A world without copyright

We have software which can build websites.  We have apps which can make new apps.  We have a multitude of video and audio tools which allow us to generate completely new works of art within the confines of our own sitting-rooms.

We are moving to a world of robot prostitutes.

We are moving to a world where reality out there does not need to be captured for a work of art to appear real.

In the same curious 20th century we moved see-sawingly between the most abstract of creativity – as Picasso and others created new ways of perceiving the world around us – and the most insistent attachment to the physical world that was the industry of movie-making.  So it was we conflated the unreal and real in one unique and sometimes horrific time.

But the implications of such real unrealities are only now being felt at a producer-consumer level.

In a world where what we make will be made up of templates which we can commercially take advantage of, a couple of fairly random but pertinent questions arise:

  1. whither, for example, online pornography – the driver of the last ten years of Internet technologies – when real actors will no longer be needed?
  2. and as a follow-up to the first, whither the horror of the state when oppressing real people through the requirements of the sex industry becomes more expensive than drawing a line on a computer?
  3. finally, most importantly, whither the need for copyright of any kind in a world where free-to-use building blocks rule the generation of content?

It’s clear that the first two issues will leave politicians with a huge vacuum around which repressive policies on the subject of Internet freedoms will not find their justification any more.  One day, not so very far away, anyone (or mostly anyone) will be able to generate their own content pretty much as they would like it.  Will the state choose to intervene in stuff we use apps and enabling software to generate for ourselves?  I do wonder if even our latterday society would be prepared to go so far.

The tendencies are clear, though: DIY is where it’s at.  Doing stuff for yourself is something that furniture manufacturers and bathroom installers have had to get used to in order that they might effectively adapt their business models.  Why not, then, in content generation too?

For it does seem to me that the ongoing battles of copyright on content have much more to do with a future world which has been perceived by those who truly think these things through – and who already know and even fear where traditional content generation will end up.

There will come a time, just as it did for wordsmiths many years ago, when legal Lego for adults becomes par for the content-generation course.  When anyone (or mostly anyone) can build up complex superstructures of meaning out of tools which help do the dirty work that used to lie behind creativity and imagination, what will really be the point of a complicated legal system of control for a world where sophistication will not need the massive investments of even today?

If I can have safe sex with a robot which looks and feels like a real live person, why should I have dangerous sex with a real live person?

Similarly, if I can use software to turn my ideas into really clever videos or audios or even traditional written texts (look at the kind of websites amateurs like myself were producing ten years ago – and compare them to what we can create for very little investment today), why should I bother with stuff that copyrights itself out of my reach?

In such a world of enthusiastic amateurs, it will be the market which will eventually drive the copyrighted stuff away from everyone but the most moneyed.  In much the same way as we now buy unbranded baked beans, we will eventually get used to the unbranded stuff that modern technologies make possible.  We will spend money on the content-generation tools and their image and building-block files – but what we generate will be shared by each of us with every other user for either a minimal fee or in exchange for other content.

The money’s in the DIY – there’s really no turning back.

A world without copyright?  Not because of the pirates.

Rather, because of the onward march of the templates that already serve to define us.


Further reading: Rick has a lovely measured piece in response to Chris’s also excellent piece on the supposed crisis in creativity.  More from the former here and the original post which started the discussion off here.  My initial response to the latter, and which I published a couple of days ago, can be found here.


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