everywhere

When is the last bus to Athens?

Gabrielle Taylor

there are two major sides to the copyright issue: the artists and the consumers. There are three major sides to the copyright issue: the artists, the consumers and the go-betweens. There are four major sides to the copyright issue: the present artists, the consumers, the go-betweens, and the... There are five major sides to...

Unlike a new technology where the R&D must be offset before the price goes down, amedia works rarely drop in price -- unless remaindered of course, which is a temporary distortion before flipping back to the mold following -- they typically become more expensive. Amedia works -- which is to say, works of art that can be reproduced exactly at negligible cost compared to the initial creation -- are expected to pay themselves off right away, then anyone who still wants a copy but who is not in the vast majority -- like Steve King or Spielberg (two men of roughly equal value) fans -- has the privilege of paying more.

Which is quasi-reasonable when a physical artifact has to be made which consumes resources until it is sold, such as a book that must be printed in sufficient quantity to be worthwhile and then placed in a warehouse or on a shelf, where it consumes space. A teevee show has to be broadcast which needs cables or transmitters or satellites, all of which are expensive. Comparatively, amedia consumes damn near nothing so should be cheap, right?

Except, of course, that involves decentralizing the distribution, and there's a lot of cash tied up in just that -- not only cash, but clout. Some of the big box bookstores are being investigated because they can't keep their clout in their pants -- they exposed to the publishers that Mr A. N. Author may be established and have won awards, but his works don't move off the shelves like X-men comics do, so if Mr. Author does put out a new book, well, we just don't want very many copies. Hope you can manage it anyway, talk later.

The go-betweens are just barely -- in geological terms -- still needed for distribution, between now and when a durable and convenient alternative to paper becomes mainstream. The go-betweens'll no more go hungry than any other go-between that's been automated out of existence -- bakers, weavers, blacksmiths, and so on. In fact, they're less likely to go hungry, because their jobs rely on animal cunning instead of more easily reproducible physical skills. There's no more need to get sentimental about them and pretend that they should keep their jobs simply because they've spent their whole lives doing them than there is about Mom and Pop burger joints or little antique shops off back roads or the flower shop in the village that used to give me a rose for my lapel, with a lapel water pick, for a dollar, or two dollars if I wanted a lavender tea rose and they had one, every weekday morning for three years.

The only person that needs any sentiment is the artist, that poor bastard working his soul out for the general promotion of humanity, for very little cash or recognition or rights to his work, and that's because if he doesn't eat at least once every three days he'll probably die, and therefore stop producing, and he should have somewhere inside to sleep and probably some warm socks for winter. If he has more to eat than that, and more than one place to sleep, and more than one pair of socks, then he may still be an artist, but he doesn't need any sentiment, because he can take care of himself.

In some ways, though, he gets plenty of sentiment, because now he gets to claim everything in there is his, and he can sue anybody that uses anything that's his. It seems unlikely that any half decent literary-musico-artistico experts were consulted when this power was given out; the ramifications are far too broad and damaging to the culture as a whole.

"Like many a noble writer, Apulieus cannot claim the original invention of his story." -- Introduction to The Golden Asse, William Adlington translation, 1566

Given that the oldest known novel in human history (circa 150 A.D., I'm too lazy to look up the exact date) was plainly not an original invention, yet another interesting question for another time involves the ethic of copyright itself. Shakespeare borrowed pretty heavily from Holinshed's history of England, which accounts for a lot of anachronisms by the way, and the Rolling Stones assimilated a lot of black blues music. Art is based on reinterpreting old ideas in new contexts, and if that isn't free to waggle all over, it gets as hamstrung and boring as it tends to be now. But as said before, that's another topic for another time.

Gabrielle Taylor is a either a writer or a disaffected web consultant in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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